Choose Victorian paint colors for your renovated period home (2023)

If you've bought a Victorian property, you probably love old buildings and their character.

While many of us would love to live in a period home and enjoy its original features, we don't want to be 100% faithful to Victorian ideas about home decor, and you also want to incorporate the comforts of modern living. Here's what you need to know about how the Victorians used color and their choice of Victorian paint colors - and how to adapt their style to your own vision for your home.

What color did the Victorians use?

The traditional Victorian color palette was dark, consisting of dark, rich and deep shades of maroon, red, burgundy, chestnut, dark green, brown and blue. This might sound a bit dramatic for your taste, but you can mix this potentially overwhelming color palette with lighter tones in the following ways. You can choose a dark hue with contrasting white painted woodwork, light fireplace tiles and a light wood floor to really let your Victorian tones take center stage.

While the deep chocolate brown in many Victorian homes could sometimes convey a somber feel, you can pay homage to that vibe with dark greens and blues that are probably more to your liking.


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Pastel tones are not part of the Victorian palette. Instead, they would use off-whites (never brilliant whites), creams, and toned-down versions of their strong colors. To be subtle but not stray too far from the Victorian palette, choose creams and buttermilk and then add a strong Victorian hue for a truly period feel. To be authentic, a room should be strictly decorated with different tones of the same color. Your darkest shade should be below the dado rail, while the wallpaper or paint above should be a little paler, while your woodwork is even lighter.

What colors should I use to create a traditional looking kitchen?

For a different application but using the same method as above, you can create a fabulously expensive looking kitchen at a fraction of the cost by painting inexpensive kitchen cabinets a color that's a few shades darker than your kitchen walls. Spray-paint the cabinets before installation (they'll need three or four coats) and add brass handles and vintage tartar trim around the cabinet tops to complete the look. This can transform kitchens from DIY chains from something potentially cheap and off-putting to something close to the look the designer kitchen shops are creating. Look for a kitchen style with antique wood moldings if possible to have a good base product that you can add the finishing touches to.

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How should I decorate Victorian relief wallpaper?

The Victorians loved to show off their wealth and good taste when decorating their homes, using a wide variety of colors, textures and eye-catching designs. Lincrusta and Anaglypta wallpaper fit this bill perfectly, being easy to clean and hard wearing, practical and able to hide rough and uneven walls that might otherwise need replastering.

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If you choose to use one of these under your dado rail, you can paint it a deep Victorian-style color. You can then offset the effect by using a patterned paper or a lighter color over the dado rail. Papers with a metallic reflective color are particularly suitable for illuminating dark walls.

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What colors should I choose for the fairing?

If you don't have original oak paneling in your period home, you can achieve a similar effect by building cabinets/enclosed bookcases or installing fake MDF or pine paneling and then adding period-style moldings for added detail. For DIY paneling, take flat pieces of wood or MDF, attach them to your walls, frame the wood with squares or rectangles of pine molding at regular intervals, and add a dado at the top and a skirting board at the bottom. For a quick easy fix, you can use oursWall covering kits. Paint in a moody dark grey, dark blue or even black for maximum impact. White can also be used and is particularly effective in a dark room. Finish the surrounding woodwork in the same color. This can turn an otherwise boring wall into something very special for a relatively low cost.


The Victorians coveted oak planks and often dyed cheaper pine planks darker to replicate oak. To do this yourself, sand down your floorboards to remove stains and rough surfaces. Then choose a stain in your chosen color and paint the stain onto the floorboards. Finish with 2 or 3 coats of varnish. In high traffic areas we strongly recommend squash court varnishes to achieve a long lasting finish. Then add a traditional rug for the full Victorian treatment.

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Fortunately, we benefit from much better lighting than the Victorians, so that even with darker colors on walls, lights can be used in such a way that they don't look gloomy, but simply colorful and individual. Plan your lighting carefully to get the most out of your period style designs. In Victorian reception rooms, sconces with a central chandelier are a boon.



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