Modern Victorian living room ideas – 13 ways to freshen up your home decor

After some gorgeous modern Victorian living room ideas? From daring colour combinations to bright white walls, you'll find plenty of inspiration right here.

The best modern Victorian living room ideas are those that bring your home into the 21st Century whilst retaining the beautiful period features that made you fall in love with it in the first place.

Victorian homes are so unique, full of character and have an abundance of interior design possibilities. If you are lucky enough to own a Victorian cottage or Victorian terraced house, you'll know all too well about their Tardis-like proportions.

Although, you'll also know that sometimes the living rooms can often be hard to decorate. Sam Hood, Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Amara says, 'Well-built and usually full of lofty ceilings and large rooms, they are the dream home for many of us, however these historic beauties aren’t without their difficulties. The main sticking point being modernisation.'

Making Victorian compact front rooms into welcoming, inviting spaces is a common design challenge, so we've rounded up strikingly modernised Victorian living room ideas for inspiration.

Modern Victorian living room ideas

1. Paint the room a solid colour

A dark blue living room with a tonal grey wood burner in a Victorian hearth fireplace

(Image credit: Future PLC/James Merrell)

Got a small front room? Be brave and knock through to the dining room and create a seamless look using a solid colour on all the surfaces, like this stunning blue living room. They've teamed it with all blue soft furnishings and accessories so everything blends together to create the illusion of space.

Farrow and Ball's Brand Ambassador, Patrick O’Donnell adds, 'Consider rich, saturated dark shades that create mood and atmosphere such as deep, Bordeaux reds like Preference Red.'

'Adding depth will create a truly, inviting interior, ideal as we see the nights draw in. The same can be achieved using rich forest greens such as Chine Green from our archive palette. Team with a modern white such as Strong White to add a contemporary twist.'

2. Keep the room monochrome

a living room with grey sofa and monochrome prints artwork

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

Looking for a simple living room colour scheme? Opt for a black and white palette, keeping the large soft furnishings fairly neutral in a light shade, while accessorising with bold black home accessories. We're loving the retro studio floor lamp and graphic Andy Warhol wall art.

3. Add built in shelving and cabinetry

Soft grey and pink living room in a small Victorian home

(Image credit: Future PLC/Malcolm Menzies)

With a fireplace pretty much standard in most Victorian living rooms, the chimney breast creates two nooks either side, perfect as a storage solution for small spaces. In this living room, the owners have added floating shelves, painting them the same colour as the walls, and double fronted cabinets that can hide a multitude of sins.

4. Introduce pops of colour

grey and yellow living room with original fireplace

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Colin Poole)

Transform a bland small living room with a welcome pop of colour. In this Victorian living room idea, the owners have added splashes of yellow and blue in the form of cushions and other home accessories, as well as graphic geo prints to add a modern twist.

Note the vintage suitcases used as a coffee table – what a nifty living room storage idea.

Farrow and Ball's Brand Ambassador, Patrick O’Donnell says, 'Be sensitive to the room's architectural details. Quite often, Victorian rooms will have many original features. Highlighting these elements in a secondary colour can create many horizontal lines changing the proportion of a room and often feel distracting.'

'Try to keep things simple by painting some features in the same colour as the walls making sure to change the finish on the correct surface.'

5. Panel the wall, cottage style

A pale grey living room with a bright yellow painted wall and fireplace

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Dan Duchars)

Lucky enough to own a Victorian cottage? Even if you don't, you can still go for a cottage style by adding  a wall panelling idea like in this gorgeous living room. You could make a feature out of it by painting it a striking bright hue and adding a deep picture shelf to display artwork, ornaments and your favourite pieces.

Grey living room with yellow pendant light

(Image credit: Future PLC)

If you have the luxury of a blank wall and you don't know what to do with it, you could consider installing picture ledges to display your favourite artwork. This living room has two picture ledges like Ikea's Mosslanda range, featuring wall art and the owners' favourite home accessories.

7. Install shutters for more privacy

blue living room with cafe style shutters on windows, black Victorian fireplace and in built shelves in recesses

(Image credit: Future PLC/Chris Snook)

With great sash windows to let lots of light in, comes lots of nosy parkers. To block their view while you're watching the telly in your pjs, it's a good idea to think about a window treatment idea that skews their view.

A great choice would be shutters that have slats that open to let the light in during the day, while obscuring your living room from the street and close up at night for privacy.

8. Make the fireplace stand out

a Victorian grey living room with a yellow mantel and white sofas

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

The fireplace is usually a big focal point in a Victorian living room. Up the ante with a fireplace idea that makes it really stand out, like painting it a vibrant accent colour like sunshine yellow. Add items in the same hue to dot about to tie it all together.

9. Include a wood burner

A grey living room with pale walls, a fireplace and a buttoned grey footstool

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

Looking for a traditional fireplace upgrade? Wood burners are a great option as they are designed for the clean burning of wood or special wood pellets. Plus, they not only warm up a space but they are also a great focal point in a room.

10. Play with mid-century modern touches

Blue living room with grey sofa blue rug

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Rachael Smith)

If you have the luxury of a larger living room with a big bay window, you can get creative with furniture. This gorgeous space has created a cosy seating area with mid-century modern touches, like the fringed shade and mustard egg chair to update the room's more traditional elements.

11. Keep the living room light and bright

white living room with grey armchair tall houseplant

(Image credit: Future PLC/Douglas Gibb)

If you're in need of a small living room idea, a safe, yet effective go-to is to opt for light, bright colours to create the illusion of space. Sam Hood, Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Amara explains, 'Fresh whites and light neutrals should be the choice for fans of calming interior looks. They make the most of the natural light in the homes, give the rooms a bright, airy feel and can be dressed up or down depending on the season and your style tastes.'

Keep darker tones in the room to muted patterned accessories and break up the all-white look with lots of glossy green houseplants.

12. Keep original flooring

a light blue living room in a Victorian property with original flooring and wood burner - Lizzie Orme

(Image credit: Future PLC/Lizzie Orme)

Beautiful teamed with a few cosy rugs, it might be worth salvaging the beautiful original floorboards in your Victorian home. They’ll add warmth and texture to your scheme whether you strip them down to their natural tone or stain them to the colour you want.

Sam Hood, Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Amara adds, 'If you’ve got old carpet in your home, now’s the time to peel this back and take a look underneath. You might hit the jackpot and find flooring you can lovingly restore and if you’re really lucky you might find more ornate parquetry designs.'

Keep them in tip-top condition with regular oiling, waxing or lacquering. Every couple of years should be enough.

13. Keep the cornicing

ornate Victorian cornicing in a living room - David Woolley

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Woolley)

Or why not reinstate the house’s period features, such as the Victorian fireplaces, ceiling roses and cornicing? While you want to make the house feel modern, it's nice to pay homage to its past. Cornicing can create a clean, simple look and accentuates ceiling height.

How do you make a modern house look like Victorian?

The main difference between a modern home and a period property is that the former lacks architectural features. So to make a modern house feel Victorian, you could introduce a reclaimed mantelpiece or add detailed plasterwork such as cornicing or ceiling roses.

Another idea would be to invest in real paintings, putting up picture rails to display them. You could lay a vintage rug, replace modern hardware with ornate hooks and knobs and finish the look with mature, well-established house plants.

Marianne Shillingford, creative director of Dulux, comments, 'The Victorians invented comforting maximalism and the love of a rich deep colour for a living room. Sumptuous shades like Dulux Heritage's Pugin Red and Masters Gold added warmth long after the embers of the hearth grew cold and classic colours like Mallard Green and DH Slate provided the backdrop to collections of artwork and ornaments that transformed the room into a gallery of family life, travels and achievements.'

 'Ceilings were painted in anything but white to disguise the soot from open fires which added to the intimate cosy feel even when the height of the average room was considerably taller than it is today.'

 'We have much to learn and be inspired by when it comes to Victorian decorating, especially when planning a living room that puts the people who live in it at the very heart of the way it looks and feels.'

You could also use a mixture of pieces from a variety of different eras to give your modern home that warm, lived-in feel, without looking too contrived.

What is modern Victorian style?

Creating modern Victorian style in your living room can be achieved by carefully meshing the two styles together.

The Victorians were fond of using strong colours, and that's an attribute that's re-emerged in modern Victorian styling. Bold red, green and blue palettes are a good place to start. A fireplace is usually central to a room and the more decorative the better. For furniture, think fringing, tassels and decorative prints.

To really emulate the modern Victorian style, add statement flooring, highlight the room's features in a bold, vivid hue, introduce a modern occasional chair, hang a modern style ceiling light and mix and match old and new.

Jenny McFarlane
Senior Digital Editor

Jenny is Senior Digital Editor and joined the team in 2021, working across Ideal Home, Real Homes, Homes & Gardens, Livingetc and Gardeningetc. Since getting on the property ladder, her passion for interior design and gardening has taken on a new lease of life. She loves collecting and salvaging unique items (much to her other half's despair) but sniffing out stylish home bargains is her one true love. When she has a spare minute, she loves crafting, having studied textiles at university – although she hardly gets the chance with her daughters keeping her permanently on her toes.