Celebrate Frank Lloyd Wright's 150th Birthday With These 5 Extraordinary Homes
These homes were built to last.
Thursday, June 8 will mark the 150th birthday of American architect and interior designer Frank Lloyd Wright. Out of more than 500 structures built from his designs, there are residential homes, museums, churches, commercial buildings, mausoleums and more stretching from the United States around the world. He not only concentrated on the plans but paid special attention from the building site to the interiors, designing the furniture, lighting fixtures, stained-glass windows and decorative ceilings.
Most of Wright's work was inspired by his appreciation of the simplicity and functionality of Japanese design where large walls of Shoji doors could be pulled back to expose calm gardens that became an integral part of the whole living experience.
During his career, Wright created four design styles: Prairie, Textile, Organic and Usonian. These designs have paved the way for many of the features we use and love today.
In celebration of Wright's 150th birthday, enjoy an inside look at the five most interesting FLW homes that are currently (or recently) on the market.
One of Wright's most interesting homes was built in 1955 in New Canaan, Conn., in the horseshoe shape. Tirranna, the Native American word for 'running water', encompasses 7,000-square-feet of living space on the Noroton River and a waterfall along with 15 heavily wooded acres.The home's most striking feature is the curvature of Tirranna and its glass walls which offer a panoramic view of the Noroton River and a dramatic waterfall.
Unusual for Wright in its amenities and more adapted to busier lifestyles, larger families and need for more guest space, there's a rooftop observatory with a telescope, a caretaker's suite, a guest studio, gold-leaf chimneys and his-and-her baths in the master suite. Overall, there are seven bedrooms and nine baths. Also included are a large barn, swimming pool patio, tennis courts and sculpture paths to the river’s edge.
Tirranna was originally priced at $8 million; it has been reduced to $7.2 million.
BELOW: STEP INSIDE TIRRANNA
Wright designed homes for the super rich, but he was also an advocate of functional home designs that the middle class could afford. In 1949, a group of 12 scientists from the Upjohn Company in Michigan sought out Wright to design a community of homes. With simplicity, form and function in mind, Wright's Usonian designs met their criteria. They wanted houses they could build themselves (or with limited help) and chose a 70-acre parcel of open and wooded land with a three-acre pond in Galesburg, Mich. They originally named it Galesburg Country Homes Acres but later abbreviated it to The Acres.
The Acres' Usonian designs were Wright's first foray into organic ranch-style architecture. They were affordable but tailor-made to the individual client's needs, practical, functional and blended in with their surroundings. They were organic in that they appeared to come "out of the ground and into the light," as Wright was fond of saying. Access to nature, both physically from every room in the house and visually from inside the home, played a major role in defining the Usonian style. Homes were built with natural materials, walls of glass for winter passive solar collection, radiant-heated floors, flat roof lines with overhangs, carports and built-in furniture which, according to Wright, made additional furniture unnecessary.
Although the project had many supporters at Upjohn, it was a bit of a drive from Kalamazoo before Interstate 94 was built and the designs perhaps too unusual for Midwestern tastes. Only four Wright homes were ever built at The Acres. A fifth residence that was designed by Wright protege Francis "Will" Willsey for Gunther and Anne Fonken, now referred to as the Gunther and Anne Fonken House, was built in 1959, the same year Wright died.
On the market last year was the Samuel and Dorothy Eppstein Residence. The 2,250-square-foot Usonian includes three bedrooms, two baths, two fireplaces and a large general purpose room. Though the kitchen has been rebuilt by a local craftsman in the Wright style, the home has all of Wright's built-ins including two tables that were reconstructed to exact specifications. Ten-foot walls of glass are positioned to capture idyllic views of valley and meadows.
Asking $455,000, the Eppstein Residence was the lowest priced Wright home on the market in 2016. The home sold in July 2016 for $368,000, setting a record for the highest sale in The Acres.
BELOW: STEP INSIDE THE EPPSTEIN RESIDENCE
The Cooke House
Andrew and Maude Cooke of Hampton Roads, Va., started writing to Wright in 1951 asking if he would design the house they had always dreamed about. It was a long process with stops and starts and redesigns, but the Cookes finally received the completed home plans in 1957. The couple didn't start building until 1959, just two weeks before Wright's death. The home was completed in 1960 on Crystal Lake in Virginia Beach, where Wright designed the home to 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 the dunes and lake. The street-side elevation was enclosed to separate the family from prying eyes and street noise.
After 23 years in the home and the passing of her husband in 1983, Maude decided it was time to sell; Daniel and Jane Duhl were the buyers. Daniel was a textile engineer who had a deep appreciation of Wright's work. He and his wife soon began a total restoration of the property, for which an award for preservation from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) of Hampton Roads was bestowed. During the restoration, the Duhls added air conditioning to preserve the house from humidity, 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. They also added two docks on the lake, one a floating dock for small boats and a large dock that can accommodate two large yachts.
Wright’s passive solar hemicycle beach house in Virginia Beach was originally for sale at $3.75 million in 2014, reduced to $2.75 million and sold to a local businessman who had wanted it for over 30 years. The final sale price was $2.2 million in 2016.
BELOW: STEP INSIDE THE COOKE HOUSE
The Olfelt House
The Olfelt House in Minnesota is one of the last original Wright houses to be sold by the original owners, designed in 1958 with construction completed in 1960. Now at age 90 after living in this home throughout their lives, the Olfelts put the house on the market for the first time ever.
Most remarkable and because the Olfelts have been the only owners, all the furniture and fixtures that Wright designed for the house are still intact and have been lovingly maintained in their original condition. The dramatic approach to the front of the brick Usonian does not disappoint on the interior. A true visionary, as early as 1958, he designed not only a kitchen island but also the bar stools surrounding it. By the time he created the plans for this house, Wright understood how much family lifestyles had changed since his first designs and the Olfelt house fills a modern family's functional and aesthetic needs with its open floor plan, huge spans of glass bringing the outdoors inside, terraces for outdoor enjoyment, a large modern updated kitchen, office and spacious lower-level family room. At 2,647 square feet, the three-bedroom, two-bath home has an open feel with the Wright signature vaulted ceilings and large living room fireplace.
Originally priced at $1.495 million, the home has recently been reduced to $1.295 million. The original Wright-designed, museum-quality furniture and lighting are included in the sale price.
BELOW: STEP INSIDE THE OLFELT HOUSE
The Norman Lykes House (Wright's Final Design)
Wright's final design was the Norman Lykes House in Phoenix in 1959. As related by his apprentice, John Rattenbury, after the building site was chosen, Wright set the project aside waiting for inspiration to strike. One morning he started the day by drawing two overlapping circles in a rough sketch, walked out of the studio and two days later was in the hospital.
Though Wright passed away before finishing the working plans, the Lykes hired Rattenbury to complete the plans according to the details set forth by Wright. The couple loved the completed plans, though it was another seven years before they started construction. When they did, Rattenbury oversaw the build and the home was completed in 1967. In addition to the structure itself, Wright also designed the furniture and built-ins for the home.
In 1994, new owners wanted some updating, so they called back Rattenbury to do the redesign by expanding the master bedroom, converting a workshop into a media room and combining two other bedrooms into a guest room -- all without disrupting the overall design. Rather futuristic for its time, the circular and curvilinear design have become a timeless piece of architecture that continues to be copied by today’s designers and builders.
Formerly for sale in 2016 and registered with the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, the 2,849-square-foot home on one acre of desert plateau has three bedrooms, three bathrooms, the signature large living room fireplace, a lower-level media room, two home offices, a distinctively curved kitchen, contemporary tiled large baths and a privacy walled crescent pool patio. Views of the valley and mountains can be seen from almost every room.
The Lykes House was for sale in 2016 priced at $3.6 million and is currently off the market.
BELOW: STEP INSIDE THE LYKES HOUSE