How Can I Live in a Frank Lloyd Wright House?

Wright's Blueprints for Living Organically

man with moustache and goatee, hands folded on knees, sitting on wide stairway
Author T.C. Boyle in his Frank Lloyd Wright House. M and M, Inc/Corbis via Getty Images

American architect Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) is alive and well. Believing that philosophy is more important than design, Wright's aesthetic — harmony, nature, organic architecture — is recognizable in the patterns of his design. "Do not try to teach design," he wrote at Taliesin. "Teach principles." The real Frank Lloyd Wright blueprints are his unwavering ideals.

Do the comfortable, Prairie style houses make your heart skip a beat?

Have you always dreamed of owning a Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece like Fallingwater? Okay, maybe not so much water. But how about a Wright Usonian home, like the Zimmerman House in New Hampshire? Brick and wood and a wall of windows bring nature into your living space, blurring the lines between outside and inside.

Frank Lloyd Wright (FLW) built hundreds of private homes, and every year a few change ownership. In 2013, The Wall Street Journal reported that about 20 homes were on the market from the approximately 270 privately owned FLW residences. "Many of the homes by Mr. Wright pose challenges," reports the WSJ. Small kitchens, no basements, narrow doorways, built-in furniture, and leaks are just a few of the difficulties for the modern homeowner. When you buy a Wright, you're buying a piece of history important to many people — some might say to too many people. Wright fans will always be lurking around your house if you buy an original.

Many of Wright's homes are in the Wisconsin / Illinois area, and every year that's where most of the turnover is. Wright architecture outside of this area is more rare and may tend to be on the market for longer periods of time. The Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy keeps track of Wright houses currently for sale — Wright on the Market.

If there's nothing by Wright in your city, consider hiring an architect to custom design a new home in the spirit of the master. Without a doubt, the premier firm for Wright-inspired creations used to be Taliesin Associated Architect (TA). From Wright's death in 1959 until the group reorganized in 2003, TA continued the architectural practice established by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1893. The Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture maintains two design studios, one at Taliesin West in Arizona and another at Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin. An architect who has trained or apprenticed at either Taliesin may better understand the spirit of Wright's architecture. The Taliesin Fellows stay connected but practice privately after graduation. The first thing you may want to do, though, is take a tour at either Taliesin.

Architects don't need to train at Taliesin to design like Wright, but these former Taliesin Fellows present a delightful array of their own designs: Michael Rust; Richard A. Keding; Aaron G. Green; William Arthur Patrick, founder of Midglen Studio; Barry Peterson at Studio 300A Architecture; Jeremiah (Jaimie) Kimber at j kimber design; Floyd Hamblen; and Anthony Puttnam, Architect, LLC.

For more about modern-day architecture inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, check out the books A Living Architecture: Frank Lloyd Wright and Taliesin Architects by John Rattenbury (2000) and John H. Howe, Architect: From Taliesin Apprentice to Master of Organic Design by Jane King Hession (2015).

Private homeowners generally can't use original Frank Lloyd Wright blueprints. The folks at Florida Southern College, however, already had Usonian house plans Wright had designed for the campus in 1939. Construction of the house was finished in 2013 and you can tour it and the entire Lakeland, Florida campus.

Taliesin architects can be pricey, no doubt. If you're building on a budget, consider purchasing construction-ready building plans for a Prairie style house. While not duplicates of Wright's work, many of these stock plans resemble the rambling homes that Frank Lloyd Wright designed — and they can be modified by your local architect.

A number of companies offer plans for Wright-inspired houses.

Remember that Wright first experimented with the Prairie design way back in 1893 — before 1900 Wright had developed the modern design loved today, but variations were made in Wright's own lifetime. The Prairie house style is just that — a style that inspired many adaptations .

Even if your new home is not a Wright original, it can incorporate his most popular details. Evoke the spirit of the master through furniture, glassware, textiles, lighting, and wallpapers. Frank Lloyd Wright is well-known for his built-in furniture and bookcases, but his reproduction housewares can be found everywhere. Especially popular are Wright-type hanging lights.

After author T.C. Boyle bought a Frank Lloyd Wright house in Montecito, California, he was inspired to write one of the most popular books about Wright, a fictionalized account of Wright's love affairs called The Women. Maybe you could be the next T.C. Boyle.

Sources

  • "Seeking the Wright Path at Taliesin West" by Logan Ward, Architect Magazine, December 9, 2014
  • "The Pleasures and Pitfalls of Frank Lloyd Wright Homes" by Joann S. Lublin, The Wall Street Journal, May 16, 2013 at http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887323372504578469410621274292
  • "Taliesin ARchitects Reorganized" by Jim Goulka, Taliesin Fellows Newsletter, Number 12, July 15, 2003 at http://re4a.com/wp-content/uploads/taliesinfellows_Jul03.pdf [accessed November 21, 2013]
  • Frank Lloyd Wright On Architecture: Selected Writings (1894-1940), Frederick Gutheim, ed., Grosset's Universal Library, 1941, p. 214

    SUMMARY

    Start packing. You can live in a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright — or one that looks like it might have been. Here's how:

    1. Buy an Original Wright-Designed House
    2. Build a Wright-Like House Designed by a Taliesin Fellow
    3. Use Mail Order Stock House Plans
    4. Add Wright Details to Your Home