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Front cover of The Victorian House Book.
A double-page colour photograph taken by James Mortimer forms the frontispiece of The Victorian House Book, showing off the first-floor landing of a Victorian Gothic house renovated and decorated for a client by the interior designer Robin Guild.
In a full-page colour photograph by James Mortimer on pages 8-9 of The Victorian House Book, the conservatory built on to a Victorian Gothic house for a client by the interior designer Robin Guild has been finished with a traditional tessellated tile floor in cream and muted greens
Chapter 1 of The Victorian House Book opens with a full-page colour reproduction of an oil painting of The Hall and Staircase of a Country House by Jonathan Pratt, 1882. The richly patterned carpet, tablecloth and upholstered chairs provide a lavish finish to a High Victorian interior.
In this large colour photograph on pages 18-19 of The Victorian House Book by Robin Guild, an American verandah made in wood and cast iron and painted in light greys and greens creates the impression of an ocean liner’s deck, with complementary furniture.
On pages 22-23 of The Victorian House Book by Robin Guild, a range of architectural styles from Egyptian to neo-Norman are laid out in five colour photographs.
In this style recognition chart on pages 32-33 of The Victorian House Book by Robin Guild, containing paintings by Anne Winterbotham, front elevations of the Mansion Flat and the Arts and Crafts Cottage contrast with Carpenter’s Gothic and the 19th-Century American Town House, each accompanied by a brief description.
On pages 48-49 of The Victorian House Book by Robin Guild, an exploded architectural drawing in colour identifies the major components of a Detached Villa, from timber suspended floors to stone cornices, each labelled with a caption.
A picture essay on the Front Entrance opens with colour photographs of a double-staircase and verandah from Queensland and columned stucco porticos from a grand London square.
Towards the end of the picture essay on the Front Entrance, on pages 68-69 of The Victorian House Book, colour photographs of door furniture, including knockers, letter boxes and bell pulls in brass, bronze and cast iron, illustrate the excellent craftsmanship of Victorian manufacturers.
A picture essay on Roofs and Gables in The Victorian House Book by Robin Guild opens with colour photographs of highly decorated neo-Elizabethan houses in brick and American colonial houses in wood.
In a picture essay on Decorative Ironwork, on pages 94-94 of The Victorian House Book by Robin Guild, the white ironwork of a balcony contrasts with the green of Venetian blinds to form a sophisticated composition running across a double-page spread.
A picture essay on Fireplaces, on pages 146-147 of The Victorian House Book by RobinGuild, opens with three colour photographs of grates grand and simple.
A picture essay on Wallpapers on pages 188-189 of The Victorian House Book by Robin Guild opens with a range of geometric patterns in ochre, brown and black and flowing Art Nouveau patterns with more colour ways and floral and ornithological references.
A picture essay on Furniture and Upholstery on pages 204-205 of The Victorian House Book opens with a colour photograph of a spacious drawing room decorated by Robin Guild, a richly upholstered sofa strewn with cushions in the centre.
In a double-page spread from the picture essay on Bathrooms in The Victorian House Book by Robin Guild are four colour photographs and 40 line drawings of traditional fixtures and features.
The chapter on Private Rooms, on pages 252-253 of The Victorian House Book by Robin Guild, opens with a full-page colour photograph of a sumptuous bedroom complete with sofa and occasional table.
Some of the black-and-white 2,000 line drawings in The Victorian House Book by Robin Guild provide references for bedroom furniture, including types of washstands and commodes, beds and wardrobes.
In the Technical Advice section at the end of The Victorian House Book by Robin Guild, the External Survey lists danger points to look out for when buying a house, illustrated by an annotated black-and-white line drawing with close-ups of details.
Two colour photographs introduce a picture essay on Halls, Stairs and Landings, introducing a wide, French-influenced hall in an American house and a generously proportioned hall in a Gothic-style house with a staircase turning three turns between ground and first floor.
In a picture essay on Kitchens, four colour photographs provide ideas for enhancing otherwise basic rooms with good lighting and decorative touches, such as hand-painted motifs on the doors.
    “Head and shoulders above the rest.”
    John Morgan, Manager, RIBA Bookshops
    “The best first book for the owner of a Victorian or Edwardian house.”
    Bricks & Brass
    “The Guild book is a triumph of art direction.”
    The New York Times
    “A bible to all up-and-coming Victorian House owners.”
    The Sunday Express
    “This really is a beautiful book, to be dipped into time and again.”
    Self Build & Design
    “It’s a practical, authoritative, beautiful guide to everything from cornices and corbels to sofas and suppliers.”
    The Independent on Sunday
    “More than just a coffee table read, it takes a detailed look at every aspect of the Victorian home – from door numbers and windows to period decoration and gardens.”
    Good Housekeeping
    “Essential reading for any architect, interior designer or construction professional.”
    “Wow! A lot of work went into this one. It is excellent in all respects.”
    Thomas F. Gimm,
    “An unrivalled source of inspiration and information.”
    Publishing News
    “Everything needed to fire your imagination.”
    Alan Dingle,

    The Victorian House Book

    A Practical Guide to Home Repair and Decoration

    By Robin Guild


    A comprehensive guide to restoring a Victorian house, which explains the historical background and advises on how to create a comfortable modern home while respecting the period architectural detail. The book contains 500 colour photographs and 1,500 line drawings researched from original builder’s merchants’ catalogues. It ends with a Technical Advice section and a list of 150 specialist suppliers.

    Free delivery on orders over £20
    Dispatched next day with Royal Mail 2nd Class
    • RRP: £30.00
    • Format: 306 x 229 mm (12 x 9 in)
    • Pages: 320
    • Pictures: 2,000, 500 in colour
    • Weight: 1.9 kg (2.4 lb)
    • Binding: Hardback with jacket
    • ISBN: 978-1-873329-40-5
    • Publication: December 2007

    The top guide to decorating a Victorian house, with 2,000 illustrations

    No book gets to its 4th edition unless it is found to be useful. With its 2,000 illustrations, 320 pages and 100,000 words, The Victorian House Book is the biggest and most comprehensive renovation manual available, offering you more inspirational decorating ideas and practical guidance than any other book on the subject. ‘Head and shoulders above the rest’ is how the RIBA book buyer described it. To see inside, please go to Preview where you will be able to flip through 20 sample pages.

    Written by Robin Guild, one of Britain’s most successful interior designers, the book explains how to modernize your house while preserving the original architectural features. The emphasis is on sympathetic improvement: work with the architecture you have, not against it. Windows, doors, roof-lights, fireplaces – all instil character and possess the power to embellish and enhance if treated in the right way. For more on the importance of mastering the idiom, see the Publisher’s blog Honouring Past Craftsmen.

    Every subject covered

    The book takes you through every room, describing all the fixtures and fittings, and helps you decide which jobs to do and in what order to do them. The detailed practical guidance is broken down into 57 topics covering all aspects of alteration, conversion and decoration. A comprehensive directory lists the names and addresses of manufacturers and suppliers across the country, some of them shown in Links (below).

    A dedicated US edition of this book is available, edited by Virginia and Lee McAlester, authors of A Field Guide to American Houses and other books on American architecture.

    Nominated for the RIBA International Book Awards

    More articles…
    Architectural Antiques | Architectural Mini-Quiz | Architectural Propriety | Artificial Stone | Brooking Collection | Edward Burne-Jones | Conservatories | Mr Crapper | Curtains | Energy Conservation | Front Doors | Front Paths | Gertrude Jekyll | Great Exhibition | Mouldings | Pugin | Scott of St Pancras | Stained Glass | Staircases | Suppliers | Tiles | Windows



    Standard House Types

    The Detached
    The Terraced House
    The Balloon Frame House
    The Front Entrance
    External Walls
    Roofs and Gables
    Exterior Paintwork
    Decorative Ironwork

    Halls, Stairs and Landings
    Interior Walls, Ceilings and Their Dressings
    Bookshelves and Cabinets
    Floors and Floor Finishes
    Decorative Glass
    Brassware, Ironmongery and Porcelain Fittings

    Period Decoration
    Colour and Paint Effects
    Carpets and Floor Coverings
    Curtains and Blinds
    Furniture and Upholstery
    Drawing Rooms
    Dining Rooms
    Studies, Libraries and Billiard Rooms


    Bedrooms and Nurseries

    Railings and Garden Walls
    Arbours, Gazebos and Summer Houses
    Furnishing the Garden


    The Basic Survey
    The External Survey
    The Internal Survey
    Structural Alterations
    Heating and Insulation
    Energy Conservation
    Adapting Victorian Fixtures and
    Care and Maintenance

    Suppliers of Goods and Services

    Museums and Associations

    Picture Credits




    Extended Contents


    Photograph of Robin Guild, author of The Victorian House BookRobin Guild acquired an international reputation as a designer of interiors, ranging from small studio apartments and country houses to the cabins of motor yachts and private jets. Co-founder of Designers Guild, he worked for many well-known clients including The Rolling Stones, Joan Collins, Trevor Nunn and the Saudi royal family. He designed the interiors of Ralph Lauren’s London clothes store as well as Brown’s and the Empress Garden restaurants. His book The Finishing Touch, has been translated into four languages. He died on 27th August 2006.


    There can be no denying the importance the Victorians placed on first impressions: the visitor had to be left in no doubt as to the owner’s position in society. However charming the gate or imposing the porch, it is the entrance door which captures the eye of the visitor as he waits to be admitted. Up until the Regency, front doors had all been solid, made up of panels of wood held together by framing called styles (vertical) and rails (horizontal). The only way of introducing light into the hallway was by means of graceful semi-circular fanlights. Fanlights of this kind continued into the 19th century, particularly where the accent was classical. With the introduction of cheaper, stronger glass, it became possible to incorporate large panes into entrance doors.

    Before getting down to detail, a question of priorities must be decided. How much importance should be placed on the structure of the building and the internal fixtures, and how much on decoration? My own answer is a simple one. Everybody, whether carrying out their own plan for a house or using a decorator to help them, inevitably has to set themselves a budget. Somewhat against myself, I always argue that the major part of the cost should be spent on the architectural fabric, and that includes the internal architectural detailing. Decoration is secondary. Get the architecture right, and the rest will follow.

    The guiding principle in all decoration is, do not do anything that destroys the proportion and form of the original architecture. In a Victorian house the interior architectural features reflect the character and period of the building and are nearly always worth preserving however humble or simple they may be. They are as much an integral part of the architecture as the structure itself.

    To create a modern version of the Victorian bathroom we have to dream a little: the image that comes before the mind’s eye is one of space, warmth, the luxury of enjoying a bath surrounded by pictures, carpets and elegant furnishings.

    It is not a complete lie: this is the bathroom of the transitional period when the first fitted and plumbed baths were housed in dressing-rooms and spare bedrooms and still recalled the days of the hip bath before the open fire.

    Even the later, hygienic bathrooms of the turn of the century, all tiles and functionalism, provide a valid model for an attractive modern scheme, reminiscent perhaps of the spa town hotel or the gentleman’s club.