Queen Anne, on a Budget
The Victorian style got its name from England, but Yankees made it affordable
Most people would call a house with gingerbread trim and walnut paneling a Victorian. But that's a little bit like calling a Rolls Royce a sedan. Accurate, sure, but not really specific. Or at all detailed. And that's what this particular species of Victorian-era house—more properly called a Queen Anne—is all about. Heaps of detail: a second story of shingles atop a first of brick, both strung with a garland of fancy fretwork; Moorish arches supported by Greek columns framed by Asian-inspired carving, all of it accented with stained-glass windows and furniture with fancy swept lines. For something named after a British sovereign, it's pure American melting pot.
The handsome hearth, S-shaped table leg, and rich earth tones in this home in Swans Island, Maine, are typical of an authentic Queen Anne interior.
When this architectural style reigned, from 1880 to 1910, Queen Anne herself was long dead. But her influence was not. It had lived on in enormous, ostentatious English manor houses for nearly 200 years. The newly emerging American middle class aspired to such grandeur. And at the end of the 19th century, mass production allowed them a small piece of it. Suddenly, new homeowners had cheap and easy access to formerly handmade products once available only to the wealthy. Architectural elements could be had to order from pattern books. Furniture with brocaded fabric and curving cabriole legs could be picked out of a catalog. And, like kids in a penny candy store, the house-proud overindulged.
This unique—and uniquely American—look still makes the Queen Anne style one of the most desired today. We can't all be so lucky as to live in one, but fortunately that doesn't mean you've got to forgo its delightful extravagance altogether. The original spirit of quality goods at a smart price lives on today. We show the best ones for your house.
Though electric lighting became more and more common by century's end, many homes, such as the landmark Chicago residence detail shown, maintained their gas lamps. Get the same effect with reproduction wired fixtures. This one's curved base and brass finish make it perfect for a period vestibule.
About $155; Rejuvenation
Late-19th-century decoration incorporated touches from many historical styles; tassels tapped into then-popular notions of medieval grandeur. These look period-appropriate dangled from a curtain tieback or lamp string.
About $15 each; The Swan Company
Colorful cotton toile fabric printed with pastoral scenes was popular in the English country houses that inspired the American Queen Anne style. Similar but more sober colors are perfect for modern-day living room seating.
About $66 a yard; Thibault
In the 1880s, homeowners were thrilled that items bearing formerly hand-crafted wood or metal decoration could now be made cheaply by machines. Channel that exuberance with this ornate, 23-inch-diameter plastic wall clock.
About $65; Kohl's
With the invention of Lincrusta in 1870, the look of ornate plasterwork became easy to get. Today, the linseed oil–based wall covering still provides pattern by the yard. Stain or paint it any color.
33 feet or five 32-inch-by-22-inch panels, about $600; Lee Jofa
Small collectibles were big, especially in porcelain imported from Asia. These switch plates conjure up old-fashioned charm in any room.
Double switch plate, about $8; Maryland China Co., Inc.