Painted Ladies


The paint designs seen on restored Victorians are a fairly recent invention.  Almost all are the work of professional artists who specialize in combining up to 25 different colors or more,  plus metalic paints and other special finishes.  The design and expert painting can cost up to $40,000 or more. 
First Painted Lady
 on Steiner near Alamo Square
Most Victorians were originally not as colorful.  In fact, many were originally painted plain white.  Some early Italiante styles    had dark red or brown accents meant to look like the Eastern brownstones then in fashion.  Stick styles often looked like wedding cakes all dressed in white.  Queen Anne styles were often painted soft pastels to mimic marble -- think of mini-Taj Mahals. Through the Depression of the 1930s and shortages during World War II, paint supplies were limited and any accents colors that a home may have originally carried were often covered by a battleship gray.    
The first multi-colored Victorian painting didn't appear until 1967.  During the Summer of Love,  a group of artists sharing a  Stick style Victorian at 908 Steiner St. decided to paint the house in "far out" colors.  The idea spread, and colorful paint began appearing on other Victorians, especially many of the large, elaborate Queen Anne in Haight Ashbury.   
The term Painted Ladies was originated by writers Elizabeth Pomada and Michael Larsen as the title of their 1978 book which documented over 100 extraordinary examples.
Photo Credit: San Francisco Public Library, AAC-5982; http://sflib1.sfpl.org:82/record=b1020847~S0

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