Life in a 1900 House

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Could You Live in a Victorian House?

Victorian Gothic home in Fredericksburg, VA
Could you live comfortably in a Victorian home like this one in Fredericksburg, VA?. Photo: ClipArt.com

If you've ever tried to live in an older home, you may have experienced the frustration of trying to fit modern lifestyles into rooms designed for a different era. Where do you put the computer? How do you squeeze a queen bed into a bedroom the size of a closet? And speaking of closets... Where are they?

Floor plans are the blueprints of our lives. They tell us what to do, where to do it and how many people we can do it with. Most historic homes have been modernized. Walls have been removed, closets carved out of stairwells, pantries turned into powder rooms. But what about a truly authentic Victorian, unaltered by time. Could you live comfortably inside one?

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3 Months in a 1900 House

The 1900 House from the British TV series
The 1900 House from the British TV series. Photo: Chris Ridley, courtesy Thirteen/WNET

Victorian houses may be beautiful... But could you live in one? Look what happened to the Bowlers. The adventurous family volunteered to spend three months in a Victorian townhouse for a British television series, The 1900 House. Stripped of every modern convenience, the house was professionally restored to its 1900 appearance and function.

The television show looked at the hardships the Bowlers faced as they tried to deal with the lack of electricity and modern appliances. Chamber pots, cold baths, and a malfunctioning coal-burning range lead to frayed nerves and short tempers.

But the lack of modern technology was only part of the problem. As the Bowler family tried to adapt to life in the Victorian home, they discovered that the essential shape of the house - the floor plan - affected their lives in subtle yet profound ways.

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Floor Plan of the 1900 House

Floor Plan of the 1900 House
Floor Plan of the 1900 House. Image courtesy of Thirteen/WNET

Located in Greenwich, a suburb of London, England, the 1900 House from the popular British television series is a late-Victorian terraced townhouse. Here's a peek inside.

Front Parlor
The largest room in the 1900 house was more for looking than living. The front parlor was the reception hall and the showplace. Here, vases, statuettes and other decorative items which symbolized the family's status were displayed.

Back Parlor
The smaller back parlor served as the recreation and dining room. In this small space, the entire family assembled for games, conversation, music and meals.

Kitchen
The kitchen was the control center of the home. Here food was prepared and important household business was conducted. The coal burning range was the central heat source heat for the household. In keeping with its importance, the kitchen was as large as the parlor.

Scullery
The scullery was a small room adjacent to the kitchen. It held the "copper" for boiling clothes and other cleaning equipment. In 1900, cleaning was a long and laborious task, and even modest households often hired servants to work in the scullery.

Bedrooms
Victorian bedrooms were not designed for sex. They also were not created to accommodate reading, exercise or other recreational pursuits. Small and dimly lit, they would not hold today's queen sized beds. Children shared rooms, sometimes piling into a single bed.

Bathrooms
In Victorian times, the bathroom was a status symbol. Only well-to-do families had a tub, and a toilet was rarely installed inside the house. In this floor plan, the bathroom is a small second floor room appointed with a tub and a washstand. The toilet is housed in a closet-sized shed, outside behind the scullery.

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See Floor Plans of Victorian Houses

Scullery at the 1900 House
Victorian house plans often included a scullery where clothes were laundered and pots and pans were cleaned and stored. Shown here: the scullery behind the kitchen at the 1900 House. Photo by Chris Ridley, courtesy Thirteen/WNET

The 1900 House featured in the British TV series was typical for Victorian architecture in Great Britain and the United States. To see floor plans for other homes from the Victorian era, explore the Top 10 Victorian Architecture & Pattern Books.