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Exploring Traditional Internal Door Handles - Victorian Era

Period door furniture introduction - Queen Victoria statue

Article topics:

  1. Influences on Victorian Interiors

  2. Victorian Period Door Furniture

  3. Door Handles

  4. Door Knobs

  5. Mass Production

  6. Design Evolution

  7. Finishes


The Victorian era was a momentous time in history. Spanning from the early 19th century to the very beginning of the 20th century, it was a period of remarkable transformation.

Period door furniture introduction - bronze filament 19th century light bulb

This period was characterised by myriad new ideas and innovations spurred on by the growing industrialisation and globalisation that was beginning to shape the world in which we live today. And this change impacted every corner of society, as can be seen in the shifting attitudes towards design.

Period door furniture introduction - large glass botanical green house

In this article we'll explore 19th century interior design and the influences on it, with particular focus on period door furniture: door handles and door knobs. So, let's overview the main influences on period design style, kicking off with historical revivalism.

Influences on Victorian Interiors

Historical Revivalism

The early Victorian period saw a resurgence of interest in historical architectural and design styles, such as Gothic and Georgian. Architects and designers borrowed elements from different historical periods, combining them to create unique designs. This eclecticism often saw designers mixing various architectural features, patterns and materials to create elaborate and visually striking spaces.

Traditional door furniture article - Georgian room

Gothic Revival

This period saw a strong revival of Gothic architecture, informed by medieval cathedrals and castles. The style is characterised by pointed arches, elaborate tracery, and decorative motifs like quatrefoils and finials. Prominent examples include the Houses of Parliament in London and the work of architect Augustus Pugin.

Traditional door furniture article - Houses of Parliament


The Italianate style drew from Italian Renaissance architecture, featuring tall windows, elaborate cornices, and often a tower or cupola. Italianate buildings typically had a symmetrical façade and decorative detailing. Some of these elements are reflected in Italianate interiors. The style was especially popular in the mid-19th century.

Traditional door furniture article - Italianate room

Queen Anne

Queen Anne exteriors are often characterised by an asymmetrical façade, varied rooflines, and a combination of different materials and textures. Towers and turrets are common features, along with ornamental details like spindle work, gables, and decorative shingles. Interiors typically favoured curving shapes, cushioned seats, wingback furniture and cabriole legs.

Traditional door furniture article - Queen Anne room

The Aesthetic Movement

Towards the later part of the 19th century the Aesthetic Movement emerged as a reaction against the more formal styles of earlier period classical revivalism. It emphasised craftsmanship and a focus on artistry and beauty in function, taking cues from nature and incorporating ‘oriental’ motifs, often showcasing fine art, unique decorative objects and carefully curated collections.

Traditional door furniture article - Aesthetic Movement-style room

Victorian Period Door Furniture - Door Handles & Door Knobs

Victorian Lever Handles

One of the most recognised period door handle designs is the Victorian scroll lever, which parts with the ornate and decorative style of the Georgian era for a simpler design, while keeping the essence of the scroll look.

Door furniture - solid brass scroll lever door handles - 'antique door handles'


The scroll handle evolved to reflect changing design sensibilities. For instance, handles from the earlier period might feature more elaborate decorative detail, while those from the mid to late period used simpler elements, with more functional designs becoming fashionable.

Scroll and straight lever door handles have persisted as design favourites, and their influence can be seen in modern door lever handles. Both scroll and straight lever Victorian door handles continued to influence modern door handle designs, right up to the present day, illustrating the enduring appeal of the period.

Door furniture - solid brass straight lever door handles

Victorian Door Knobs

Victorian door knobs - brass door knobs

Period door knobs, as with levers, became simpler and less ornate compared with Georgian designs. Decorative detailing and motifs, such as rope edging, became less popular in favour of elegant function. However, simple reeding, fluting and ebonising remained to the fore. The classic period door knob shapes are round and oval.

Period door knobs - brass door knobs

The evolution of Victorian door knobs from Georgian follows the same pathway as levers, with a pairing back of elaborate detail in favour of a simpler, more accessible style.

Period door knobs - brass, antique brass et al. beehive door knobs

Mass Production

New mass production techniques were enabled by the industrial revolution. Door furniture designs emerged with handles and door knobs becoming 'products', and therefore more freely accessible at lower cost. The main design features were more streamline scrolls, compared to the Georgian scroll, and straight levers, with unadorned backplates.

Period door handles - scroll levers - modern brushed nickel finish

Design Evolution

Simple period-style levers and door knobs are often paired with more elaborate backplates, sometimes using details from other eras, such as gothic. Or not using a backplate at all and going for a lever on rose design for a really modern look.

Period door furniture - straight handles in modern chrome finish - lever on rose


Chrome Victorian door knobs

A door handle and door knob finish is perhaps as important as its design and can make all the difference to its vibe and appeal. For example, more traditional looking finishes such as brass plate and antique brass give 19th century door handles and door knobs a look that fits well with period properties and interiors. Rooms that have classic or vintage style benefit from these period and aged finishes.

Period door furniture - solid brass - door knobs

More modern handle and door knob finishes, including brushed or black nickel, or chrome and satin chrome, provide a distinctly contemporary appeal.

Brass door knobs and door knobs collection in a range of other finishes

The juxtaposition of a traditional handle or door knob with a modern finish is popular for many styles of contemporary and non-traditional interior spaces.

The perfect finishing touch when choosing door handles and knobs will of course come down to your creative flare and will at least in part be influenced by your existing door furniture, such as locks, escutcheons, hooks etc.

Traditional door handle - straight lever on white timber door - modern matt black finish

Final Thoughts

As we've explored a little bit about 19th century door handles and door knobs we can see how that period changed interior design. Ideas moved away from a Georgian neoclassical style and a revivalist point of view at the beginning of the period to a more streamlined, functional aesthetic by the beginning of the 20th century.

Modern living room - with dark grey cabinets and black iron basket chandelier

Hopefully this blog article, along with its companion articles on Georgian and Edwardian door furniture styles, will have provided an interesting history and insight into some of the types of door handles and door knobs we use today.

Traditional Victorian terraced house living room in modern style and accessories

Whether you choose a traditional look for you home, or you want to inject a period twist into a modern space, the Victorian era can offer a great deal for the decorative arts, interior designers and DIYers alike. So, if you're feeling inspired for your next interior design or DIY project, browse the full range of handles and door knobs at Hiatt Hardware. Also, why not check out the latest Hiatt Hardware Timeless Interiors report to explore top interior design trends across the globe?