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Colorful Destinations

Wanderlust runs deep in summer, so this month we’ve rounded up some of the most colorful places on earth to whet the appetite for travel. From a sea of golden flowers in China to a rainbow-hued idyll in Italy, each is a destination worthy of an adventure.

Luoping, China

In China’s eastern Yunnan Province, the fields in Luoping county turn yellow when thousands of acres of canola flowers – also known as rapeseed plants – bloom.  Farmers harvest the abundant crops to extract oil for cooking. “As the plants sway in the breeze, the fields appear to be an endless sea of golden flowers,” Vision Times explains. According to those who have visited, the best time to capture the dramatic scene is at dusk or dawn, when the surrounding mountain shadows create a distinct contrast against the golden fields. The Lingyan Temple atop a neighboring hill is an excellent spot to view the splendor.

Procida, Italy

This tiny island off the coast of Naples served as the cinematic backdrop to the film The Talented Mr. Ripley. At only 4 kilometers long, Procida is the smallest island in the Bay of Naples and is often overlooked by tourists flocking to nearby Ischia and Capri. Just a 40-minute hydrofoil ride from the mainland, Procida’s main village forms a tangle of houses painted in pink, yellow, blue and green.  The island is awash in pink bougainvillea and white jasmine, with lemon groves dotting the land.  The main attraction is the colorful fishing village of Marina Corricella, a 17th-century settlement built into the rock that can only be reached on foot by stairs in passageways through the houses.

Procida is the smallest island in the Bay of Naples.

Lavender Fields of Provence

The largest cultivation of lavender in the world, the famed and fragrant purple fields of Provence bloom every summer from June to August. Lavender is cultivated for use primarily in perfumes and soaps but is also employed to flavor local honey and ice cream. The fields are concentrated in the Luberon region, where the two most spectacular viewing spots include the Abbaye Notre Dame de Senanque and the village Simiane la Roland.  Visitors can tour lavender farms and distilleries; many offer open houses in the summer.

Lavender fields at The Abbaye de Notre Dame de Senanque in Provence

Tulip Fields of Holland

Often called the flower shop of the world, Holland’s tulip fields and gardens are at their most colorful March through May, when the renowned fields outside Amsterdam are awash in pink, purple, red, orange and yellow blooms. You can visit the impressive Keukenhof Gardens, a dazzling display planted on 79 acres at the Vondelpark castle estate, one of the largest flower gardens in the world. Visitors can also walk or bike through the extensive surrounding farmer’s fields. Aerial views of the countryside reveal stunning saturated color blocks not unlike abstract painting.

An aerial view of the tulip fields in Holland

Namaqualand, Namibia

A kaleidoscope of color blooms every spring in this arid region of Namibia and South Africa. It’s the flowering season known throughout the area as the Namaqualand daisy season. Orange, white and pink daisies as well as hundreds of other wild flowering species carpet the otherwise barren landscape. This beautiful region of wheat fields, vineyards, and river valleys is named for its wide fertile plains that turn black each winter after the rains.

Wildflowers in Namaqualand, a region of Namibia and South Africa

The Great Barrier Reef, Australia

The iconic Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven wonders of the natural world and home countless species of colorful fish, coral and shells. Orange and white striped clownfish swim among purple anemones; polka-dotted stingrays dip between bright pink coral and blue iridescent shells. According to an article in National Geographic, scientists are learning to decipher the messages that these colors convey and to see them the way fish do:

“Only in the past decade or so have we begun to understand how wavelengths of light (and therefore color) appear at different depths and how various marine creatures’ eyes perceive and see each other – far differently than humans see them.”

More than 3.5 million tourists come to Vermont annually to witness the dramatic display of autumn leaves. This heavily forested state is ablaze in fiery color each year during September and October. The best spots for leaf peeping are the less traveled Northwest Kingdom and the southwest lake region along the New York border. One in every four trees in Vermont is a Sugar Maple – easily the star of the season’s show.  Maples display their red pigment and turn bright crimson as the days shorten and the leaves stop producing chlorophyll. There are many driving and biking routes throughout the state for optimal viewing.

Colorful marine life in the Great Barrier Reef

Caño Cristales, Colombia

Located in the Serrania de la Macarena province of Meta, the Caño Cristales River is commonly called the “river of five colors” or the “liquid rainbow” due to its striking hues. From the end of July through November, the river bed is variously colored yellow, green, blue, black and especially red.  The ubiquitous red, which ranges from pink to blood red to maroon, is caused by large quantities of the endemic plant species Macarenia Clarisera which adhere tightly to the rocks. Though shades of red are most common, the plant turns green in shaded areas. Other colors come from the blue water, black rocks, and yellow sand, which create an iridescent effect.

The rainbow-hued Caño Cristales in Colombia

Pamukkali, Turkey

This surreal landscape, dubbed “Cotton Castle,” derives from springs in a cliff almost 200 meters high overlooking the plain of Curusku in Southwest Turkey.  The calcite-laden waters have created mineral forests, petrified waterfalls, and a series of terraced basins. People have bathed in these pools, which date to the 2nd century B.C., for thousands of years.  Unfortunately modern hotel development has caused considerable damage to the area. Pamukkali was declared a world heritage site in 1988; since then, the hotels and main road have been demolished and replaced with artificial pools.

Terraced basins at Pamukkali in Southwest Turkey

As these images illustrate, color in both the natural world and the man made world can profoundly shape our experience. The earth science of a particular location — it’s soil, light, longitude and latitude, temperature and climate — all influence how we feel and respond to a palette of colors. We hope you enjoy a vibrant summer season.

Painted Ladies: The Colorist Movement

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.

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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,” write The Painted Ladies book series authors Michael Larson and Elizabeth Pomada.  48,000 Victorian houses were built here between 1850 and 1915.   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 hand, mind, and eye can conceive, San Francisco’s colorist movement became a unique form of self-expression.”

As the Christian Science Monitor wrote 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.


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Jill 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.



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

 

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


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.   

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.”

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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.”