Inspired by the decoratively painted homes, the painted dog houses, the painted everything in the village of Zalipie, about 40 miles northeast of Krakow, I’ve done some ornamental painting on the cement block wall that fences off our back garden from those of our neighbors. Something I’ve been thinking of doing for years.
The Village of Zalipie
Surely, you’ve seen photos of Zalipie. They make the rounds on Facebook and Pinterest periodically. The comments and posts that accompany the photos give the impression that this is a tiny little village, where every single house is heavily decorated.
I pictured something akin to the Ethnological Park of Wielkapolska, with a lot of whitewash and folk art added – a place where one could amble between one quaint painted cottage and the next. While I only know Zalipie from online photos, my best and most accurate description of the lovely flower covered village comes from my travel blogging friend Jonny Blair, the author of the website Northern Irishman in Poland.
In his post on Zalipie, Jonny tells us that the village has a Bed and Breakfast, a pub, and a fire station all appropriately decked out in the flower motif. The village was a little more sprawling that he had anticipated, making it difficult to find everything on foot.
Headlines I’ve read about the village give the impression that every structure is covered in painted flowers, charming as it may be, that is an exaggeration. Reports vary, but 20 – 30 buildings in the village are painted with flowers, many are not. It’s a little off the beaten path, and well worth the effort, I’m sure. I just wouldn’t want to you be disappointed if you make the trip.
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History of Zalipie’s Painted Homes
The tradition of painting flowers began well over 100 years ago when soot covered surfaces were painted white and then decorated more colorfully. Interestingly enough, their paint was made from a powdered dye and milk which I guess isn’t all that far-fetched considering tempera paint used was mixed with egg yolk in medieval times, and for all I know, it still is.
The most popular decoration for the houses was flowers, and the tradition has grown and become more popular, putting the village on the map of many travelers. Think of the commitment to keep this up! Over 100 years of floral painting means a lot of touch up, something they continued even during World War II.
One of the most famous painters was Felicja Curylo, her home was heavily decorated with flowers and is the one most often featured in photos of the village. It’s now become a museum, but has recently been closed for renovation.
Bringing a bit of Zalipie to our home
For decades I’ve toyed with the idea of paining something on our fence other than the HOA prescribed earth-tone house paint, on the inside of the wall, of course. It was the painted village of Zalipie and the encouragement of my friend and colleague that finally put my paint brushes in motion.
Why is it that there are so many fun projects in my head, and so few of them are actually started, and even fewer are actually finished? I’m definitely better at starting projects than finishing them, somthing to which my husband and daughters will attest.
I was sharing the usual photos of Zalipie with my friend, who happens to be an artist, over lunch one day. She is a big fan of bold uses of color and encouraged me to decoratively paint much more of the wall than I have. Who knows? Perhaps there will be more.
Recently, she was riding along with me, when I made a trip home at lunch one day. She lives closer to the university, in a more historical, more colorful part of town. As we pulled into our driveway, she said, “you know this doesn’t even look like Tucson to me. It could be anywhere in southern California.” That is so true. The homes are stucco and very beige. They could fit in anywhere in the southwest.
Ours has just gotten a little more unique. At the encouragement of our daughter, also an artist, I used stencils rather than attempting to do something freehand on cement block (a difficult surface on which to paint!). While a floral damask pattern might have been more truly Zalipie, I found some great stencils inspired by Talavera pottery, in keeping with the Mediterranean feel of our stucco walls and red clay tile roof.
I’ve seen outdoor acrylic paints, but considering the intense Arizona sun, I bought sample sizes of exterior house paint. Hopefully, I won’t need to touch up as frequently as the ladies in Zalipie.
I’d love to hear about what you do to personalize your home.