Shaws does... Funky Victorian

A traditional aesthetic with a quirky twist.


The way in which we live in our homes has evolved significantly since the late 1800s, but as a nation, we are still drawn to the period particulars of a Victorian property.

The traditional Victorian townhouse was designed for family living over four or more storeys. The number of rooms reflected the size of the property and the standing of its owners. Each room had a well-defined function - such as the morning-room, parlour and study. The drawing room was the main reception room, where the lady of the house would entertain her guests.

Victorian interior design was influenced by social status and comfortable living. By comparison, today's Funky Victorian is all about blending traditional principles with the demands of modern living, and using vibrant, contemporary pieces in a distinctive and often quirky fashion. 

Image – ShootFactory
Image – DeGourney
Image – Rob Mills Architects
Image – Devol
Image – Light Locations
Image – King Street Townhouse
Image – Mackie Mayor Manchester

The Victorian drawing room is typically dominated by a fireplace, emphasised by a large overmantle mirror. Architectural features such as sash windows, panelled doors with ornate handles, and picture rails are all commonplace. Soft furnishings feature heavily with deep-buttoned upholstery, together with elaborate curtains and fitted carpets, richly decorated furniture, and an array of ornaments and pictures. These can be 'funked' up by using brighter fabrics and bolder patterns, so that shocking pink Chesterfields and electric blue armchairs are not seen as being out of place.

When traditional manufacturing advanced (reducing the cost of wallpaper, textiles, carpets, glass and furniture) design options for the middle classes increased significantly. Both bold patterns and bright colours became much more common. Funky Victorian pushes this to the limit. Elaborate, ornate, De Gournay style wallpapers create a bold statement alongside darker painted walls. Floral Liberty fabrics and exotic animal cushions add distinctive funky accents.

Most early Victorian houses had no bathrooms. The more well-to-do homes with interior plumbing would typically have wash basins on decorative stands. However, these would be located in the bedroom, not in a bathroom. Status could often be measured by how elaborately decorated wash basins became. Those households without indoor plumbing often used very ornamental porcelain jugs and basins to wash. 

In most modern Victorian properties it's not unusual to find the property's footprint has been extended or one of the bedrooms has been converted into a family-sized bathroom. Many also feature en-suite bathrooms to meet the demands for privacy in modern living. Bathrooms can be 'funked' with ornate freestanding baths or contemporary basins mounted on traditional cabinetry. Elaborate, monochromatic patterned floor tiles are also a signature style of 'Funky Vic'.

In a Funky Vic kitchen, expect to see vibrant painted islands and colourful appliances. A Shaws Belfast Sink fits naturally into any Victorian design scheme, of course, but the addition of Perrin & Rowe polished brass taps and a decorative tile splashback would 'funk' it up. 

Experience the original Victorian aesthetic

Victorian architecture became widely denounced in the mid-20th century, which led to many properties being demolished. However, thanks to campaigning by the Victorian Society, you can still experience 18 Stafford Terrace in Kensington, as it was originally decorated. Today, the townhouse is a fine example of middle-class Aestheticism. Its influences can still be seen throughout the house, from decorative sunflower motifs in the stained glass windows to the fine selection of William Morris wallpapers that hang within the rooms, through to the displayed collection of blue-and-white Chinese-imported porcelain.

Get Funky

If you'd like to experience Funky Victorian living for yourself, then why not visit Manchester? This energetic and pioneering city boomed during Victorian times thanks to the cotton industry, technological advances and economic growth. As a result, the city has some of the finest Victorian architecture to be found anywhere in the UK.

We recommend staying at The King Street Town House where you can eat breakfast on the roof terrace, whilst enjoying stunning views of the celebrated grade I-listed Neo-Gothic Town Hall, which was completed in 1877. Its designer, Alfred Waterhouse, who also designed London's Natural History Museum, is regarded as the most successful of all Victorian architects.

To dine like a Funky Victorian try Mackie Mayor in Manchester's hipster Northern Quarter. This recently renovated Victorian food market allows you to buy from various vendors before finding a seat in the grand communal dining hall. For more intimate dining we recommend paying a visit to the Albert Square Chop House. Established in 1866, this elegant but informal restaurant serves funked up traditional dishes like Corned Beef Hash in a converted Victorian warehouse, right in the heart of the city.

Feeling inspired? Discover our 'Get The Look' blog on Funky Victorian here.