Frank Lloyd Wright Interiors - Look Inside the Architecture

The Architecture of Space

Want the Wright look for your home? Start inside! Architects, like writers and musicians, often have themes in their work—common elements that help define their own style. These photos show how the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) used architectural motifs for interior spaces.

Living room of Hollyhock House
Living room of Hollyhock House. Hollyhock House, Santi Visalli/Archive Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images, ©2005 Getty Images

The living room of Hollyhock (view larger image) centers around a massive concrete fireplace, whose abstract sculpting is naturally illuminated by the leaded glass skylight above it. The geometric ceiling, although not curved, is geometrically sloped in a way that accentuates the concrete crafting. The hearth originally had a water moat, which was not a typical element of a Wright design—although the notion of water surrounding fire adheres to Wright's fascination with Oriental philosophies of nature and feng shui.

Frank Lloyd Wright entered the Los Angeles, California market by designing this residence for the wealthy, bohemian oil heiress Louise Aline Barnsdall. Hollyhock plants were her favorite flowers, and Wright incorporated the flower design throughout the house. More »

Center chimney at Wingspread dominates the open wigwam design, rising to the ceiling skylights
Center chimney at Wingspread dominates the open wigwam design, rising to the ceiling skylights. Wingspread Chimney ©Richie Diesterheft, puroticorico on flickr.com, CC BY 2.0

The home of the President of Johnson Wax, Herbert Fisk Johnson, Jr. (1899-1978), is no ordinary home, but that may be a good thing. The large interior (view larger image) allows us to easily see many of the elements common to Frank Lloyd Wright's interiors:

  • central fireplace and chimney
  • skylights
  • clerestory windows
  • built-in furnishings
  • open spaces filled with natural light
  • open floor plan with a lack of distinction (e.g., walls) between spaces
  • coexistence of curves (e.g., chimney, black metal stairway) and straight lines (e.g., chimney brick, ceiling beams, banding)
  • use of natural construction materials (e.g., wood, stone)
  • synchronicity of dramatic vertical elements (e.g., chimney and spiral stairs) with the horizontal elements (e.g., bricks)

Many of these elements are found in Wright's smaller residences as well as commercial buildings. More »

Long room, walls of windows at the Robie House
Long room, walls of windows at the Robie House. Robie House, Smart Destinations on flickr.com, Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Walls of windows, a central fireplace, leaded glass ornamentation, and open, undefined space are obvious elements in the living room (view larger image) of what many consider Wright's most famous house. Early photographs indicate that Wright's original design included an inglenook near the chimney. This built-in seating area near the chimney corner (ingle is a Scottish word for fire) is being restored in the East Living Room as part of the Robie House Interior Restoration Project.

The chairs are similar to the side chairs Wright designed for his own home and studio. More »

1939: The Rosenbaum House

Turquoise chairs around a coffee table, nearby built-in bookshelves and a grand piano.
Interior of Frank Lloyd Wright's only house in Alabama, the 1939 Rosenbaum House in Florence. Rosenbaum House Interior ©Melissa, Just Melissa For Today on flickr.com, CC BY 2.0

The interior (view larger image) of the house Wright built for Stanley and Mildred Rosenbaum of Florence, Alabama is similar to many other Usonian homes. Built-in book shelves, a line of clerestory windows on the topside of the wall, the use of brick and wood, the aura of Cherokee red color throughout—all define Wright's style of harmony. The large red floor tiles in the Rosenbaum House, the only Wright home in Alabama, are very typical of Wright's interior aesthetic and can even be found in more elegant mansions such as Wingspread.

raditional pews in Frank Lloyd Wright's temple of glass and light
Traditional pews in Frank Lloyd Wright's temple of glass and light. Unity Temple Interior ©Esther Westerveld, westher on flickr.com, CC BY 2.0

Wright's use of poured concrete to build the famous structure known as Unity Temple in Oak Park, Illinois was and still is a revolutionary construction choice. Frank Lloyd Wright had just turned 40 years old when his Unitarian church was completed. The interior design (view larger image) solidified his ideas about space. Repeated forms, open areas, natural light, Japanese-type hanging lanterns, leaded glass, horizontal / vertical banding, creating a sense of peace, spirituality, and harmony—all elements common to Wright's creation of sacred spaces. More »

Curved ceiling, skylight, stone fireplace, pre-Columbian design above mantel
Curved ceiling, skylight, stone fireplace, pre-Columbian design above mantel. Studio, Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints/Photo Div, LC-DIG-highsm-12258

Early in his career, Wright experimented with architectural themes in his own home (view larger image). Wright had to have been aware of the great arches being constructed by Henry Hobson Richardson at Trinity Church in Boston. Wright's genius was to bring exterior elements like Richardsonian Romanesque semi-circular arches, to the interior.

 

The central fireplace, sculpted mantel, natural lighting, leaded glass skylight, use of natural stone and wood, bands of color, and curved architecture are all examples of Wright's interior style—a design approach he would express throughout his career. More »

Curved ceiling, well-lit room at the Dana Thomas House in Springfield, Illinois
Curved ceiling, well-lit room at the Dana Thomas House in Springfield, Illinois. Dana Thomas House from Carol M. Highsmith's America, LOC, Prints/Photo Div, LC-DIG-highsm-04249

Even before the architect's involvement with the Hollyhock heiress, Frank Lloyd Wright had established his reputation and style with a Springfield, Illinois house built for heiress Susan Lawrence Dana. Wright's Prairie-style features are found within the interior (view larger image) of the massive residence—central fireplace, curved ceiling, rows of windows, open floor plan, leaded glass. More »

Glass and brick hallway at Johnson Wax building
Glass and brick hallway at Johnson Wax building. Glass and brick hallway at Johnson Wax ©chicagogeek at flickr.com, CC BY-SA 2.0

The enclosed passageways of translucent glass with bands of color (view larger image) contrast with the nearby brick but mimic the arch designs found in Wright's own home. The S.C. Johnson company, five miles south of Wingspread in Racine, Wisconsin, continues to celebrate Wright's nontraditional approach to an industrial campus. More »

Inside the Guggenheim in NYC, with curvy balconies leading upward to the round skylight
Inside the Guggenheim in NYC, with curvy balconies leading upward to the round skylight. Guggenheim in NYC ©echiner1 at flickr.com, Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The open space of the Rotunda (view larger image) swirls in upward movement toward the center skylight within New York City's Guggenheim Museum. Six levels of balconies combine intimate exhibition areas with the undefined space of the main hall. Although there is no central fireplace or chimney, Wright's Guggenheim design is a modern adaptation of other approaches—Wingspread's Native American wigwam; Florida Southern College's 1948 Water Dome; the center skylight found in his own 19th century arched ceiling. More »

Wood, glass, and stone are the elements of Kentuck Knob
Wood, glass, and stone are the elements of Kentuck Knob. Kentuck Knob ©saeru on flickr.com, Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The mountain retreat Wright built for I.N. and Bernardine Haganin grows out of the Pennsylvania woodlands. The porch of wood, glass, and stone (view larger image) extends the living area into its natural surroundings, blurring the distinction between interior and exterior space. Overhangs provide protection, but cut outs allow light and air to enter the entryway.

These are all common elements, themes, that we see over and over again in the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. More »

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