The 4 Basics of Victorian Interior Design and Home Decor

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his page provides an introduction to Victorian interior design and home decorating. This easy-to-follow guide is organized into the four essential design basics of Victorian interior decor: Color, Pattern, Opulence and, of course, Romance -- the quintessential hallmark of the Victorian era.

Learn how to incorporate these four principles of Victorian decor with ease and confidence to create the room or entire home of your dreams.

Above: Portrait of Queen Victoria in 1843.

This image is in the Public Domain.*

You'll also find some specially selected resources to help you achieve a historically sensitive Victorian interior decorating style that suits your home's architecture as well as your own lifestyle and taste preferences.

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Victorian Interior from 1886
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Victorian Interior from 1886

ictorian stye is a broad term that generally is used to refer to characteristics of design (architectural, fashion, home decor, etc.) from the latter period of Queen Victoria's reign, from 1837 until her death in 1901.

This style draws inspiration from nature, geometry, theory, and many other resources. It also encompasses a wide range of sub-styles including Eastlake, Aesthetic or Anglo-Japanese, Gothic Revival, Renaissance Revival, Greek Revival (Neo-classical), Egyptian Revival and "exotica" like Turkish and Persian design.

A Victorian Interior from 1886.

This image is in the public domain.*

The Classic Book on Victorian Decor

Hints on Household Taste: The Classic Handbook of Victorian Interior Decoration (Dover Architecture)
Hints on Household Taste: The Classic Handbook of Victorian Interior Decoration (Dover Architecture)

Originally published in 1868, this is the decorating Bible for the post-civil war Victorian era. Get the same interior decorating advice savvy Victorians relied on.

 
Victorian Color Schemes Palette Home Decor
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Victorian Color Schemes Palette Home Decor

The picture above shows a basic Victorian color palette. However, since computer monitors do not accurately and consistently depict color, the photo should be considered an approximation.

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The Victorian Home Decorating palette was actually quite sophisticated, with a particular emphasis on tertiary colors. (Tertiary colors are those created by mixing equal amounts of primary and secondary colors. (See Choosing and Using Color in Your Home for more details.) The dark colors that are usually associated with Victorian decor are more the result of poor lighting than of color choice.

From Victorian Interior Decoration:

American Interiors, 1830-1900

Available through Amazon.com

Early Victorian homes featured lighter colored walls with richer colors in the dining room and library. Later Victorians turned to deeper tones, which were used to emphasize the importance of a room. In more urban areas, colors like gray, darker green, and a grayer blue were often chosen to minimize the effect of grime and soot from coal dust and stains from gas and oil lamps.

Victorian colors are warm and subdued, and included soft colors on gray or cream backgrounds, deep rich walnut and mahogany browns, black, and shades of teal, plum, aubergine, mustardy yellows and golds, burgundy, rust, blue, green (think sage and olive, not mint and kelly) and "dusty" hues like "ashes of roses" and a subdued shade of lavender.

The colors chosen by individual homeowners also reflected the organic pigments that were available and what their local merchant had in stock. The brighter shades of white we have today, for example, were not available as a paint color in the 1800s and were not seen in any home then or prior to that era.

Please note that many paint companies, such as Sherwin-Williams and Benjamin Moore, offer "Victorian" paint colors, but they are not necessarily historically accurate. If that is your goal, it is best to not rely on those products alone for information. Whether you decide to choose historically accurate colors or use a combination of old and new hues, consider the limited technologies and pigments as well as the Victorian lifestyle when selecting your color scheme.

Victorian Home Decorating Fabrics to Inspire Your Color Palette

Choose from a wide variety of period reproduction and vintage fabrics and trims from printed floral chintzes and toiles to silk damasks and velvets. For Historically sensitive home decorating at budget sensitive below-wholesale prices, visit Restoration Fabrics and Trims for Selection, Savings and Service.

Victorian use of interior design pattern in parlor home decor
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Victorian use of interior design pattern in parlor home decor


Complex patterns covered every surface of the Victorian home. From multiple wallpapers to luxurious fabrics and oriental rugs, Victorians loved pattern and used it lavishly throughout their home.

Although it may look excessive to the modern eye (as it did to some toward the end of the Victorian era), it is nonetheless a very comfortable decorating style, with plush fabrics for layered window treatments and upholstered furniture, elaborately designed rugs, and a warm and welcoming ambience.

Patterns ranged from flora and fauna to geometric patterns, stripes, damasks, and more. Depending on the tastes and talents of the residents, results could range from a mish-mash bordering on horrendous or a skillful, balanced, pleasing environment.

Photo shows a corner of an 1880 Victorian parlor with its plethora of patterns.

This illustration is in the Public Domain*

A Typical Victorian Interior

victorian room cluttered opulent interior deccor design
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victorian room cluttered opulent interior deccor design

Above is a period photo of a Victorian interior. Note the numerous framed pictures on the wall and the decorative objects on every available surface. Scroll down to see our gallery of Victorian interiors. (Period images are in the public domain*)

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Excessive can often be considered synonymous with Victorian. The upper class flaunted their wealth and those who aspired to their status found ways to mimic it.

If one could not afford fine woods to panel walls and marble fireplaces for "public" rooms like the dining room and parlor, less expensive materials would be painted to imitate them. Mass production helped make "the look" available to the middle class via heavy textured wallcoverings like lincrusta and anaglypta and trompe l'oeil ("fool-the-eye") wallpapers.

Furniture and accessories were elaborate and ranged from delicate to massive. Extravagantly ornate decorations, china, lace, stained glass, flowers, knick-knacks, busts, souvenirs, framed paintings or prints, multi-layered window treatments, richly patterned fabrics, and accessories galore were used liberally throughout the house. Restraint was not part of Victorian interior decorating. The results varied, as one can imagine, from a cluttered and stiffling space to, in the hands of the more skillful, a refined, sophisticated, complex, and warmly romantic room.

The custom of elaborately decorated Christmas trees was popularized in the United States by the Victorians and epitomizes the exhuberant Victorian love of opulence. This illlustration is in the Public Domain*.

Shop for Authentic Victorian Antiques

Add a unique Victorian touch to your home decor with period antique furnishings and decorative accents.

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Romanticism is perhaps the strongest reason for the persistant popularity of Victorian decor. Victorian style evokes now, as it did then, the imagery of European fairy tales with its turrets and gargoyles.

Lush layers of luxurious fabrics begging to be touched, sensuously carved furnishings, and exotic trimmings added to the seductive appeal belied by Victorian mores and rules of etiquette. Whatever the style, Victorian decor without the romance is simply fussiness and clutter.

More Victorian Style Wallcoverings

Victorian Style Wallpaper from Graham and Brown
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Victorian Style Wallpaper from Graham and Brown

We love the Victorian Style Designer Wallpapers available from Graham and Brown.
Shown above are just two of the many patterns and colors available.

Victorian Interiors

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Engraving of a Victorian Parlour, 1854Victorian tea. Engraving by Cyril Hallward.Dante Gabriel Rossetti reading proofs of Sonnets and Ballads to Theodore Watts Dunton in the drawing room at 16 Cheyne Walk, London, 1882.Late Victorian InteriorLate Victorian Parlor1879 Interior1895 Interior.New York City Late 1800s InteriorThe Proposal by Knut Ekwall, early 1880’sVictorian Sitting Room.Victorian parlor.Family gathered around piano c. 1870Formal Victorian Parlour.Victorian Interior.Victorian Home Library.Victorian Foyer.1880s Bedroom1890 Eastlake InteriorMiddle class Victorian Interior Decor
Engraving of a Victorian Parlour, 1854
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Engraving of a Victorian Parlour, 1854
Victorian tea. Engraving by Cyril Hallward.
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Victorian tea. Engraving by Cyril Hallward.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti reading proofs of Sonnets and Ballads to Theodore Watts Dunton in the drawing room at 16 Cheyne Walk, London, 1882.
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Dante Gabriel Rossetti reading proofs of Sonnets and Ballads to Theodore Watts Dunton in the drawing room at 16 Cheyne Walk, London, 1882.
Late Victorian Interior
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Late Victorian Interior
Late Victorian Parlor
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Late Victorian Parlor
1879 Interior
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1879 Interior
1895 Interior.
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1895 Interior.
New York City Late 1800s Interior
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New York City Late 1800s Interior
The Proposal by Knut Ekwall, early 1880’s
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The Proposal by Knut Ekwall, early 1880’s
Victorian Sitting Room.
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Victorian Sitting Room.
Victorian parlor.
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Victorian parlor.
Family gathered around piano c. 1870
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Family gathered around piano c. 1870
Formal Victorian Parlour.
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Formal Victorian Parlour.
Victorian Interior.
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Victorian Interior.
Victorian Home Library.
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Victorian Home Library.
Victorian Foyer.
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Victorian Foyer.
1880s Bedroom
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1880s Bedroom
1890 Eastlake Interior
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1890 Eastlake Interior
Middle class Victorian Interior Decor
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Middle class Victorian Interior Decor



This Page is A Victorian Era Lovers Top Site!

Like Interior Decorating Tips and/or Old Houses?

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victorian decorating tea party thank you art
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victorian decorating tea party thank you art

Copyright Notice


All Text and photos not otherwise credited are

© 2013-14 Restoration Fabrics & Trims LLC.

All rights reserved.

DO NOT COPY. This page is protected by Copyright Law. We will prosecute plagiarists.

For information about copyright issues, please click here.

* Public Domain: This work was published in the US before 1923 and/or

Copyright has expired in countries and areas copyrighting works for life plus 100 years or less.

 Last updated on August 16, 2014

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Please linger a little longer - and sign our guestbook 85 comments

VioletteRose LM profile image

VioletteRose LM 6 months ago Level 2 Commenter

Wow this is so nice, thanks so much for sharing :)


chezchazz profile image

chezchazz 8 months ago from New York Hub Author

@marie-churchman: Thank you. Glad you enjoyed it!


marie-churchman profile image

marie-churchman 8 months ago

I grew up in old houses and loved them so! Victorian decor is lovely!! Very nice article


2envelopparadox 8 months ago

nice lens


chezchazz profile image

chezchazz 9 months ago from New York Hub Author

@Designery: For what purpose and what room? There are great antique gas fixtures that have been wired for electricity available as well as reproduction Victorian style lighting. If you can be more specific I'd be happy to give you a more specific answer.


Designery profile image

Designery 9 months ago

What type of light fixtures would your recommend?


VanessaPrieto profile image

VanessaPrieto 9 months ago

Fantastic lens. Great information! :)


Donna Cook profile image

Donna Cook 9 months ago from Denver, Colorado USA Level 5 Commenter

Great lens! I love all things Victorian and Baroque.


LiteraryMind profile image

LiteraryMind 10 months ago from Connecticut, USA

There is a lot about Victorian decorating that I like. So many intricately designed things.


chezchazz profile image

chezchazz 12 months ago from New York Hub Author

@dellgirl: thank you


chezchazz profile image

chezchazz 12 months ago from New York Hub Author

@Mary_Hart: Me too. Glad you enjoyed it.


chezchazz profile image

chezchazz 12 months ago from New York Hub Author

@Colin323: Hope I get to see them in person someday.


Mary_Hart 12 months ago

This is exactly the type of stuff I joined squidoo for. Thanks!


Colin323 profile image

Colin323 13 months ago from Ilkley, Yorkshire Level 5 Commenter

Always facinating to see an original Victorian house - the Bronte house at Haworth near to my home, and the Red House at Dewsbury, Yorkshire - are wonderfully preseved or restored examples.


dellgirl 15 months ago

Thanks for sharing this information and these ideas, its really helpful! I learned something new.


seodress profile image

seodress 16 months ago

Very awesome lens !!!


Ben Reed profile image

Ben Reed 19 months ago

Such an elegant portrayal of Victorian decor.


Ibidii profile image

Ibidii 20 months ago from Northern California Level 6 Commenter

I could use your lens for my computer desktop wallpaper! Very awesome lens! :D


Alessandro Zambon profile image

Alessandro Zambon 22 months ago from Italy

After checking some of your lens, I must confess you are an expert of interior design and home decoration. But this Victorian style is the best one I've ever saw, for my humble opinion. Thanks so much and see you soon!


WriterJanis2 profile image

WriterJanis2 22 months ago Level 4 Commenter

So elegant.


JeffGilbert profile image

JeffGilbert 22 months ago

Chazz, you definitely have these period decorating techniques down! Great lens... :)


anonymous 22 months ago

I love the Victorian style: the homes, furniture, fashions, movies filmed during that era. I love it all! I think I was born in that era, just got here late.


aesta1 profile image

aesta1 22 months ago

I love the Victorian style and you have presented it really well.


JessStone profile image

JessStone 22 months ago

Love your lens! I have been looking everywhere for good tips on this decor style. Thanks!


dunky400 profile image

dunky400 23 months ago

Love your work.


anonymous 23 months ago

I like the victorian style especially the gardens.


myspace9 24 months ago

Merry Christmas, happy holiday and have a wonderful day. Thanks a lot for taking your time and squid liking my lens.


myspace9 24 months ago

Merry Christmas, happy holiday and have a wonderful day. Thanks a lot for taking your time and squid liking my lens.


bjesparza profile image

bjesparza 2 years ago

Great lens!


vineliner57 profile image

vineliner57 2 years ago from Bloomington, IN Level 1 Commenter

I like Victorian style and the influence it has on the Steampunk movement!


Judith Nazarewicz profile image

Judith Nazarewicz 2 years ago from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Wonderful lens!


Bestbuyguide profile image

Bestbuyguide 2 years ago

Such a beautiful lens. You really do create magic.x


laurenrich 2 years ago

This is a beautiful lens. It is very informative. I love the Victorian era. Thanks for sharing.


CoolFool83 profile image

CoolFool83 2 years ago

This is such a cool lense! Really nice.


choosehappy profile image

choosehappy 2 years ago from US

Just came over here from another design page of your's. One of my rooms is going to be this theme...somewhat a Victorian Romantic feel. Bookmarking this page too. Thanks so much for these decor help and tips pages.


PearlieD profile image

PearlieD 2 years ago

what a splendid Lens. I dind't know much about Victorian Interior Design before but now I know a lot more :)


chezchazz profile image

chezchazz 2 years ago from New York Hub Author

@Entrance Mats: Hi. Thank you for your kind comments. This lens uses the Purple People Eater theme. Hope that helps.


Entrance Mats profile image

Entrance Mats 2 years ago

Fabulous Lens. Everything, from the historical information to the typeface / coloring of the design, is fantastic. May I ask what theme you are using?


Essentially Ind profile image

Essentially Ind 2 years ago

Beautiful LENS...........:)


Shalalagirl profile image

Shalalagirl 2 years ago

Love this lens - nice photos, great information! I will add it to my home decor themed lens called "Vintage Glass and China - Green Decor", to provide everyone with interesting decorating ideas. Thanks


VspaBotanicals profile image

VspaBotanicals 2 years ago Level 1 Commenter

This lens is absolutely wonderful. I just love the victorian era.


nickybutler profile image

nickybutler 2 years ago

Absolutely lovely lens - definitely looks the part! Some handy tips there too :)


NausetViews profile image

NausetViews 2 years ago from Boston

Very nicely done. I enjoyed your lens.


LouiseKirkpatrick profile image

LouiseKirkpatrick 2 years ago from Berkshire, United Kingdom

Gorgeous...just love this and all things Victorian! I remember my Grandma's rooms when I was a tiny person...all the walls had "picture rails" and they were absolutely covered in paintings and photographs and what we'd now call "knick-knacks" on every surface - it must have been a nightmare to dust!


anonymous 2 years ago

amazing article!!!


KevinFrank 2 years ago

Great lens!


Annette_corie 2 years ago

Homes are decorated through interior design ideas thus turned into a place that invites and helps relaxing. Such ideas assist you on your way to designing a modern interior.


lilynice231 2 years ago

Nice sharing for home decoration. Every one has its own experience and work regarding Interior


MaryThereseBenn profile image

MaryThereseBenn 2 years ago

Had a lovely visit!


anonymous 2 years ago

@anonymous: Ten years ago we were at the same place as you are now. We purchased a grand old Victorian that was in deplorable condition with the same idea to bring her back to life! She is now the Queen of the city and talk of the town, but it took 8 of the 10 years to fully bring her back to life as she originally was.

I would do it again but must admit that there were times I honestly thought we had lost our minds for taking on such a task. My only advice is to be prepared for long hours, many years of work, and lots of disagreements.

GOOD LUCK!!!


Annette_corie 2 years ago

Home Decor are good think and i like to decorate the hone and it is good idea


AlleyCatLane 2 years ago

I like a lot of the Victorian decor, particulary the patterns and paint colors. Don't think I could live in a totally Victorian environment though. Great article. Blessed!


WhiteOak50 profile image

WhiteOak50 2 years ago

I was letting you know that I have featured this page on my: The Victorian Era lens. This is a beautifully done page so of course I had to drop off a sprinkle of "Victorian Angel Dust".


Lauriej1 profile image

Lauriej1 2 years ago

Beautiful lens!


anonymous 2 years ago

My husband and I are looking at purchasing a run down Victorian period house and trying to restoreit to its former glory, Some great information to start, Thank you.


norma-holt profile image

norma-holt 2 years ago Level 4 Commenter

Another of your well done highly informative lenses. Featured on Blessed by Skiesgreen 2012. Hugs


smarthomes lm profile image

smarthomes lm 2 years ago

great information. Totally agree. the historic wallpaper on bid is gorgeous, hard to resist lol .


goo2eyes lm profile image

goo2eyes lm 2 years ago

victorian houses and gardens bring nostalgia with them. lots of stories and histories behind them. as much as i admire the houses, i would not want to own one. first of all, very expensive and secondly, i am afraid of big rooms with big doors. angelblessings.


Ahdilarum profile image

Ahdilarum 2 years ago Level 2 Commenter

Great insight about interiors. Liked ..


anonymous 2 years ago

I love the Victorian period! Gathered some new ideas and information here! Thanks for sharing!


Margaret Schindel profile image

Margaret Schindel 2 years ago from Massachusetts Level 6 Commenter

Thank you for making this romantic style so accessible and easy to understand!


sweethomemaker 2 years ago

Your lenses are so inviting and give so much pleasure to read I am sure I will be back soon, maybe I put some ideas into action in my home. Very inspirational


Rangoon House profile image

Rangoon House 2 years ago

It certainly as a pleasure visiting this lens.


macsquared 2 years ago

I never thought about the fact that older paint would have to use organic pigments. I don't know why this never occurred to me! Nice informative lens!


BobZau profile image

BobZau 2 years ago

Excellent lens and @ oxfordian . The wife and I are hooked on "Downton Abbey".


chezchazz profile image

chezchazz 2 years ago from New York Hub Author

@oxfordian: Don't watch much tv but I recently discovered Downton Abbey and have been watching the earlier episodes to catch up.


oxfordian profile image

oxfordian 2 years ago

P.S. Have you seen the British tv series "Downton Abbey"? Absolutely oppulent. I highly reccommend!


oxfordian profile image

oxfordian 2 years ago

As always, so very beautiful and I can always count on learning something very useful. I'm restoring a Greek Revival plantation home in Georgia and I always get wonderful ideas from your lenses.


Civil_Disobedience 3 years ago

My favourite era!


TheCheshireCat 3 years ago

I like the later victorian style better when it was becoming arts and crafts, but you do such a great job on all of your pages I really enjoy the ideas and pictures.


efcruzarts profile image

efcruzarts 3 years ago

wow lens for some past era


hamshi5433 3 years ago

Victorian and Vintage go well together! and i love them both. Beautiful Victorian home decor ideas!


ScareYouDiva profile image

ScareYouDiva 3 years ago

Victorian style is so charming and elegant. Thanks.


anonymous 3 years ago

I love Victorian design, beautiful lens :)


RUUnique profile image

RUUnique 3 years ago

Victorian art and sculptures are timeless. They tend to get lost in today's styles. Thanks for your lens,


boutiqueshops 3 years ago

I love the Victorian period & its dress & decor. Thanks for the treat!


Tonigr profile image

Tonigr 3 years ago from Minneapolis, MN

Victorian decorating is innocent and romantic. Thanks for all the information.


Showpup LM profile image

Showpup LM 3 years ago

Beautiful lens. Love this romantic, flirty style.


Ann Hinds profile image

Ann Hinds 3 years ago from So Cal Level 3 Commenter

This is truly wonderful. Our other house was decorated in the Victorian Style that moved into the backyard with an opulent garden and 40 or more rose bushes. Unfortunately, we moved and have not recaptured the style. Makes me want to bring out all that stuff and start over. Must have lived in the Victorian times in a past life. Great lens, Angel blessed.


chezchazz profile image

chezchazz 3 years ago from New York Hub Author

@Heatherseesthel: Hi Heather - Yes. We will be adding more about many styles of historic interior decorating. Follow us on twitter (see link below) for the latest updates.


Heatherseesthel profile image

Heatherseesthel 3 years ago

Thanks for your beginners' guide to Victorian home decor. I am curious about your future posts. Will you give more detail about the subcategory, Edwardian style? I write for a blog that includes some Victorian home decor http://www.brilliantoutdoors.com/victorian-lights....


Joanna14 profile image

Joanna14 3 years ago from SE Kent, England

A great resource and beautifully presented!


GrowWear 3 years ago

Victorian style has at least become something I can appreciate today. In the past, I couldn't get beyond what I saw as clutter. ...Good work here.


Paul Ward profile image

Paul Ward 3 years ago from Liverpool, England Level 1 Commenter

Excellent description of Victorian Interior Design.


myraggededge profile image

myraggededge 3 years ago

Very nice. Having owned a Victorian house, and living in a modernised Victorian cottage currently, I know about all the decorating decisions that need to be made (can you say 'money pit'?). However, I love how Victorian style can meld so well with modern decor.

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