San Francisco’s Painted Ladies and Why We Love Victorian Homes

March 5th, 2018
Location  •   Painted Ladies, SF

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From New England to the hilltops of San Francisco, Victorian homes are plentiful, but no one seems to preserve and obsess over them as well as the San Francisco community. I mean, no offense but the Victorian homes in New England often give me the Alfred Hitchcock vibes and I usually steer away from them entirely come open houses. Yet there is something so charming and surprisingly warm about the way San Franciscans paint and renovate these quirky 19th-century homes. Which got me thinking, why are Victorian homes such a to do in San Francisco, as they literally line the streets as far as the eye can see.

So I dug out my laptop and started to do some research, for those of you whom might not know, Victorian architecture was named after Queen Victoria of England due to its popularity during her reign. Oh, and if you have no idea what I’m talking about the style is really easy to pick out, because of its ornate milling, asymmetrical porches, and high pitched roofs. Personally, I love a more subtle look, so most Victorians as a whole are just too ornate for my liking, but I really loved how San Franciscans used warmly toned paints to tone down the dramatic effect. They keep their Victorian homes painted with light pastels or even a sharp white, versus a lot of the darker or deep gray painted Victorians in New England. After digging deeper into the Victorian home history rabbit hole, I read that New Englanders often go with a deep gray due to its historical accuracy for the time. In fact, a lot of Victorians homes were originally painted gun gray, as painters were using war-surplus navy paint. Interesting right!? 

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It made sense to me that New Englanders would focus more heavily on maintaining and preserving the history of the homes, while San Franciscans would focus on making the homes standout by capturing city goers attention with bright colors and details. In 1978 the term Painted Ladies was actually created by an American architectural book, which referred to ‘Painted Ladies’ as any Victorian styled home painted in three or more colors that embellish or enhance their architectural details. This architectural book author noticed that multi-colored Victorians were a popular style for the colorful era of the seventies in San Francisco and created the famous term Painted Ladies to describe this ever growing trend. I mean leave it to the seventies to make multi-colored exterior painting a thing, but I feel like Victorian homes can pull it off. All and all, these beautiful homes are still a sight to see today, and really do add to the character of the city. 

 After visiting San Francisco and digging into its architectural history, I really do have a greater appreciation for Victorian Homes as a whole. I would love to hear from you guys; have any of you lived in one of these 18th-century beauties? I hear they are a lot of work to keep up with but well worth it. Anyway, I find myself looking at homes more and more these days as Matt and I prepare for our move back to New England. Whether we choose to rent or buy, I think we are done with apartment living and I can’t wait to see what this year brings our way. 

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