Period homes are as popular as ever with buyers and renters in the UK. However, the differences between eras can be subtle, so it’s not always easy to place a property within a certain age. If you own a historic home, or are on the hunt for one, then it’s important to know the difference. We take a look at the most common eras for British period homes – Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian – and help you tell which is which.
What is a period home?
A period property is one that was built in a certain time period, which gives it a distinctive architectural style. While there isn’t a set range of time periods allowed under this definition, it’s generally understood to mean Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian.
Is your property Georgian?
If your home was built between 1714 and 1837 and displays typical features of the period, then it is considered to be Georgian. Like all the stylistic periods, Georgian homes take their name from the monarchs of the day. Helpfully, the kings of this timeline were all called George (from George I to George IV), which must have saved a lot of time and effort when bringing in new stamps, coinage and popular songs!
Inspired by the scale and grandeur of classical Roman and Grecian architecture, Georgian period homes are big, airy and impressive to look at. Designers of the time wanted occupants to feel freed from the typically darkened and cramped proportions of previous eras. This is why Georgian homes tend to have large rooms with high ceilings and plenty of natural light.
Noticeably, the top storeys of Georgian houses are markedly smaller and darker than those rooms below. This is because it was usual for the owner and family to have their rooms on the first and second floors, while their staff lived in the smaller rooms above.
As you might expect from a 100-year-long architectural movement, there are a lot of tangible differences between early and late Georgian homes. The early 1700s offer a simpler style, focusing on getting room dimensions perfectly balanced by using mathematical ratios dating back to Ancient Rome and Greece. As the century progresses, the style becomes gradually more ornate, leading to the much more decorative and sometimes extravagant influences of the Regency Era of 1811-1820.
In terms of period-specific decoration, Georgian homes routinely feature stucco-fronted exteriors. The term stucco is of German origin, much like the Hanoverian Georgian kings themselves. It describes the use of spraying plaster over the rough exterior surface of walls to make it look like stone. Finer plaster mixes of gypsum and pulverised marble are also used to make moulds for different types of decorative features.
What are the typical features of a Georgian home?
- Grand, symmetrical room proportions
- High ceilings with lots of natural light (typically for 1st and 2nd floors)
- Smaller top storey rooms traditionally used as staff accommodation
- Stucco-fronted exteriors
- Prominent use of white or cream colours
Is your property Victorian?
If your home was built during the reign of Queen Victoria I (1837-1901) then it can be called a Victorian period property. Unlike previous architectural eras, the Victorian style is highly eclectic and draws on a wide range of inspirational sources. Georgian architects drew on the classical influences of Ancient Greece and Rome, alongside Asian, Middle Eastern and colonial elements.
This new and often surprising style of building and decorating homes is representative of a time of significant change. The British Empire’s expansion brought in new ways of thinking as well as massive sources of new wealth. This led to both landed gentry and newly wealthy city merchants experimenting with new ways of beautifying their homes.
As well as the grand houses of the nation’s elite, the Victorian style stamped its mark on middle-and-lower-income housing too. Terraced housing, though present in English cities before this period, became much more common as the Industrial Revolution and subsequent population boom meant affordable homes were needed quickly and in large quantities.
While many Victorian homes lost a little of the ‘roominess’ of the previous Georgian style, they still tend to feature high ceilings to make rooms feel bigger than they were – and to impress guests! Beautifully decorative plasterwork is a common hallmark for the period, with striking emblematic patterns and ceiling roses being much in demand.
Another iconic part of Victorian interior design is the use of ornate lighting. You will no doubt have seen plenty of examples of this style in homes across the UK, from grandiose crystal chandeliers to wall-bracketed lamps and other low-level lighting features that define the look of the age’s homes.
Of course, we can’t forget to mention the all-important fireplace. When you think of Victorian period living rooms, a cheery fire burning in the grate almost immediately springs to mind. Original Victorian fireplaces have such a unique charm that property developers routinely keep or restore them to their full glory whenever possible.
What are the typical features of a Victorian home?
- High ceilings with detailed plasterwork
- Ornate, low-intensity lighting features
- Colourful brickwork – bright blues, reds and yellows often feature
- Stained glasswork in doorways
- Decorative floor tiling
- Bay windows
- Iconic fireplace – usually with decorative tiling arching over the grate.
Is your property Edwardian?
If your home was built in the Edwardian era of 1901-1910, then it is an Edwardian period property. Though this was a short period, it was still an important one. Throughout the reign of Edward VII, we can see a general clearing away of some of the fussiness and clutter of the Victorian age, leading to lighter, brighter and more clear-cut designs.
Simple, practical architecture and interior design methods were the order of the day during this period. The result is a blend of some traditional design elements with more modern approaches that provide a breath of fresh air. This concept extended beyond the house too, as Edwardian homes typically featured gardens (front as well as back) in response to the growing desire for access to green open spaces at home.
While the red brickwork, bay windows and mock-Tudor cladding are still around in Edwardian design, it aims to offer larger, brighter rooms and a more open sense of living space. Edwardian houses are also extremely well made, thanks to the advances in planning and construction methods emerging at the time. For today’s owners, this represents savings in maintenance costs as well as added peace of mind.
The concepts behind the Edwardian style were so popular that they are thought to have outlasted the king’s reign. Many consider the architectural era to have lasted until 1920, a full 10 years after Edward VII’s death.
What are the typical features of an Edwardian home?
- Wider range of housing types than previous eras
- Wide, leafy gardens, often with a front garden
- Red brickwork
- Mock-Tudor cladding
- Extended chimney stacks
- Solidly built with high-quality construction materials
- Large, light and airy rooms
- Large hallways
Are period homes worth more?
Period homes are neither inherently more nor less valuable than modern properties. Even though modern homes tend to command a higher asking price than period homes, the long-term value of period property is well recognised across the UK. However, modern homes generally come with fewer maintenance complications, greater heat and water efficiency, and are easier to renovate.
The real attraction of the period home, whether it is Georgian, Victorian or Edwardian, is its bespoke features and pleasing aesthetic. People of all walks of life fall in love with the design ideals of a specific era when house hunting. If that appeal is strong enough, they are often willing to pay a premium to secure it.
So, while fashions in architecture and interior design change frequently, period homes give a sense of stability. Their classic kind of beauty is easily recognisable and can often be very valuable to the right buyer.
Period homes, walking into Britain’s past
In an age when practicality and cost tend to influence home design more than anything else, period homes have stood the test of time. They are pillars of British architectural history and give our towns, cities and countryside that added sense of old-world elegance and grandeur. Still much in demand, the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian styles continue to fascinate and delight house hunters of every demographic.
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