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Five Icons & 150 Years: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Homes: Slideshow
by Victoria Sinclair
Celebrate the Icon:
Frank Lloyd Wright’s 150th Birthday & His Five Homes
Out of over 500 structures constructed from Frank Lloyd Wright’s futuristic designs, there are residential homes, museums, churches, commercial buildings, mausoleums and more, not only in the United States but around the world. Wright’s work was completely his – he designed everything down to the light switch – and 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. TopTenRealEstateDeals.com has rounded up five of the most interesting Frank Lloyd Wright houses that are currently or recently on the market.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Running Water Home
One of the late architect’s most interesting homes was built at a stunning location in 1955 in New Canaan, Connecticut. The design was innovative for its time as it premiered the hemicycle, or horseshoe shape. The property known as 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 surrounding the residence.
The Tirranna was restored by its previous owners, memorabilia mogul and philanthropist Ted Stanley and his wife, Vada, who carefully reestablished the unique vision Wright had for the home by replicating the original gardens and replacing all previously sold loose items designed by Wright with reproductions. The home’s most striking feature its curvature and glass walls which offer a panoramic view of the Noroton River and a considerable waterfall.
Unusual for Wright in its amenities and blatant adaption for occupants leading busier lifestyles, larger families and need for more guest space, there is a rooftop observatory with telescope, a caretaker’s suite, a guest studio, gold-leaf chimneys and the master suite has his-and-her baths. The aquatic home racks up an impressive seven bedrooms and nine baths. A large barn, swimming pool patio, tennis courts and sculpture paths leading to the river’s edge are scattered about the grounds.
With the death of his parents, Ted and Vada’s son, Jonathan, listed the property for sale, the proceeds from which are earmarked to be donated to charity. Originally priced at $8 million, Tirranna has been reduced to $7.2 million.
Wright’s “Homes for Michigan Scientists”
Wright liked to design homes for the wealthy — such as his most famous work, Fallingwater, for the owner of Kaufmann’s department store in Pittsburgh — but he was also an advocate of functional home designs that the middle class could afford. In 1949, a group of twelve scientists from the Upjohn Company in Michigan sought out Wright to design a community of homes. With simplicity and function in mind, Wright’s Usonian designs met their criteria. They wanted houses that 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, Michigan. They originally named it Galesburg Country Homes Acres but later shortened it to The Acres. Each scientist wrote a letter to Wright requesting his help to design the project. The community outline consisted of 22 homes on one circular acre each with 50 acres left natural for the enjoyment of the residents.
The Acres’ Usonian designs were Wright’s first experiment into organic ranch-style architecture–affordable, yet 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 said often. Access to nature, both physically from every room in the house and visually from inside the home interiors, played a major role in defining a 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.
On the market last year was the Samuel and Dorothy Eppstein Residence. Samuel was a research scientist and Dorothy a researcher at the Upjohn labs. They had only been married six months when they commissioned their new home; construction was completed in 1953. 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 in the Wright style, the home contains 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. There is also a swimming pool that was added in the later years of the Eppsteins’ residency.
Asking $455,000, the Eppstein Residence was the lowest-priced Wright home on the market in 2016, and a rare opportunity to own a Wright Usonian in a 70-acre, fully Wright-designed community kept completely intact since its inception. The home sold last July for $368,000, setting a record for the highest sale in The Acres.
The Virginia Beach Cooke House
Andrew and Maude Cooke of Hampton Roads, Virginia, started writing to Frank Lloyd 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 Mr. Wright’s death. The home was completed in 1960 on Crystal Lake in Virginia Beach, where Wright designed the home to enjoy full views of the woodland and dunes along the water.
Wright’s Usonian design incorporated his passive solar hemicycle aesthetic of a sweeping half-circle 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. The drive leading to the house is concealed by tall pines and underplantings of large azaleas, camellias, dogwoods, magnolias and cherry trees. Disguised by the conservative entrance, first-time guests would never expect to walk in and see the lake through the dramatic long curve of the solid glass.
After twenty-three years in the home and the death of Mr. Cooke in 1983, his wife decided it was time to sell. Daniel and Jane Duhl were the lucky buyers. As an engineer, Mr. Duhl had a deeply rooted appreciation of Wright’s work and he and his wife set about 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. In addition to these amenities, the house also has a double carport and a servant’s suite.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s 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.
The Wright Home Preserved With Original Furniture
Designed in 1958 with construction completed in 1960, the Olfelt House in Minnesota is one of the last Wright houses to be sold by the original owners. Now, at age 90, after living in this home for the majority of their lives, the Olfelts put the house on the market. Hugging the earth and overlooking the meadows of its 3.77 acres on a secluded cul-de-sac, Wright’s inspiration for the design was spurred by its tranquil setting.
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 reflects 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.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Last House
Frank Lloyd Wright’s final project, the Norman Lykes House, was constructed in 1959 in Phoenix, Arizona, but the plans were begun just before Wright passed on the dawn of his 91st birthday. According to 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 changing the overall design. Rather futuristic for its time, the circular design has 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 intended to bring families and friends together, a lower-level media room, two home offices with built-in desks, cabinet storage and walls of shelving, a distinctive curved kitchen with Wright-designed island and unique under-cabinet windows and timeless stainless-steel counters, contemporary tiled large baths, and a privacy-walled crescent pool patio viewed from inside through glass walls. There is also a separate large office in the round with all built-in furnishings encircled by half-moon windows. Views of valley and mountains can be seen from almost every room.
Wright’s last design and a worldwide classic, the Lykes House was for sale in 2016 priced at $3.6 million but is currently off the market.
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