What Are Painted Lady Houses?
(By Los Angeles (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons)
Lovely Victorian Homes painted in multiple layers are often referred to as Painted Ladies. You will find such a house in our newest mystery, The Vanished Lady.
What does the term Painted Lady mean?
The term “painted lady” has a double meaning. It is often used to refer to “soiled doves” or fallen women of the Old West, who painted their faces with makeup when respectable women did not wear cosmetics. Houses of that same era painted in a multi-colored scheme are also often referred to as “Painted Ladies.” Though the terms are believed to be unrelated, these lovely homes, like our more flamboyant sisters, are the showy peacocks of architecture. Dating back to the mid to late 1800s, many of these historic homes throughout the
have been remodeled
and turned into bed and breakfasts. United States
How to Identify a Painted Lady House
Though many Victorian styles may qualify as Painted Ladies, the architectural style most identified with the Painted Lady is the Queen Anne. The Queen Anne is usually a smaller home, with three stories and which may have a tower or turret. Whatever the architectural style, which may range from Greek Revival to Colonial, Painted Ladies can easily be identified not only by their brilliant, rainbow hues but by the intricate detailing on porches, shutters, molding around windows and eaves. The woodwork is often lacy in appearance. Because of this detailing, they are sometimes also referred to as “Gingerbread Houses”.
Originally painted in brilliant colors, many of the old Painted Ladies were coated over with a white or cream color in the early 1900s. In the 1970s the Painted Lady made a comeback and many were restored to their original color schemes and brilliance.
According to contemporary standards, to qualify as a true Painted Lady, the house must meet three important criteria. The house must be a balanced, harmonious blend of color and architecture, it must be painted in three or more contrasting colors, and the colors must be used to bring out the decorative embellishments of the house.
Many Painted Ladies are done up in brilliant, contrasting colors. Any color can be used, as long as it draws out the architecture of the house. Examples of startling, yet successful blends of colors may be slate blue walls with contrasting sea green and mauve trim, or perhaps rose-colored walls with brilliant green and tan detailing. Some more sedate painted ladies may have white or tan outer walls with trim of pale pinks, blues, or mauves. The bolder ladies may be done in shocking pink, blue and orange.
A Resurgence in Popularity
The term Painted Lady, as it refers to houses, is a relatively new one It originated in the early 1970s when
began painting their Victorian homes in three or more contrasting colors. The trend spread to other places, such as San Francisco , where there
are a wealth of Victorian homes still standing. Colorado
Where to See Painted Lady Houses
While examples of this architecture can be found scattered in all parts of the United States from the Northeast to the Southwest, many areas are known for their lovely Painted Lady districts. A person might come across a Painted Lady anywhere, from the East and West coast to the Midwest, but they will be found in greater number in gold rush towns such as
Victorians settled to build. San Francisco has many
areas along the coast where Painted Ladies can be seen in abundance. Though many were destroyed by fire, or
has long been known as a place to view this type of architecture. A row of
Victorian houses on San Francisco Steiner Street
is one of the most popular areas for these houses. San Francisco
Colorful and unique Painted Ladies are also prevalent in
Colorado and in the many small, neighboring
gold mining towns such as . Loretta and I visited and photographed several of these old houses, which provided inspiration for our book about such a house with a secret. Georgetown
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