Frank Lloyd Wright’s core belief, and that which inspired his designs, was that man and nature were one and should never be separated. He strove to create the perfect balance, knowing that man couldn’t survive without shelter, but could not thrive to his maximum without nature. Wright’s apprentices thoroughly understood this and knew he would want to personally design homes for clients who had land of remarkable beauty where exceptional natural elements were key.
If we think of Frank LLoyd Wright as just being a remarkable architect of his time, we’re completely missing out on understanding how strongly he influenced the modern homes we live in today. He was a pioneer and his clients were equally as fearless. Their stories are almost as interesting as those of their forward thinking architect. Today, his designs are just as appropriate as the day he first put pen to paper.
And since what goes around comes back again, those who went overboard in recent times believing bigger is better, are now thinking about downsizing from their high maintenance eight bedrooms, nine baths back to something functional – say, like two or three bedrooms and two or three baths or smaller. Home size is being actively rethought.
Today, when we talk about wanting an “open plan” in searching for a house, do you realize that it was Wright who conceived and designed it first?
Or today, when we get wistful over the thought of someday having radiant floor heat, did you realize he was using it in 1937 in his Usonian construction?
As you sit sipping your morning coffee enjoying the view of the garden through floor-to-ceiling glass, did you know that he’s considered the first to design a house bringing the outside inside?
Unlike houses of today, in his Usonian designs for the middle class, the rooms Wright designed were used daily and engineered to bring the family together. There was no family room, separate dining room, a living room or large bedrooms. The family gathered in the one living room around the focal point fireplace and talked together. He clearly never envisioned computers and the changes in family life that would evolve. It was Wright who first conceived the flat roof, open floor plan, the organic relationship between the structure and the landscape, and for those in warmer climates, the indoor-outdoor living space relationship.
As Frank Lloyd Wright progressed through life, so too did his designs evolve, starting with Prairie style, to textile block, to organic and towards the end, the functional Utonian for the masses. One interest that was with him his entire life was community design, which would move people out of cities and into a self-sustaining countryside environment of mixed use.
He moved away from traditional European design and created truly American styles, such as his famous Prairie and Usonian. While now considered an architectural pioneer, his work wasn’t always well received during his lifetime.
Here are 10 of Wright’s properties arranged from some of the earliest to those designed near the end of his life, each of which is considered a work of art.
Many people have purchased and restored his homes all across the United States and these homes are often found on the National Register of Historic Places.
To own a Wright home is to own more than just a piece of history, it is buying the American Dream of moving from the conventional and finding a place of our own.
1. Emmond House 1892
Physical Address: 109 South 8th Street, La Grange, Ill.
BR: 5 BA: 1 SqFt: 2,638
URL (with http): http://historichomesrealty.com/
Listing Agent: Margaret McSheehy, Historic Homes Realty
Frank Lloyd Wright had interesting character traits aside from being a visionary designer. He was resourceful and was a risk taker. When he built his own house and studio in a Chicago neighborhood, he found it necessary to borrow money from his employer, architect Louis Sullivan. In order to pay it back promptly he had to come up with additional income. Of course selling his architectural services would make the most money, but there was the issue of that pesky little clause in his contract with Adler and Sullivan that said independent work outside the company was forbidden. But Wright decided to take the chance. He managed to build eight of these “bootleg houses” before being caught and fired.
Except for this larger, more elegant Emmond house in La Grange, Illinois, the others were of modest size with the basic plans being the same. Only a change in details gave each its individuality.
The Emmond House was built in 1892 in La Grange, Ill., and has painstakingly been restored to its original design both inside and out. It was designed in an era when the Victorian gingerbread houses were all the rage. In his bootleg houses, he combined Colonial Revival, Queen Anne and Dutch Colonial, all pared down to simplicity without the curly ques and architectural adornment of the originals. One can see this in the octagonal turret and pointed, equilateral roof. These features would later evolve into his Prairie style.
Over the years, brick veneer siding had been installed over the original wood clapboard and Wright’s porch addition with open arches had been enclosed along with other architectural changes. Fortunately, original photographs were obtained and paint analysis on wood siding that had been covered revealed the exact original paint color, which was replicated. The exterior restoration was completed in 2007 after six years of restoration. The current owners also worked from plans to restore the interior to its original design. The windows are lead art glass and furnishings are the Wright originals. In 2008 the owners were presented with the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Preservation Award for Outstanding Restoration.
Frank Lloyd Wright is one more example of how being fired from a job can be a boost to one’s future rather than a hindrance.
2. Heller House 1897
Physical Address: 5132 South Woodlawn Ave., Chicago
BR: 7 BA: 4 SqFt: 6,100
URL (with http): http://urbansearchrealty.com/listing_detail/detail.htm?scope=ALL&id=50603928
Listing Agent: Diane Silverman, Urban Search Realty
Phone: 312.337.2400 cell- 312.541.5971
Designed in 1896, it was built during Wright’s shift into the more angular Prairie School architecture. The first of its kind in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, it was considered a “most outrageous house” in the beginning but was then copied many times thereafter. It is an interesting transitional mix which included both the more formal room designs of the day along with important touches of Wright’s angular roof lines and interesting stained glass window designs that closely replicated the building’s exterior details. A unique Wright addition to the design is the Richard Bock plaster frieze of maidens wrapping around the upper roof line. Unfortunately, during a sandblasting in 1971, much of the detail was lost.
Today it’s for sale, giving someone new the opportunity to care-take an important part of architectural history for future generations. Within its 6,100 square foot, 3-story interior there are 16 rooms with the possibility of the 3rd floor being used as a separate apartment. Overall there are 7 bedrooms and 4 full baths, solid oak floors, the notable vaulted ceilings and huge rooms. Happily there is an elevator that gives easy access to all three floors, and there are four wonderful Wright fireplaces with magnificent surrounds. The house sits on a 75’ by 164’ lot, with lawn, garden and 2-car garage and is only three blocks from President Obama’s Chicago home.
3. Coonley House North Wing 1909
Physical Address: 281 Bloomingbank, Riverside, Ill.
BR: 5 BA: 5 SqFt: 6,000
URL (with http): http://tours.vht.com/Viewer/PhotoGallery.aspx?ListingID=50084413&Style=BWI
Listing Agent: Marcee Gavula, Baird & Warner Real Estate
According to Wright in his autobiography, he considered the Coonley house to be his best work of the early 1900s.
Under construction from 1908 through 1912, the home in the Riverside neighborhood of Chicago was designed for Avery Coonley, heir to his grandfather’s farm machinery fortune. With an unlimited budget, Wright had the freedom to design without financial restraints. He engaged the well known landscape architect, Jens Jensen to design the grounds. These plans were also used in the home’s total restoration in 2000. It’s such a large property with buildings spread out over more than an acre that in 1950 it was divided into two properties with two addresses where the servants’ wing was separated from the main house. The current owners did a painstaking restoration to bring this historical property back to its original grandeur from their extensive research in colors and textures, even restoring the floor tiles by hand and by the inch. The living room mural was re-created by artists working from one remaining small piece. Rooms are large and flowing, the Wright signature ceilings are patterned with wood and the two-story home is done in stucco and tile in the Prairie style with wide roof overhangs. In addition to being on the National Historic Register, the current owners also received the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Landmarks Illinois Preservation Award for Restoration in 2007.
The focal point of the grounds is the large reflecting pool with its rainbow of water lilies
surrounded by terraces. The children’s playhouse building is on the opposite side of the reflecting pool, which Wright also designed. Coonley, distraught over her child being rejected from kindergarten due to her young age, had the playhouse designed as a school room for the education of their only child. From this need, Coonley started a school there for gifted children which grew until it had to be relocated. The Avery Coonley School still functions as a school today in Downers Grove, Ill.
Qualified buyers may also inquire about rental of the property for $6,500/month.
4. Millard House 1923
Physical Address: 645 Prospect, Pasadena, Calif.
BR: 4 BA: 4 SqFt: 4,230
URL (with http): www.millardhouse.com
Listing Agent: Crosby Doe of Crosby Doe Associates
Phone: 310-275-2222, ext. 579
Frank Lloyd Wright and Alice Millard had that rare type of relationship where each strongly inspired the other, even though their backgrounds were so different. Alice and her husband were rare booksellers while Wright was a visionary artist. When Wright wanted to use his textile block concept for this residence, Alice agreed, but only if he incorporated her large ornate firescreen, large rustic wooden doors and her 18th century Delft tiles into the design. Wright was enchanted by her inclusions; so much so that he showed his appreciation by lowering his price. This wasn’t the first house he designed for the Millards. In 1906 he had designed another home for them in Chicago. Their 1913 move to Pasadena prompted their request for the design of “La Miniatura.”
In the early 1920s, Wright began to think about a simpler home design that a person could construct on their own. The Millard House was Wright’s first Usonian residence, but even after future years of concept refinement, the style never was perfected to the point where the average middle class homeowner could construct one alone. This house, with its massive poured concrete and block walls could never have been managed by the average homeowner. It’s interesting that he did use sand from the site in the concrete mix, making it a part of the land on which it sits. Wright’s vision for this home, as with his others, was to have it focus on the land formation of its building site. Usually he laid his homes horizontally, but with La Miniatura, he designed vertically to take full advantage of the low ravine views that led down to a seasonal creek. Lloyd, Wright’s son, also took a big part in the design by later designing the guest house to mesh seamlessly with his father’s main house, and also did the landscape design for the entire property. One notable landscape feature was the courtyard pond, which image reflected the ravine and creek with the continuation of natural vegetation and large shade trees.
The interior of the main house has a play of changing light filtering in through the open, patterned block walls and expanses of glass and doors opening out to the tranquil views. The vertical ceiling beams appear to have almost a carved beaded look, which coordinates nicely with Alice’s heavily carved doors. High ceilings, glass doors and signature built-ins accentuate the rooms. The main house has a dining room, den, loft, art studio, basement, guest-maids quarters, two kitchens and large living room. The guest house is also open and airy with both opening out to the courtyard garden and pond.
5. Pottery House Designed 1942, Built 1984
Physical Address: 1430 Hyde Park Road, Santa Fe, N.M.
BR: 5 BA: 4 SqFt: 5,000
URL (with http): http://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-detail/1430-Hyde-Park-Rd_Santa-Fe_NM_87501_M20835-71176?source=web
Listing Agent: David Fries, Sante Fe Properties www.SantaFeRealProperty.com
This exciting spheroid design was the only adobe house Frank Lloyd Wright ever designed, and after seeing it, we wish he had designed more. He started the design for newspaperman Lloyd Burlingham in 1942, but was not able to finish the project before he died in 1959. Developer Charles Klotsche saw the unfinished plans at Wright’s Taliesin Architects and had them update the design and increase the original 2,400 square foot plan to 4,900 square feet. He commissioned former Wright apprentice, Charles Montooth, to finalize the plans, keeping many of Wright’s original details, and to oversee construction. Added was a swimming pool and an underground 2-car garage. Wright would likely have found the innovation of underground parking a plus with cars today costing more than his original house plans.
The home is located on nine acres on a rise in the land – though Wright would have said it rose “with” the land – with views of the Santa Fe Desert in every direction, its walls blending into the landscape. The spheroid shape was inspired by Native American pottery. Walls curve to envelope a central walled courtyard. The pool is located at the east wing with an arched bridge over it, but an unusual mark of current design places a spa facility under it. The spa is complete with large hot tub, sauna-steam, and houses a private library.
The interior has hardwood ceilings and barrel-shaped fireplaces, as well as a huge great room, a sitting room and kitchen. A strong organic feeling pervades the property, emphasizing man’s connection with nature. Based on Wright’s philosophy on man and nature, we feel sure that he would be thrilled at the outcome of the Pottery House.
6. Arizona Wright House Saved 1950-1952
Physical Address: 5212 E. Exeter Blvd., Phoenix
BR: 4 BA: 4 SqFt: 2,553
URL (with http): http://savethewrighthouse.org/
Listing Agent: Bart Morenegg, Prudential Arizona Properties
Phone: 602-361-6164 http://activerain.com/bartmorgenegg
It was touch and go for a while! What happens when an historical masterpiece by America’s most famous architect might be on the verge of destruction? That was the battle in Arizona last year when a Nevada developer bought a Frank Lloyd Wright home that was one of only two he built for family members, and is said to be the forerunner for his
Guggenheim Museum spiral design. It’s a one-of-a-kind Wright designed-and-built residence on 2.2 acres.
Wright designed and built this home for his fourth son by his first wife. David and Gladys Wright lived in it during their lifetime and it stayed in the family until four years ago when Wright’s three great granddaughters sold it to a family for $2.8 million because they could no longer afford the upkeep. They thought the family would live in it and care for it, however, the new family sold it to a Nevada developer that intended to tear it down to build new homes. The home was within days of destruction when the city of Phoenix granted a demolition permit to the developer. However when word of the home’s impending demise got out, it spawned a public petition to save the home and extensive publicity throughout the United States including the New York Times and NPR.
Made of concrete and over 2,500 square feet with stunning curvilinear detail on 2.2 beautifully landscaped acres, the house sits almost at the foot of Camelback Mountain. Located in the Arcadia section of Phoenix, the house has 4 bedrooms, 4 baths, custom cabinetry, exquisite Philippine mahogany woodwork including an eye-catching ceiling design. The great room contains the signature large Wright fireplace. The pool is private inside a courtyard and follows the curve of the access ramp to the upper level
which leads to the master suite and rooftop terrace. It is considered by architectural historians to be in the top 20 of Wright’s designs.
After several months of efforts to find a buyer for the home and at least one sale that was heralded as the home’s savior, but then fell through, an anonymous Frank Lloyd Wright fan bought the home in December for $2.38 million and plans to spend an additional $2 million to $2.5 million to restore it.
Photo credit: Scott Jarson
7. The Berger Residence 1952
Physical Address: 259 Redwood Road, San Anselmo, Calif.
BR: 3 BA: 3 SqFt: 1,760
URL (with http): http://www.fhallen.com/21218849__259-Redwood-Rd-21218849.html
Listing Agent: Doug Del Fava, Frank Howard Allen – Kenwood
Sometimes an architect is more of an artist and doesn’t relate so well to the reality of a home’s transition from paper to bricks and mortar. Just ask Robert Berger who built this Wright design rock by rock. Such seemed to be the case in his desert rubble designs in the Usonian scheme. At first glance, can you imagine splitting and lifting each of those large rocks up into the rebar? This wasn’t just a difficult task, it was monumental. Though these plans were designed to be owner built, factors such as this were overlooked by Wright. It also resulted in most owners contracting out the work except for one enthusiastic, hearty soul in the form of Robert Berger. Robert, an engineer and college professor, knew that when he was ready to build a house it could be designed by none other than Frank Lloyd Wright, whose style he had admired for so long. So in the early 1950s he commissioned Wright to design a desert rubble home around photographs and topographical drawings of the hillside promontory he had chosen in Marin County, California. He, like many others, arranged for the plans to be designed through the mail, sight unseen.
Due to the Korean War, Robert had to put the house on hold until he returned from his tour of duty. It took him five years to build enough of the home so that they could move in and the remainder was completed over time. As a trained engineer seeking perfection, the house was built carefully and every detail attended to with pride. Robert even built the Wright-designed furniture for the house. In later years, Robert talked about the effort involved and that Wright had apparently overlooked the fact that the design was almost impossible for an owner to build by himself. In time, Wright did try to redesign his Usonian to be more builder-friendly. Between Wright, Robert Berger and Aaron Green, Wright’s associate, this timeless structure will be a rare functioning work of art for many generations to come.
The Berger residence in San Anselmo, California is a 1,760 square foot 2 bedroom, 2 bath Usonian on .9 acres. The contemporary design is timeless and the natural building materials blend in attractively with its natural surroundings with panoramic views over the valley.
8. Andrew & Maude Cooke House 1952
BR: 4 BA: 3 SqFt: 3,000
City & State: Virginia Beach, Va.
URL (with http): http://flwrightbeachhouse.com/
Listing Agent: Jane and Daniel Duhl, Owners
Underlining the fact that owners of Frank Lloyd Wright homes are as special as their illustrious architect, Andrew and Maude Jones not only wanted a house but understood from the beginning how living in a sculptural work of art would bring quality to their day-to-day lives. They refused to settle for the accepted norm. They knew that the only architect who could fulfill their dream was Wright, and Maude started writing to him in 1951 in the hope he would agree to design their dream home. It was a long process with stops and starts and redesigns, but they finally received the completed plans in 1957. The couple didn’t start building until 1959, just two weeks before Wright’s death. It was finally completed in 1960. Though the plans called for a swimming pool, the Cookes felt a pool would be a safety hazard for their young children and left it out of the construction. Prior to commissioning the plans, the Cookes had first purchased an acre of land in north Virginia Beach away from the major tourist area. The lot was on Crystal Lake and in walking distance of the long wide beach of the residential area. It was one of those sites abounding in natural beauty that inspired Wright to design a home that would take full-view advantage of the woodland and dunes along the water.
Wright’s Usonian design incorporated his passive solar hemicycle aesthetic of a sweeping half circular design leading the eye to dunes and the lake. The street side elevation was enclosed to separate the family from prying eyes and street noise. The drive leading to the house is further sound deadened and made private by stands of loblolly pines and underplantings of large azaleas, camellias, dogwoods, magnolias and cherry trees. Diverted by the conservative entrance, first time guests would never expect to walk in and see the lake through the long curve of solid glass. Wright liked to create drama.
After twenty-three years in the home, in 1983 Maude decided it was time to sell. Daniel and Jane Duhl were the buyers. Daniel, a textile engineer and a legend in the textile industry, first gained fame in the 1960s by developing a casement drapery fabric that didn’t droop and went on to develop a non drooping fabric slat for shades. As an engineer, he had deep appreciation of Wright’s work and he and his wife set about a total restoration of the property, for which an award for preservation from the American Institute of Architects of Hampton Roads was bestowed. During the restoration, the Duhls added air conditioning to preserve the house from humidity when closed, and a 14-foot swim-spa was installed in a stepped down terrace. To hide the pool’s mechanical equipment, they built a large underground bunker into a dune which housed the equipment as well as a sauna and gym. The also added two docks on the lake; one a floating dock for small boats and a large dock that can accommodate two large yachts. In addition to these amenities, the house also has a double carport and a servant’s suite.
9. Tracy Residence 1955
Physical Address: 18971 Edgecliff Drive SW, Normandy Park, Wash.
BR: 3 BA: 1 SqFt: 1,120
URL (with http): http://www.windermere.com/listing/WA/Normandy-Park/18971-Edgecliff-Dr-Sw-98166/11224509
Listing Agent: Dustin Keeth
Phone: (206) 244-5900
When Bill and Elizabeth Tracy moved to Seattle to establish their home in the early 1950s, they first found a forested lot on a high bank over Puget Sound with breathtaking views over the water to the snow-capped Olympic Mountains. Bill had previously studied architecture, but became an engineer and Elizabeth had studied art with the owners of Wright’s Goetsch-Winckler House and had visited the home on occasion. When it was time to devise plans for their Seattle lot, they turned to a former Wright apprentice, Milton Stricker. However, when Stricker saw the lot, he said it was so magnificent that it deserved to be designed by Wright himself. He therefore wrote an introduction to Wright and the rest is history.
The house is considered a Usonian Automatic, where a custom block system was utilized. The Tracys decided to cast the blocks themselves in order to save money, and after work each day, came home to cast two sets of blocks. On weekends, they would take off and explore the Seattle area. They continued this routine until they had cast 1,700 blocks. At this point, they hired contractor Ray Brandes, who had recently completed his own Wright home. After they moved in, they made a commitment to maintain the house perfectly over the years. Today the house has been so well maintained that the home and its location have been much published and loved by Wright aficionados. The buyer of this home will receive copies of all correspondence between the Tracys and Wright as well as photos of the construction process and a DVD of the Tracys discussing details about the building.
10. Duncan House (1957)
Physical Address: 1 Usonian Drive, Acme, Pa.
Price: $299 per night
BR: 3 BA: 2 SqFt:
URL (with http): http://www.polymathpark.com/
Listing Agent: contact Tom Papinchak
In the 1950s, Frank Lloyd Wright was refining his Usonian concept of affordable good design for the average man. During this time he had a series of eleven prefab houses constructed by a Wisconsin builder, Marshall Erdman. These homes were constructed on lots of the buyers. The prefab package contained all the major structural components, interior and exterior walls, floors, windows and doors, as well as cabinets and woodwork. The buyer had to provide the foundation, the plumbing fixtures, heating units, electric wiring, and drywall, plus the paint. Before the buyer could purchase the house, he or she had to submit a topographic map and photos of the lot to Wright in order for him to optimally position the house. If Wright agreed that the finished product had been completed as planned, he would allow his red glazed signature tile to be installed on an exterior wall. With the exception of one on Lighthouse Hill in Staten Island, New York, all of the houses in this series of prefabs has either been moved, as in the case of the Duncan House, or has been lost to neglect.
In December of 1956 the artistically inclined wife of electrical engineer, Donald Duncan, happened to be looking through an issue of House and Home magazine. She saw the article about the prefab Usonian project, which prompted the Duncans to build one in their home town of Lisle, IL. Years later after Duncan died at age 95 in 2002, the house became run down. It was dismantled in 2004 and moved to Polymath Park in Pennsylvania. It took a year to restore it inch by inch to its original glory.
Polymath Park is a 125-acre tract of woodland owned by Tom Papinchak. It is a non-profit organization run by the Usonian Preservation Corporation. It is comprised of three homes, the Duncan House by Wright and two others by one of the original Wright apprentices, Peter Berndtson. The park rents out each of the homes for a minimum of a two-night stay for those desiring to experience Wright up close and leisurely immerse themselves in architectural history. Proceeds from the rentals go to the upkeep of the houses and educational programs on architecture.
Those who have stayed there were notably impressed by the way they can stand in any interior location and the space and oblique angles are in perfect combination and repetition to create a balanced whole. Polymath Park is only 15 miles from Wright’s masterful design, Fallingwater and his mountain house, Kentuck Knob.