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Victoriana period flourishing through revival of homes

The love affair with Victorian houses and Victoriana continues unabated in the United States as people rediscover mellow wood, gingerbread trim, bay windows, turrets, dormers, and nooks and crannies.

Architects and developers are again building in a Victorian vein houses that look visually rich and reassuringly familiar.

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More and more, preservationists are taking delight in restoring authentic Victorian houses built from 1850 to 1915, and real estate agents are touting the spaciousness, charm, and character of these vintage residences.

And more companies are coming to the fore to offer decorating and restoration assistance to those people who buy Victorian houses.

For instance, Fuller-O'Brien has just introduced a new 70-color paint palette called ''The Cape May Victorian Colors.'' The collection of colors was named for Cape May, N.J., a community that boasts some of the most authentic Victorian homes on the Eastern Seaboard.

Settlers came to this seacoast town some 150 years ago, and it eventually became a resort area. Now the town, with more than 600 Victorian-style homes, and other buildings, has been designated a National Historic Landmark, and the structures are being restored to their original beauty.

Extensive research has gone into the development of the Cape May colors. Technical experts from Fuller-O'Brien worked with the Cape May Historical District for two years, collecting information and color samples from the latter part of the 19th century. More than 200 colors were gathered from all sources, then edited to the 70 that now carry the authorization of the Cape May Historical District Commission.

Lyle Certain, marketing manager of the San Francisco paint company, explained the Victorian homes of the late 19th century were painted in predominantly cooler colors such as blues, greens, and beiges, although some of the colors chosen are rich and deep and included reds and yellows.

''These colors are intense, but not vivid,'' Mr. Certain says. ''Most are slightly grayed, and we have found that the subdued shades can be a unifying factor between the antique and the modern when used in interiors. They also suit the growing romantic trend in decorating today.''

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Another paint company with a ''Historical Color Collection'' is Benjamin Moore & Co. of Montvale, N.J. This palette, for both interior and exterior use, offers significant colors from both the 18th and 19th centuries, collected from historic homes and buildings throughout the United States. The company also offers a range called ''100 Years of Exterior Colors,'' which was assembled from the color cards preserved in the company's archives and which indicates color favorites of homeowners over the past century.

Patricia Poore, editor of the Old-House Journal and of the 1983 Old-House Journal catalog (available by mail for $11.95 from the Old-House Journal, 69A Seventh Avenue, Brooklyn N.Y. 11217), says that more and more products for the Victorian house are included in the catalog each year. These include paints, fabrics, wallpapers, plumbing and lighting fixtures, glassworks, hardware, and millwork. Scalamandre and Schumacher are two among those fabric/wallpaper companies offering new Victorian collections. And a large company, Progress Lighting of Philadelphia, has just introduced a line of Victorian and early 20 th-century fixtures.

Local millworks in various regions of the country have become highly sensitive to the needs of preservationists and remodelers who are looking for handcrafted Victorian gingerbread, spindle trim, fretwork, corbels, and corner brackets. Many of these offer catalogs and fill mail orders.

In Silverton, Colo., George Crane started the Silverton Victorian Millworks just six years ago and is now selling all over the United States. ''I was a finish carpenter,'' he explains, ''and a few years ago I bought some old Victorian houses in Silverton and began to fix them up.''

Soon, he says, he realized there was a real need for the right kind of authentic millwork, and he and his wife began to operate their own little business. ''Each year since we started our business has increased from 50 percent to 100 percent over the year before. We have watched this Victorian thing spread like wildfire, and have sent our millwork to rejuvenate Victorian houses in Aspen, Lake Tahoe, Chicago, and now New England and the whole East Coast. We see the boom going on through the 1990s, and we have added four other permanent workers and three part-time workers to fill our orders.''

A catalog of this company's offerings is available for $3.50 from the Silverton Victorian Millworks, Silverton, Colo. 81433.

Seven years ago Randy Reese and Donald Stevens began Cumberland Woodcraft, at 1500 Walnut Bottom Road in Carlisle, Pa. 17013. They also offer a mail-order catalog of millwork (including spandrels, brackets, grilles, balustrades, railings, and turnings) for $3.50. Randy Reese says he looked around a bit and ''got the notion that a lot of people around the country were soon going to be interested in Victorian millwork.'' He was right. The company expands each year and now sells nationwide and to England and Canada.

Down in Fredericksburg, Texas, two brothers, Gregory and Roland Tatsch, decided five years ago to launch Vintage Wood Works after thoroughly researching the market for Victorian gingerbread and fretwork. Then they developed the facilities to produce the fancy woodwork. Now their father, Rudolph Tatsch, a retired college professor, has joined them in their venture, and they are selling all over the country and to several foreign countries. A new addition to their line is a Victorian gazebo called the Dolly Bryan, and their 36-page catalog is available for $2. The Emporium, 2515 Morse Street, Houston, Texas 77019, showed its wide range of handcrafted Victorian gingerbread at the recent National Homebuilders Show in Houston, and a complete brochure is available for

All of this represents merely a sampling of sources. But in a small way it lets those people who love Victorian houses know that help is at hand.

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