While staying with Mike’s parents in Antioch (close to the Wisconsin border), we wanted to find a fun activity for the four of us to do. I’d been wanting to visit a dairy farm (mostly to try various delicious treats like cheese and ice cream) but the closest ones we found were 2 hours away. Too far. Maybe next time? Anyhow, we decided to go see the Frank Lloyd Wright homes in Oak Park, which is a neighborhood just west of downtown. Mike had gone there as a field trip in high school and he even bought a guide/map so he could take his mom one day…25 years later. Ha! 😉
We walked around the neighborhood to view some of his famous homes and also took a tour of his home and studio. The neighborhood is really cute and is an old wealthy part of town. The lot sizes and homes are just enormous! Back in the day, as Wright was becoming an established architect, some of his neighbors commissioned him to design their homes, which is why there are so many in one place. Here is the home is often shown as a great example of the prairie homes Wright is so well known for. The emphasis is on the horizontal rather than the vertical, a departure from what was going on around him at the time. It’s amazing that these homes that were built in the early 1900s can seem modern and not “old” at all.
One of the things I love most about all his homes is how much they incorporate landscape into them. Almost all the homes have huge built-in planters to make sure that nature is seamlessly a part of the exterior. The attention to detail is incredible. There are a lot of different styles in the surrounding blocks depending on the requests of the client. Here is an interesting house with some Gothic elements and has really interesting embellishments.
One of the most fascinating parts of the Moore-Dugal residence are the chimneys. I’ve never seen anything like it! Very long and narrow. Wright takes even a functional mundane aspect of a house and makes it interesting.
Here is a home with beautiful wood paneling on the outside that again was extremely modern for its times. The curve of the wood around the outside is amazing and the overhang of the porch is also finished with wood underneath as well. I love his leaded glass windows everywhere. He used a lot of those since they provided good light with privacy.
We were thinking about taking the tour of his home and studio and were wavering a bit since it was $15/person and we weren’t sure if it would be any good. Good thing we went for it!! We committed because Mike found a book in the gift shop about his home and when we flipped open the pages, we were stunned by the photos. Definitely do it if you can! It is truly amazing to step inside his home and look at how he thought of every single detail. Everything is custom built and designed.
He worked with different ideas to create space or make rooms more intimate. My ultimate favorite was the dining room with its high backed chairs and an amazing intricately carved screen above the table. The screen is the same size of the table and is meant to make the room more intimate by bringing the ceiling lower. Each of the chairs has a high back to frame each guests face to encourage conversation. Just simply beautiful.
After touring his home, we went over to the adjoining connected studio where he would work with his team. When you first walk in, it literally takes your breath away and your jaw drops. It’s an octagonal room with high ceilings and very open. There is light pouring in through the windows up top. Definitely an inspiring place to work.
In the waiting room of the studio where he would keep clients, there is an amazing glass skylight with Art Deco patterns. When you’re in the room, it bathes you in a golden-green light. The contrast of the glass with the dark wooden beams was amazing.
All in all, an amazing experience and totally blew my mind. It seems back then more people designed their own homes and today, only the extremely wealth can afford to do so. Touring the home made you really appreciate the potential for a home to be truly beautiful. It definitely inspires me to one day perhaps explore what it would take to design your own home. Or at least maybe one room of it? 😉