Sunday, May 29, 2016

Frank Lloyd Wright house in Oak park

I have only briefly passed through Chicago once over a decade ago. Since Marianne and I have already visited Falling Water and Kentuck Knob in western Pennsylvania we were keen to go to Oak Park in Chicago to see more of FLW's houses.

The man was a genius and changed how houses could look.

We toured his house and studio before going on a walking tour of some other FLW houses.

Entrance to the studio which we visited later in the tour.

We waited for the tour to start under this tent. We were intrigued by the wire for the lighting.

Tours leave every hour or so and you have to buy a ticket. You also need a $5 ticket to take photos. Since most books on articles on this house and studio only show a few photos, I got the ticket so that I could show you lots of photos. Well over 100 in this blog alone. Just meander along and marvel at what he accomplished while he was in his early twenties.

The FLW house was built in an area that typically had houses that looked like this.

The guide took us around to the front entrance. Wright borrowed $5000 from his architecture firm boss to build this house in 1889.

Notice the patterns. FLW loved to incorporate these small repeating details in his houses.

FLW constantly made changes to the house as he experimented with new ideas and as more children were born. At one stage this was a dining room. After a new dining room was added, this became a room where the children did their homework.

A little snug beside the fireplace.

Notice the window behind the seat in the snug that lets in light.

Window on the other side of the snug.

There was an existing tree on the property that he incorporated into this room. He forgot that trees grew so it needed to be removed.

Pattern of light on the floor caused by the railings.

Later dining room. The table top was made of thick oak planks.

Ceiling above the dinner table. The light is a mix of natural and artificial. It's quite magical.

Over 100 years ago, these built in ledges were a quite new concept.

FLW also designed furniture to go into the houses he designed. Most of it was uncomfortable. Here is a high chair that could be brought up to the table.

The walls were covered with fabric.

Girls bedroom.

From inside the boy's bedroom. The girls and boys were in the same room separated by a wall. They used to throw pillows etc at each other over the wall. Note the gambrel shaped ceiling.

More built in cupboards.

Master bedroom.

Notice the pendants and the mural behind.

The house was one of the first to use electricity in Chicago.

Many of the rooms had Dyson fans. The breeze was welcome on a hot humid day.

Bathroom. There was only one in the house for the entire family.

He did not want a direct window to the bathroom but wanted natural light. He solved the problem by installing a bump-out.

Wonderful wood cistern.

I walked into this room and immediately thought this could be my stereo room. Marianne picked it for her work room.

The passport used by FLW when he went to Japan.

FLW used a compression and release technique. You walk through a narrow low hall.

And then you walk into this wonderful play room for the children.

Mural at one end.

The children used to play up there in the loft.

Look closely at the light fixtures. Click on the photo to make it bigger.

Player organ.

FLW's son John invented Lincoln Logs.

The walls were mostly covered with brick so that the children could not draw on them.

There was also a piano but FLW only wanted the keyboard in the room. The rest of it stuck out above a stairway.


A later addition that is now used as an apartment.

We came back to the entrance to the studio where the designing work was one and FLW would talk to clients.

The entrance is not obvious which is a typical FWL feature.

Inside the designing area. FLW had a team of architects who worked down here. If you were higher up the scale you worked in the upper level of this two story room.

Safe for the valuable drawings and also for his collection of Japanese prints.

Model of the room.

These large pillars were on casters so that they could be moved.

FLW was very fond of stained glass as a decorative element but his designs have plenty of plain glass to ensure the light comes in.

FLW's office where he would meet contractors and trades people. The chairs are supposed to be very uncomfortable so that these people would not linger. 

Another ceiling light that uses both natural and artificial light.

Stairs to a basement.

A compression tunnel to his office for clients.

And the client was released into this octagon shaped room.

Table where the designs would be presented to clients. You can bet that some of the clients were stunned by the proposals, both positively and negatively.

For quite a few years the house and studio was used as an apartment house so the house needed extensive restoration to bring it back to how it looked in FLW's time. The guide said the cost was over $3 million.

The tour came to an end after about 75 minutes.

FLW's mother lived in the house next door. FLW's family lived there as well when the house was built.

When FLW built the house, this was the outskirt of town. Across the road was prairie. Because of his unusual designs, FLW got numerous commissions to design houses, several of which are on the same street as the front of his house. We got the audio ticket and started to wander down Forest Avenue. The photos are in a separate blog.

Finally, one detail of the outside of his octagon room. Notice how he solved the corner problem.

If you ever get a chance to see a FLW designed building, do not miss it.

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