The Zimmermans' New Hampshire Home, A Usonian Classic

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A Usonian Classic

Clerestory front windows of Zimmerman House, Usonian style Frank Lloyd Wright in New Hampshire
The Isadore and Lucille Zimmerman Residence in New Hampshire, a Usonian style house by Frank Lloyd Wright, Photo 1 of 10. Photo © Jackie Craven

The Isadore and Lucille Zimmerman residence in Manchester, New Hampshire is a classic Usonian by Frank Lloyd Wright. Seeking to create compact, efficient, and economical housing, Frank Lloyd Wright designed a simplified version of his earlier Prairie style architecture.

The house sits at a diagonal on a 3/4 acre corner lot surrounded by large neoclassical homes. In the early 1950s, when the Zimmerman house was first built, some neighbors were puzzled. They called the small, squat Usonian house a "chicken coop."

Now owned by the Currier Museum, the Zimmerman House is open to visitors for guided tours.

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Usonian Simplicity

Zimmerman House entry, Frank Lloyd Wright red tile floor against red brick and light clerestories
Entry to the Isadore and Lucille Zimmerman House by Frank Lloyd Wright, Photo 2 of 10. Photo © Jackie Craven

The long, low profile of the Zimmerman house is typical of the Usonian style. In keeping with Frank Lloyd Wright's Usonian philosophy, this home has:

  • one story
  • no basement and no attic
  • open carport
  • concrete slab flooring
  • board-and-batten walls
  • built-in furniture
  • construction materials drawn from nature
  • little ornamentation
  • abundant natural views
03
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Organic Design

Large rock remains landscaped near the front door of Wright's Zimmerman House in New Hampshire
Natural landscaping at the Isadore and Lucille Zimmerman House by Frank Lloyd Wright, Photo 3 of 10. Photo © Jackie Craven

Frank Lloyd Wright never actually visited the Zimmerman's building lot in Manchester, New Hampshire. Instead, a local surveyor noted the location of trees and other natural features. Wright drew plans for the house and sent an intern, John Geiger, to oversee the construction.

In keeping with Wright's philosophy of organic architecture, the Zimmerman house was custom designed for the land it was built on. A large bolder jutting from the ground became a focal point for the front door.

Frank Lloyd Wright believed that "The good building is not one that hurts the landscape, but one which makes the landscape more beautiful than it was before the building was built." His plans for the Zimmerman House called for materials drawn entirely from nature. The siding is unglazed brick. The roof is clay tile. The woodwork is upland Georgian cypress. The window casings are cast concrete. No paint is used anywhere inside or out.

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Earth Hugging

Sloping eaves at the Isadore and Lucille Zimmerman House by Frank Lloyd Wright in New Hampshire
Sloping eaves at the Isadore and Lucille Zimmerman House by Frank Lloyd Wright, Photo 4 of 10. Photo © Jackie Craven

Woodwork throughout the Zimmerman house is a golden-hued upland Georgian cypress. Wide eaves swoop low to the ground. The irregular slope of the roof draws the line of vision to the earth.

Frank Lloyd Wright described the Usonian house as "a thing loving the ground with the new sense of space, light, and freedom - to which our U.S.A. is entitled."

Although designed with an eye to economy, construction of the Zimmerman house far exceeded Frank Lloyd Wright's original budget. Costs mounted as an Italian carpenter matched the grain of the upland Georgian cypress and plugged screw holes so carefully that they became invisible.

During the 1950s, a house this size would have normally cost $15,000 or $20,000 to build. Construction costs for the Zimmerman house topped $55,000.

Over the years, necessary repairs have added to the cost of the Zimmerman house. The radiant heating pipes, the concrete flooring, and the tile roof have all required replacement. Today the roof is surfaced with a durable sheathing; the clay tiles on top are decorative.

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Protected From The Outer World

From street, Wright's Zimmerman house is like a fortress with only clerestory windows
The Zimmerman House by Frank Lloyd Wright has small windows in front but large windows in back. Photo 5 of 10. Photo © Jackie Craven

Typical of the Usonian style, Frank Lloyd Wright's Zimmerman house has simple lines and few ornamental details. From the street, the house suggests a fortress-like aura of privacy. Small, square concrete windows form a band across the street-side facade. These heavy windows reveal little about the people inside. In the rear, however, the house becomes transparent. The back of the house is lined with windows and glass doors.

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Open To Nature

Large rear windows on Wright's Zimmerman House overlook a landscaped garden and huge trees
The rear of the Zimmerman House by Frank Lloyd Wright has scenic views of the garden, photo 6 of 10. Photo © Jackie Craven

Frank Lloyd Wright's plans specified solid plate glass along the rear facade. Mrs. Zimmerman, however, insisted on ventilation. Wright's plans were modified to include casement windows facing the gardens.

The boundaries between indoors and out vanish when French doors in the dining area fold open. Throughout the house, window corners are mitered to form an uninterrupted band of open views.

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Harmonious Spaces

A shelf-lined entry corridor enters the Zimmerman house by Frank Lloyd Wright
A shelf-lined entry corridor enters the Zimmerman house by Frank Lloyd Wright, Photo 7 of 10. Photo by J. David Bohl, Courtesy Currier Museum of Art

Frank Lloyd Wright wanted to break "out of the box" of traditional home design. Instead of building rooms, he created open spaces that flowed together. At the Zimmerman house, a narrow, shelf-lined entry corridor flows into the main living space where built-in sofas face the windows and garden views.

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Custom Furnishings

The furnishings are part of the architectural design at the Zimmerman house by Frank Lloyd Wright
The furnishings are part of the architectural design at the Zimmerman house by Frank Lloyd Wright, Photo 8 of 10. Photo by J. David Bohl, Courtesy Currier Museum of Art

Frank Lloyd Wright and his interns integrated furnishings into the design of the Zimmerman house. They created built-in shelves, cabinets, and seating areas to conserve space and minimize clutter. Chairs and tables were also custom made. Even the table linens were especially designed for this house.

The Zimmermans consulted with Frank Lloyd Wright before selecting pottery and artwork. Wright believed that this attention to detail made the house seem "handcrafted like a fine piece of furniture".

Colors, shapes, and textures harmonize throughout every room. Overhead lighting is recessed in the woodwork, with mirrors behind the bulbs. The effect resembles dappled sunlight filtering through tree branches.

Typical of Frank Lloyd Wright Interiors is the central fireplace.

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Uniform Design

Dining area at the Zimmerman house by Frank Lloyd Wright
Dining area at the Zimmerman house by Frank Lloyd Wright, Photo 9 of 10. Photo by J. David Bohl, Courtesy Currier Museum of Art

Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Zimmerman house with an eye toward uniformity. The colors are autumnal shades of brick, honey brown, and Cherokee red. The shapes are modular squares arranged in a symmetrical grid.

Notice the repeated square shapes in the dining area. The floors are four-foot square concrete panels. The square shapes are echoed in the dining table and the windows. The wall shelves, the chair cushions, and the board-and-batten wall panels are all 13 inches wide.

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Compact Spaces

Kitchen work area at the Zimmerman house by Frank Lloyd Wright
Kitchen work area at the Zimmerman house by Frank Lloyd Wright, Photo 10 of 10. Photo by J. David Bohl, Courtesy Currier Museum of Art

Some visitors say that Frank Lloyd Wright's Zimmerman house resembles a trailer. The living spaces are long and narrow. In the galley kitchen, a sink, a top-loading dishwasher, a stove, and a refrigerator form an orderly, compact arrangement along one wall. Cooking utensils hang from hooks over the work area. Sunlight filters from high clerestory windows. Space is used efficiently, but will accommodate no more than one cook.

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Your Citation
Craven, Jackie. "The Zimmermans' New Hampshire Home, A Usonian Classic." ThoughtCo, Jun. 21, 2017, thoughtco.com/zimmermans-new-hampshire-home-usonian-classic-177794. Craven, Jackie. (2017, June 21). The Zimmermans' New Hampshire Home, A Usonian Classic. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/zimmermans-new-hampshire-home-usonian-classic-177794 Craven, Jackie. "The Zimmermans' New Hampshire Home, A Usonian Classic." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/zimmermans-new-hampshire-home-usonian-classic-177794 (accessed November 22, 2017).