How Bob Buckter Repainted San Francisco
May 2, 2016 12:16 PM   Subscribe

Finally an answer to that most pressing of questions about San Francisco housing:

Whatever happened to predictability?
posted by Mayor West at 12:18 PM on May 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Bob Buckter is awesome. While he's known for his colorful Victorian designs, I've seen him do some more modern homes that came out really well too. The best part is his attention to detail for little architectural highlights and his paint-by-numbers guide for the painters to follow.
posted by zachlipton at 12:26 PM on May 2, 2016

Is everyone is San Francisco "tickled"?
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:34 PM on May 2, 2016

“These are far from any kinds of the colors used back then," he says, referring to one of his typical jobs. "A lot of these buildings were pretty plain. They were off-whites, or light beiges, and a black sash or a green sash and that’s it."

Is this correct? I grew up in Savannah where a lot of the Victorian-era buildings are painted in rather lurid colors, and what I always heard from tour people and the like was "yeah, we know it's a little out there, but believe it or not the historic district is trying to stay true to the original color and design of the houses in this area."
posted by phunniemee at 12:38 PM on May 2, 2016

Period Victorians homes in SF would have probably been more monochrome with a single accent color, the picking out each element in a different color is more of a 70s version of The 1880s thing (not that lurid painted houses didn't exist, it's just that was so damn time consuming)
posted by The Whelk at 12:47 PM on May 2, 2016

It really does make a difference in how attractive a house looks. I'm in a triplex that is technically Edwardian, as it was built two years after Victoria's death. It's the reverse twin of the house next door. However, the owner used to live here and I think still has a personal emotional stake, so when he had it repainted he had it done by a guy who picked out the details and did the three color thing, and even some gold paint touches on the ornamentation. Not as fancy as some in the article, but nice. Next door they cheap-assed it with white paint and no trim color much less detail color, and it looks so much worse than ours.
posted by tavella at 12:55 PM on May 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Came hoping to see this addressed:

Anyone paying attention to the real estate market won't be surprised to hear what most people like right now: "Lot of grays. Gray is the big trend right now." Why? "I don’t know. All the techies are going for it."

I'm all for the adage that there's no accounting for taste, but this is a trend I'm ready to watch wither. We watched the third (!) house on our block go grey earlier this year. And not just grey, but monochrome grey (with a glossy black front door). At least the woman who bought/redid the first one on the street added a hot pink door.

We joke privately that it's like watching esthetics blanding in realtime. Which, appropriately, happens as fast as paint dries. A beautifully detailed structure gets flattened with a single lazy paint, maybe because the owners resent all the frilly details and want the appearance of living in a sleek new construction.

But this guy. Thanks, good man. Loved seeing your signs around and glad to know more about your story now.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 1:38 PM on May 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Around our house, we call the modern grey trend "beiging" (v).
As in "oh look, they've beiged up a few more houses in that subdivision".
posted by parki at 1:49 PM on May 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Wish he could've done my building, an Edwardian apartment complex that my landlord decided to 'spruce up' by making it colorful and oh dear god the hideousness. Copper columns and hunter green and vomity paisley carpeting inside. So Buckter's job is much easier said than done; wild color can really go wrong.
posted by GospelofWesleyWillis at 1:57 PM on May 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

After WWII, San Francisco houses tended to be painted 100% "Battleship Gray," with Navy surplus paint.
posted by Carol Anne at 2:16 PM on May 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

A beautifully detailed structure gets flattened with a single lazy paint, maybe because the owners resent all the frilly details and want the appearance of living in a sleek new construction.

Perhaps living in a pretty-looking house is inconsistent with the self-image of being an overman, or painting one's house austere grey is the equivalent of getting one's nutrition from Soylent; declaring that one has no need for these frivolities that so amuse lesser beings. It could also be some kind of bro-science about asserting one's alpha-maleness and intimidating potential rivals, and what better way to do that than by cultivating a severe, austere image?
posted by acb at 3:08 PM on May 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Monotone painting scheme is also inexpensive and, as the article said, a more monochrome wash is relatively resistant to weathering. This guy's work is awesome, and the niche he's found for himself is inspiring, but I don't blame homeowners for going with the safer and duller choices on a limited budget or finicky housing market.
posted by Think_Long at 3:14 PM on May 2, 2016

I live in a village with a lot of nineteenth-century properties (mostly 1890s-early 1900s, with a smattering of antebellum houses), along with a lot of, er, weather. There are a handful of really amazing painted ladies, but the amount of upkeep is just punishing; one American Foursquare went from multi-colored to beige a few years back, I suspect out of sheer exhaustion on the owner's part. Some owners repaint every three years, which is a combination of time- and cash-consuming.
posted by thomas j wise at 3:19 PM on May 2, 2016

> I don't blame homeowners for going with the safer and duller choices on a limited budget

Do people with a limited budget get to live in SF now? Things are looking up.
posted by cardioid at 3:22 PM on May 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Here on the island, the people who are super-into their 19th century homes often do a detailed color scheme for them. (Behold, one of my neighbors. Here's another house further down the street.) Another neighbor restored his Victorian over the course of a decade (he and his two sons worked on it nights and weekends) and he once told me he had no fewer than ten different paint colors between all the different types of trim, the doors and the other assorted details.

It exhausts me just thinking about it. Thank God our little foursquare is so simple -- when I scrape together the money to repaint it in a year or two, I'm going with two, maybe three colors max.
posted by sobell at 3:48 PM on May 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

"beiging" (v)
posted by klausman at 4:39 PM on May 2, 2016

Since I've lived in SF, it's been a minor life goal of mine to repaint one of these polychromes... just... so. I think great or modest, they're displays of care and contribution to the public streetscape, and lovely ways to bring joy. And Bob's work over decades is definitely a big part of maintaining that.

So it's come to pass, I finally ended up owning one! It was a working-class neighborhood and home when it was built, so no turrets or curved glass, but it's at least on the corner of a block, so they took due pride in sticking whatever ornamentation they could find in the catalogs all over the outside of it. The prior owners painted it about 8-10 years ago, and ended up with no less than 10 colors, not including the gold leaf, and silver leaf (because why not both?). It'll be a few more years before I can really justify the cost of repainting, but damned if I don't already have swatches picked out.

As for 'beiging', it's definitely a trend. Both of the beautiful corner mansions (long since turned into multiple units) on the other edge of the block have been 'monochromed' with actual grey paint jobs in the past few years. Both are far more ornate than my home, and I can't help but feel sad for them when I walk by every day. Such a missed opportunity. But as long as people don't repeat the sins of the 60's and 70's, where the old woodwork was stripped off of so many buildings in favor of cheap siding or (shudder) stucco, styles will come around again, and it's easy to put color back.
posted by zeypher at 6:31 PM on May 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

« Older Embroidery on Youtube   |   EXEMPLARIS DÍGNITAS ("The Dealio") Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments