Ways to Modernize Your Victorian Home 

The best part about older, traditional homes is their character. The aged interior and exterior characteristics often date the rooms and inspire a lovely sense of nostalgia. Victorian homes, especially, are known for their unique features, including complex and decorative interior trims, steep pitch roofing and asymmetrical architectural details. Still, there’s no reason why your Victorian home has to remain fixed in the 1850’s. Instead, there are many simple ways to modernize your old Victorian in a way that brings your rooms into the 21st century. Your new “Modern Victorian” home will look fantastic, emphasizing both the Victorian-era characteristics and some chic, contemporary designs, too.

Bring Your Fireplace into the 21st Century

Fireplaces will either instantly date or modernize a space. Victorian-era fireplaces can make a room feel heavy, dark and extremely traditional, so why not renovate it to make it look a little more contemporary? By installing a wall-hanging model that’s electric or ethanol burning, you can integrate a chic, simple design that will make the space look entirely fresh. Modern fireplaces, even in a room with other Victorian elements, will give the entire ambiance of the space a renewed feel.

Install Modern Light Fixtures 

Another way to showcase the old architecture of your Victorian home in a creative, 21st century style is to install modern lighting. While not all modern light fixtures will fit with Victorian designs, something that is more mid-century modern or Scandinavian modern will do the trick. Remember to mix old with new and new with old. Mixing the styles of lighting and eras will lead to a unique final product that flows together in a contemporary fashion.

Incorporate Cutting-Edge Artwork 

A final idea for modernizing an older home like a Victorian is to incorporate some interesting, engaging, cutting-edge art pieces. Picture this: You have a classic Victorian room that’s square and lined with dark wooden trim, and you add a colorful, abstract painting to the middle of a white wall. The artwork will instantly raise the level of your home’s aesthetic and make it more intriguing, rather than classical or predictably Victorian. Just because the architecture looks one way doesn’t mean that every detail in the interior of your home has to reflect the era.

By installing a wall-mounted fireplace, hanging some modern light fixtures and incorporating cutting-edge artwork, you can revamp your Victorian home and transport its interior design into the 21st century.

Saving Money The Victorian Way

header1Now we’ve rung in the New Year, many of us will be looking at our bank balances and feeling twinges of regret about our overspending during the holiday period.  According to Forbes Magazine, consumers who took on additional debt this holiday season added an average of $1,003 to their balances. The burden of debt can have a huge impact on both our emotional and physical wellbeing, leading to stress, anxiety, and sleepless night.

If you’re struggling with debt, or have simply overspent and would like to tighten your belt in order to get your budget back under control, then why not look to our Victorian past for a huge wealth of fun ideas on how to save money? Frugality and resourcefulness are both key buzzwords for describing the lifestyles of most Victorians, regardless of their class and social status. Victorian people made do with what they had and were incredibly resourceful when it came to finding what they needed without expense.  Here are some ideas on how you can adopt this philosophy to suit your own lifestyle:

Repair Rather Than Replace

Victorians didn’t have wardrobes overflowing with clothes in the way that so many of us do: they certainly didn’t feel the need to wear a new outfit for every social occasion they attended. Clothes were not purchased off the rack: each gown worn by a woman, for example, would be made either by a professional seamstress or (if finances didn’t allow) hand sewn at home. As a result, dresses were often repurposed and updated to suit changing fashions, and repaired when they were showing signs of wear, rather than simply discarded. Modern money savers can learn a lot from this Victorian model: why not learn some simple sewing techniques? It is much more cost effective to replace a button than buy a new coat, and small holes in garments can be repaired very simply with minimal skill and technique. By repairing rather than replacing clothes, and other items around the home, you’ll be amazed at how much money you can save: that money would be much better spend on removing the burden of your debt and living a debt free life than on continued consumerism and things you don’t really need .

Ditch Your Car

Very few Victorians had their own personal transportation: the Victorian era was the era in which public transport became more easy and convenient to use than ever. Regular buses, trams, and even a rudimentary underground railway system (which would later become the subway) were all established during the Victorian era. Taking public transport is easy, cost effective, and what’s more it’s also great for the environment. Contrary to popular belief, nearly all forms of public transport pose less of a cost to the average commuter than driving and, thanks to increasing congestion and traffic, you can often reach your destination much faster if you are travelling by public transport too. Why not ditch the car (at least for a couple of months) and see how much money you could save on gas, parking, and car maintenance expenses? You might even find that taking public transport is so convenient that you never want to jump in your car for simple journeys again!

Grow Your Own Vegetables

Why not make like a Victorian and use your backyard space to grow something useful, such as vegetables? No matter how big or small their outdoor space, the Victorians often utilized this to grow vegetables in order to ensure they had access to a nutritious meal without having to spend any more. What’s more growing your own vegetables is a fun and inexpensive hobby that you can involve the whole family in, and it provides a great lesson for children about where food comes from, as well as encouraging them to spend more time outdoors. Carrots, tomatoes, potatoes and cucumbers are all very simple to grow for a beginner, and you will soon be able to eat and enjoy the fruits of your labour, whilst watching your grocery store bills decrease as a result. Have a large yard and enjoy the idea of growing your own food? Why not consider buying some chickens and a small chicken coop: much cheaper to own as a family pet than a cat or dog, when you own chickens of your own you will always have a ready supply of eggs for breakfast!

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Recreating A Victorian Christmas: It’s Not As Difficult As You Think By Eve Pearce

539770-bigthumbnailA winter festival has been celebrated since pagan times but it wasn’t until the Victorian era (1837-1901) that traditions that are associated with Christmas really took off and the season began to resemble modern-day Christmas.
You may have thought that Christmas cards, Christmas crackers, turkey dinner with too much punch and opulent toy store displays were symbols of the commercialism that comes with today’s festive season, but they actually had their origins in Victorian times.

Christmas Cards

The Christmas card was born in 1843 when wealthy business man, Henry Cole, hired an artist to design a card for Christmas.  The artist drew a family around the dining table and it contained a festive message.  The cards were sold for an impressive one shilling each, putting them out of the reach of most ordinary people.  The expense meant that children were encouraged to make their own, before mass printing techniques in the 1880’s brought the price down.

To make your own Victorian Christmas cards, just follow these simple steps:
1 Create lace effect paper using strips of ordinary plain paper and cut out a scalloped edge.  You can do this via a template or draw your own.
2. Place a folded cloth under your paper to protect your table and then use a pin to make lots of tiny holes in your paper – this will give it the appearance of lace.  If children are making the cards, please ensure you supervise them.
3. Stick your ‘lace’ paper along the edge of a piece of white card.
4. Stick a Victorian picture onto the front of your card – or if you want to have a go at recycling you could use pictures from last year’s cards or cut them out from leftover Victoriana gift wrap.  Examples of the types of illustrations that adorned Victorian cards can be found from an original collection at the Library of Birmingham.
If you are unsure, you can also watch an instructional video by the BBC.

Christmas Crackers

In 1847, a confectioner called Tom Smith was looking for a new and inventive way to sell sweets with a bang.  He had discovered the sugared almond ‘bon bon’ in France and wanted to make it more popular with his customers in Britain, so he began by wrapping the bon bons in paper tissue with a love moto. The idea for the cracker was inspired by the sound of a log crackling in the fireplace. Tom thought that to combine the wrapped sweets and motto with a crackle would make them more appealing for Christmas.  He experimented with chemical compounds until he found one that made a bang when the paper was torn. The iconic cracker had arrived.

You can make your own crackers:
1. Take the cardboard inners of three small toilet rolls and measure out some tissue paper the same length as the cardboard rolls.
2.  Place double sided tape along one edge of the tissue paper, roll up the toilet rolls and stick down.
3. Roll up a second sheet of paper tissue that is slightly shorter than the first sheet.
4. Tie a ribbon at the neck of your cracker and remove the end toilet roll, then place a cracker snap inside, with double sided tape at both ends to secure it to the tied end of the cracker.
5. Place sugared almonds and a love motto in your cracker and tie up the remaining open end with another ribbon, sticking down the second piece of tape on your snap.
6. You can decorate your crackers with bows, pieces of fabric or Victoriana images.

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Turkey Dinner

Turkey was the meat of choice for upper class Victorians on Christmas day and it gradually replaced the more traditional choices of beef and goose, until by the start of the 20th century, it became the most popular seasonal dish.  You could opt for goose if you want to try something both traditional and different.
Charles Dickens described a Christmas dinner of roast goose with sage and onions, gravy, mashed potatoes and apple sauce in his famous novel, ‘A Christmas Carol’. It’s really easy for you to have the same.

1. Preheat your oven to the temperature suggested for your goose.
2. Remove giblets and excess fat from the cavity – you can use this fat to spread over the goose to enhance the cooking.
3. Stuff the neck cavity with sage and onions – slice your own onions to add to the mix as this tastes far more superior than packet sage and onion.
4. Pierce the skin with a fork, add a small amount of salt and pepper and rub butter into it. Place on foil on a meat tin in the center of the oven.  You will need around 2 hours, 45 minutes of cooking time for a 4.5kg goose.
5. Transfer to a serving dish and leave to stand for 20 minutes before you carve as this will retain more of the flavors.
6. Add home made mashed potatoes with butter and a spoonful of apple sauce.

 Christmas Trees

Pagans used to decorate fir trees in their winter festivals but the traditional of the Christmas tree began when Prince Albert got one for Queen Victoria. The Illustrated London News published a drawing in 1848 of the prince and Queen and all their children surrounding an elaborate Christmas tree decorated with candles, home made decorations and sweets. After seeing the drawing, the public followed suit.
You can go traditional by choosing a real Christmas tree and decorating it with handmade paper ornaments and sweets you can hang from the branches. If you want to go all out, you could even try real candles.

1. Get clip candle holders so you can safely attach your real candle to your tree
2. Don’t place any other decorations above your real candles
3. Always light your candles from those at the top of the tree down, so you don’t accidentally set fire to your clothes
4. Make sure you count the number of candles you place on your tree and what position they are in
5. Have candle snuffs and a fire extinguisher in case of an emergency
6. Only have your candles lit for short periods of time and never leave your candles unattended
7. For a safer option, you could use LED tea lights in your clip on candle holder – while not strictly Victorian, LED’s are a no flame light.

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Christmas Presents

Macy’s Department store in New York was one of the first to create a Christmas toy display in their window in 1897, the first time themed displays had been tried.  However, as toys were handmade they were expensive and out of the reach of most parents so the average Victorian child received a stocking containing fruit, nuts and if they were lucky, sweets.  You could try this by choosing a traditional knitted stocking (or knitting your own) and adding fruit and nut selections and some sugared bon bon’s.  You might want to include some back up presents too and diffuse any Christmas drama.

Victorian Behaviors Of Love By Eve Pearce

imagesAntique Romance – Victorian Flirting Techniques

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, now is perhaps a good time to have a quick look at how our ancestors conducted themselves when it came to flirtation. While we tend to think of the Victorians as a rather severe, staid bunch, they were (of course) just as subject to the tempestuous passions of the heart as we are today – although they had some curious ways of showing it. Try some of these upon the object of your desire if you wish, but do not be surprised if you get odd looks rather than outbursts of affection in return!

Parasol Tilting

A Victorian lady who innocently thought her parasol a utilitarian device for shading her face from the sun may have found herself the object of unsolicited ardor during her perambulation through the park. The manner in which a parasol was held carried a plethora of meanings to the practiced flirt – so much so, in fact, that a parasol could barely be held at all without it conveying some message to amorous onlookers in the know. To carry the parasol aloft in the left hand indicated that you desired to know someone better. To do the same in the right chastised suitors for their eagerness. Letting it rest upon the left or right cheeks meant ‘No’ and ‘Yes’ respectively, while dropping it upon the ground was an out and out declaration of love (which must have led the clumsy into awkward situations). Even those who carried folded parasols were not safe from unintentional flirting – to fold the parasol was an order for a suitor to leave immediately, carrying it over the shoulder accused observers of cruelty, and swinging it at the sides meant either that you were married or engaged (depending upon which side you swung the instrument at). There were a great many different meanings, which one can only imagine caused a great deal of confusion at the time given that one cannot always be aware of the position of one’s parasol. However, the Victorians did not discuss the affairs of the heart openly (to do so was considered vulgar), rendering such secret languages necessary. These became increasingly complex.

1890-1900-Valentine-DieCutThe Language of Flowers

One of the most detailed and complicated of these secret love-languages was the Language of Flowers. Quite a beautiful idea, this involved flowers being assigned a meaning and presented to the beloved, who would get a delicious sense of secret communication alongside the simple pleasure brought by beautiful blooms. The language grew in popularity, with new flowers and new meanings added until the list was extremely extensive. Some of the meanings were far more risqué than we’d expect of a Victorian device – presenting a lover with pea blossom, for example, was an exhortation for them to meet your for an assignation by moonlight, while Spanish jasmine indicated that you found them headily sensual and aconite told of unbridled sexual lust. However, it must be remembered that the Victorians, although disinclined to discuss matters of the bedroom, were subject to much the same lusts and passions as we are – if not more so. Indeed, Queen Victoria herself wrote feverishly in her diaries of how much she enjoyed her husband’s body, while research done by Dr Clelia Mosher in the Victorian era indicates that, far from being sexually restrained, Victorian women relished and enjoyed sex perhaps more than their modern counterparts. Their men were no different. Notably, it was during the Victorian era that a good many intimately contracted diseases took hold. Those innocent-looking flowers clearly have a lot to answer for.

Eye-Speech

It is said that the eyes speak volumes. The Victorians appear to have taken this rather literally. While a cheeky wink is still seen as flirtatious today, the Victorians had such an extensive repertoire of eyelid-based communication that one cannot help but wonder if their continuous blinking caused them to bump into things. Winking with the right eye indicated love, while the left indicated hate. So far so good. From then on, however, the language becomes complex and, one assumes, likely to put the face of the beloved through such contortions as to render them quite unattractive. For example, raising the eyebrows and placing the right forefinger to the left eye meant ‘You are handsome, kiss me’, while winking first one eye and then the other in rapid succession was a complicated way of issuing a simple ‘Yes’.

Window Posture

After a long day of being chased by amorous parasol-observers through the park, mortally offending a maiden aunt by offering her a seemingly innocent posy of flowers, and accidentally declaring eternal hatred for her fiancé when a speck of dust got into her eye, the beleaguered Victorian lady may have longed to simply lean out of a window and watch the world go by from the peace and security of her home. However, even this act was fraught with meaning. The position in which one held oneself relative to the window and (especially) the way in which one moved one’s hands while at the window cast amorous or scornful judgment upon any who passed. A lady resting with the forefinger of her left hand on her chin informed anyone who happened to glance at her window that she desired an acquaintance, and heaven forfend if she clasped her hands – to do so was to announce her engagement.

Necessary Devices

Victorian flirtation was undeniably complicated and prone to confusion. However, in a world which blushed to hear the word ‘pregnancy’, such subterfuge was necessary. One may even suppose that the element of secrecy added a certain spice to the proceedings which is lacking in the more overt flirtation of modern times. Nonetheless, to our eyes the innumerable Victorian flirt-codes (in addition to the above, hats, scarves, gloves, fans, and even postage stamps to name but a few could convey hidden meanings) seem faintly ridiculous. Having said this, constructing a floral Valentine using the Victorian language of flowers could be a thoughtful, crafty, and romantic way in which to surprise your significant other. Just be sure to choose your blooms carefully…

Repurpose A Broken Watch

watch watches picture pictures victorian old antique not working

What a great idea for that broken watch sitting in your drawer with no purpose other then you don’t want to get rid of it because of sentimental value. Here is a great solution – replace the watch and dials with a photo of a departed loved one or from a special occasion. You can also get rid of the watch battery to make the new bracelet a little bit lighter. You should be able to remove the watch back with a little bit of prying from a tiny flat headed screwdriver. Remove the hands and face of the watch and use the watch face as a templet for your picture. Glue down with instant glue or use mod podge to seal well. Replace back and now you have a great piece of jewelry and have given repurpose to a watch that now you do not have to throw away. It does have a sense of Victoriana about it when completed.