Durability + Design
Follow us on Twitter Follow us on LinkedIn Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram Visit the TPC Store
Search the site

 

DURABILITY + DESIGN BLOG

Comment |

Painted Ladies: The Colorist Movement

MONDAY, JULY 25, 2016

By Jill Pilaroscia


More items for Color + Design

Colour Studio principal Jill Pilaroscia played a pivotal role in San Francisco’s colorist movement, which spawned the popular “Painted Ladies”—fancifully painted Victorian houses for which the city is now famous. These houses are beloved by visitors around the world, but many don’t know the history behind them.

painted ladies in San Francisco
All images courtesy of Jill Pilaroscia

Painted Ladies on Steiner Street in Alamo Square, also known as "Postcard Row."

To begin, it's important to note San Francisco's role as a "unique architectural museum," writes “The Painted Ladies” book series authors Michael Larson and Elizabeth Pomada.  Between 1850 and 1945, 48,000 Victorian houses were built in the city. After the 1906 earthquake and fire, some 16,000 original houses remained; more modest and mass-produced homes were built on the western and southern sides of the city.

The colorist movement began in the “Psychedelic ‘60s” in San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury neighborhood, the heart of the counterculture of the time, Pilaroscia explains. "People wanted to show their joie de vivre and express their individuality through restoring and painting these beautifully ornamented buildings."

Homeowners and professional housepainters adorned their Victorians in numerous whimsical colors, from vermillion and cobalt to gold and turquoise. Strong color was used to differentiate architectural detail and ornament typical of the period, including fanciful gingerbread trim and light-capturing bay windows. Color was used to accentuate the asymmetrical facades and detailed patterns that architects of the period used to distinguish buildings from one another.

San Franciscans were “passionate about using color to make Victorian architecture sing,” Pomada and Larson point out in “How to Create Your Own Painted Lady.” 

“By painting Victorian homes with extraordinary details in every color that [the] hand, mind, and eye can conceive, San Francisco’s colorist movement became a unique form of self-expression.”

As the Christian Science Monitor reported in 1987, “What started as a lark became a local then national trend." The Painted Ladies effort eventually spread to nearly every American city with similar architecture, with notable concentrations in St. Louis, Baltimore, New Orleans and Cincinnati.

Jill Pilaroscia

Pilaroscia mixing colors in the early days of the Painted Ladies.

Pilaroscia began mixing her own colors in 1975 after graduating from the San Francisco Art Institute, joining a “boys club” of local colorists/painters. “I had to be able to do everything they did,” she remembers, including mixing paint in the back of her truck and climbing scaffolding to apply it.

Painted Ladies

Pilaroscia's color scheme for 700 Broderick uses warm terra cotta tones and features a subtle faux finish on the massive chimney.

Customizing color for these detail-rich structures was no simple task. “Victorian architecture provides many planes for color,” Pilaroscia says, “and each client wanted their house to look different.” In devising a color palette, she took cues from the house’s architecture to create a balanced, unique scheme.  

Painted Ladies

Pilaroscia's design for 700 Broderick Street sparkles with 23 karat patent gold leaf.

The house at 700 Broderick Street in San Francisco is a case in point. For this Stick/Eastlake structure, Pilaroscia hand-mixed each color based on the house's colorful stained glass window. The overall palette grew from those hues, she says. It was a study in cool and warm. 

“I like working with complimentary colors as it gives a scheme complexity and dimension,” she notes. “You can see more gradations that way.”

Integrating the house’s many surfaces which advance and recede as well as its ornaments is a main objective. “I like to do ribbons of color to weave the house together,” Pilaroscia explains. “It orchestrates the surfaces of a building and integrates the bay and the body.”

Pilaroscia's knowledge of color, along with her art and science practice, set her up as an expert in her field. In 1987 she was recruited by Hewlett Packard's corporate real estate division to become their global color consultant for both exterior and interior environments for 14 years. Yet the legacy of Pilaroscia's role in the colorist movement lives on. As Pomada and Larsen note, “The Painted Ladies make people look up. They make people more aware and eager for color, and not just on Victorians but on all styles of architecture.”

Painted Ladies

Pilaroscia's 1919 Pierce Street color scheme painted by Local Color Painting.

Pilaroscia states, "It was a privilege to be in involved with the Painted Ladies and the colorist movement. It allowed me the opportunity to contribute to San Francisco's beloved and dynamic visual landscape."

ABOUT THE BLOGGER

Jill Pilaroscia

“Life in Color” is co-authored by architectural color consultant Jill Pilaroscia (pictured), BFA, and creative writer Allison Serrell. Pilaroscia’s firm, Colour Studio Inc., is based in San Francisco. A fully accredited member of the International Association of Color Consultants, Pilaroscia writes and lectures widely on the art and science of color.

SEE ALL CONTENT FROM THIS CONTRIUBTOR

   

Tagged categories: Aesthetics; Architectural history; Architecture; Artists; Building design; Color; Color selection; Color trends; Decorative painting; Design; Historic Preservation

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (7/26/2016, 8:21 AM)

Lovely details in these color schemes.


Comment from Rachel Perls, (8/3/2016, 10:54 AM)

So fun to learn about the history of the colorist movement.


Comment from Cameron Duncan, (12/12/2016, 9:44 AM)

I greatly appreciate detailing contrast. Knowing all comes at a cost, it would be good to understand at what (square foot range) cost one incurs for such as well as timing for touch-up and repainting expected.


Comment Join the Conversation:

Sign in to our community to add your comments.

Advertisements
 
Garland Company
 
Architectural Wall Coating Damproofs and Beautifies
 
Tuff-Coat™ multi-functional coating bridges hairline cracks, hides stains and discoloration, and reduces wall temperature, increasing the wall's life cycle.
 

 
EMME Controls
 
EMME (Energy Management Made Easy)
 
• Achieve a zone in every room for 1/2 the cost
• Save up to 40% in energy consumption
• Works in any size building
• Can be installed in as little as a few days without remodeling
• Comfort results guaranteed in writing
 

 
Shield Industries, Inc
 
FireGuard® E-84 Intumescent Coating - Shield Industries, Inc
 
Trust the certified protection of the industry’s most innovative intumescent coating FireGuard® E-84 to provide you with the 1 and 2 hour fire ratings you need.
 

 
Keim Mineral Coatings
 
Mineral Silicate Paints + Stains Fuse to Concrete
 
• Forms permanent chemical bonds
• Becomes part of the concrete
• Will never peel
• Looks completely natural
 

 
Novatek Corporation
 
Novatek Portable Air Filtration Systems
 
Air Scrubbers/Negative Air machines for restoration, abatement, dust & odor control, hazardous contaminant removal from job sites to clean rooms and hospitals. Portable, affordable!
 

 
Atlas Material Testing Technology
 
Helping You Put Your Products To The Test
 
  • Outdoor Accelerated Weathering
  • Laboratory Testing Services
  • Accelerated Weathering Instruments

  • www.atlas-mts.com
    atlas.info@ametek.com
 

 
 
 

Technology Publishing Co., 1501 Reedsdale Street, Suite 2008, Pittsburgh, PA 15233

TEL 1-412-431-8300  • FAX  1-412-431-5428  •  EMAIL webmaster@durabilityanddesign.com


The Technology Publishing Network

Durability + Design PaintSquare the Journal of Protective Coatings & Linings Paint BidTracker

 

© Copyright 2012-2018, Technology Publishing Co., All rights reserved