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In defense of cerise delight

Some of Sonoma’s good citizens have taken exception to the presence of cerise delight on the Plaza. Perhaps it is, in part, the name, which sounds appropriate for an 1890s burlesque queen.

But alas, “Cerise Delight” is not performing risque dance routines, at least not anywhere near the Plaza we know of; it’s just a bold and only-slightly-seductive color, enticing children and adults to the Marmaduke family ice cream store, recently repainted and renamed for the matriarch who loved that color.

It is easy to understand the objections of those who filed an appeal against the Design Review and Historic Preservation Commission’s approval of cerise delight. It is not a subtle color, and it does stand out against the prevailing, subdued hues of the Plaza color palette.

But, as Kelso Barnett, a commission member, so expertly and rationally argues in the Op-Ed column at right, lively colors have a place in our past, our present and, hopefully, in our future. And bright hues are far more period-appropriate than some people may imagine; witness the famous Painted Ladies Victorian homes fronting Alamo Square in San Francisco, with a lively array of color.

Barnett dug deep enough into the issue to unearth some research on historic use of color, including a scholarly article by architectural historian Hugh Howard who explains that modern paint analysis has revealed a range of historic color in places like colonial Williamsburg, Mount Vernon and Montpelier, Vermont that belies public assumptions about preferred colors of the time.


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