Decorative Details

Here we look at the use of paint and wallpaper in the Victorian and Edwardian hall, landing and staircase, the carpets, curtains, and lighting; the decorative details.

Introduction

The main objective with the hall and stairway décor was to impress; whether the hall was large or small the room had to create an aura of comfort and wealth. Being hidden from most visitors, the landing could be less opulent.

Paint and Wallpaper

The hall, stairs and landing in Victorian and Edwardian period houses would have had much the same décor.

  • Victorian landing
    Victorian landing
  • Edwardian landing
    Edwardian landing

The floorboards were stained or painted a dark colour, or sometimes given a fake marble effect. The skirting, dado and picture rails, doors and architraves would be grained in a dark or medium tone or else painted.

In the 1890s the dado was only beginning to fall from favour but persisted in the hall, on the stairs and landing, up to 1914. So the hall, stairs and landing typically have three divisions to the walls with dado, the body of the wall, and the frieze above the picture rail.

The dado came about originally to protect the wall from knocks. It had a hard-wearing, brownish surface such as leather cloth. This evolved into common use of a relief paper such as Anaglypta, Lincrusta, or Tynecastle Tapestry. Earlier this was coloured to give the appearance of leather. Later it was painted in a tint of the main colour of the room. Lincrusta was developed in 1877 and Anaglypta a decade later.

The décor of the body of the wall was kept neutral to avoid clashes with the rooms opening off it, but whereas today this would mean pale colours such as cream, in 1900 a floral pattern varnished paper in perhaps brown and gold was typical.

The frieze and ceiling would be the standard off-white.

Carpets

The carpet, placed over the wooden floor or tiles, would be a runner rather than a fitted carpet.

Curtains

Curtains were sometimes hung at the front door to reduce draughts. Another curtain would be at the bottom of the stairs; this highlighted the separation of the public space of the hall and the private areas beyond. A further curtain was needed for any landing windows.

Lighting

The hall and landing were often lit with lanterns; these would have burned candles, later oil, and then gas before electric light was available. For more information, see the Design by Element section.