Stepping back in time to the Victorian era can uncover some of the most stunning pieces for today’s indoor spaces. Even modern tastes will find many of these timeless classics appealing, but knowing how to implement them can be a challenge. Traditionalists understand the grand beauty found in a range of well loved styles that emerged from this period. Wicker, of course, translates well with its own particular character.
Victorian Encompasses a Range of Furniture Styles
During a few decades in the 1800s, furniture designs adapted and evolved from many previous styles. Rococo, Gothic and Neo-Classicism influenced many pieces as designers borrowed to create their own signature furnishings. Throughout the Victorian era, various design periods blended, merged and went out of fashion while others emerged. The Regency Era was at its end, which also led to forward-thinking industrialization. With new opportunities for wealth, the middle class marched upward to make their marks in high society. Ornate architecture, inside and out, combined with robust furniture pieces to promote the look of prosperity through an excess in ownership. Individuals introduced into aristocratic society tended to overdo, filling rooms with fine things to the point of overcrowding.
Victorian wicker, with its centuries old heritage, also gained popularity during the Victorian period. It also provided an opportunity to show some restraint in over stuffing a room. Not only did wicker explode in Great Britain, it was becoming a material of choice across the pond. In America, around 1850, Massachusetts manufacturer Cyrus Wakefield discovered the benefits of peeled rattan core. He took these normally discarded reeds and cane, steamed them, bent them and discovered their amazing properties of strength and beauty.
Ornate furnishings are still among the most recognized Victorian style pieces. The nice thing about wicker is it refrains from overwhelming in confined areas, making it a natural choice for sunrooms. Signature elements include arching skirted bases, rolled arms and domed or arched backs. While Victorian wicker might not quite be a fit amidst chrome frames and abstract sculptures, it certainly brings added interest in transitional settings that might include traditional, cottage and coastal accents.
Starting Small with Ornamental Rattan Seating
Start with rockers and reception chairs as ways to introduce Victorian styling into home spaces. Matching up with larger furniture groupings is unnecessary when seating can be situated away from the crowd. Elaborate photographer chairs of the time pushed ornate styling to the limits with tightly curled rattan reed, dense weaves in intricate patterns and chair frame shapes. Backs rose to staggering heights while side supports received overt embellishments. In earlier times, they served as the backdrop for individual or group portraits, sometimes drawing attention and often getting lost behind clothing. Reproductions of these Victorian beauties display all their finery as side chairs, rockers and more imposing armchairs.
Spreading Out with Classic Victorian Chaises
Delving a little deeper in Victorian territory without committing entirely might involve the purchase of a chaise longue, or long chair. Recognized widely today as the chaise lounge, it provides another way to introduce Victorian styling into spaces that might contain other period pieces or more modernized furnishings. Chaises can slip into bedrooms or help define separate areas in great rooms.
Filling Entire Spaces with Victorian Inspired Wicker
Ensembles for living spaces and sun rooms will expand the familiar Victorian horizon, but without the stuffiness of their heavily-upholstered and wood-framed counterparts. Groupings might include a sofa, loveseat and chair or a rocker, but any set simply will not be complete with a coffee table and side tables. If room allows, other matched pieces might include etageres, baker’s racks and plant stands.