Frank Lloyd Wright, What is History and What is Contemporary

Last week I talked about Craftsman architecture, specifically, the characteristics of Prairie style. I figure, since I’m on a role, I should write a little about Frank Lloyd Wright. He was, after all, integral to the movement and the overall establishment of the aesthetic.

A masterful architectural designer, Wright developed a unique vocabulary of space, form, and patternhollyhockhouse-wright that represented a dramatic shift in design from the traditional houses of the day. Characterized by dramatic horizontal lines and masses, the Prairie buildings that emerged in the first decade of the twentieth century evoke the expansive Midwestern landscape. The buildings reflect an all-encompassing philosophy that Wright termed “Organic Architecture.” By this Wright meant that architecture should be suited to its environment and be a product of its place, purpose and time. First developed in 1894, when Wright was establishing his practice in Chicago, this philosophy of design would inform his entire career.

Today, Wright’s name is heavily associated with the movement away from ornate European styles and has become symbolic of classic American architecture. Most recently, Wright’s Holly Hock house, located on a majestic hilltop in Los Feliz, CA, was re-opened after undergoing nearly five years of restoration and repairs. You can go check it out for yourself or take an online tour of its stunning interiors!

Home on the… Prairie? American Architecture at its Finest.

In one of my first posts I talked about the origins of Craftsman architecture and given that Craftsman homes are currently going through a resurgence in popularity, I thought I would discuss a specific offshoot of the style: Prairie architecture.

prairie-1248I often times refer to my home as a Craftsman, simply because its the most approachable term to use, but I’d like to illustrate for you what artful history my home owes its origins to. This home, built in 1910, and designed by Clyde J. Powers is technically a Prairie style home, which has a lot in common with Craftsman architecture. Both use their environment as their core inspiration, but Prairie style sources that inspiration specifically from the vast horizontal expanses of America’s mid-western fields, endless roads and highways and never-ending telephone wires. The key element is thus horizontality and line. Prairie style is a purely American style of architecture, highlighting the minimal and essential attributes its creators thought homes should be celebrated for. I too share this design philosophy, and enjoy being apart of this home’s history.

 

 

Discovering Our Home’s Origins

Hey everyone! I discovered some more interesting facts about our new home. Power’s granddaughter (Edyth Scott Powers), as it turns out, was in contact with the woman that we bought the house from – we’ll refer to her as crazy pants or CP from now on (more on her in later posts). CP gave us a letter from Edyth, and enclosed were eight old black and white photos.

CaptureWe hoped that we would be able to get some clues as to the original look of the house; unfortunately most of the photos were too small to see much. The front of the house was also heavily covered with ivy, as you can see, adding to the challenge. This photo does reveal, however, that the two big urns planted with agaves were original and, if you look closely, you can see the shape of the tile roof, which we know was made of tin because it still exists in one small area in the back of the house.

That’s all I discovered so far, keep reading for the latest updates and if there’s an interior design concept that you’re curious about don’t hesitate to contact me!

American Craftsman Style Architecture

Our new home is often though of as a Craftsman. Given the architecture’s current popularity I thought I would take a moment to discuss how tumblr_nq5y68tQlF1ruw5mdo3_1280the Craftsman style came about. For any of you interested in an art history lesson, the American Craftsman style came out of a movement happening oversees in the late 19th century; the Arts and Crafts movement. Founded by the textile designer/writer/socialist William Morris in 1860, the movement rose from the ashes of Victorian ornate and embellished concepts. Morris felt that the industrial revolution was diminishing good design and craftsmanship as well as middle class jobs and that a return to the principles of clean, minimal, ethical and natural aesthetics was necessary.

The movement took hold in the US around 1900 when furniture maker Gustav Stickley published his magazine, “The Craftsman”. The magazine was in print for 15 years, and the style remained popular until the 1930’s. The American version of Craftsman style focused less on the social movement and more on fine quality design and construction.

While there is a certain understated aesthetic that goes along with it, what really distinguishes craftsman architecture are the thoughtful details and meticulous craftsmanship. For this reason I’m elated to own one and to have the privilege of restoring it to its former glory.

 

Our New Home! A Story of Restoration & Historical Intrigue

Jeremy's craftsmanHere it is! My husband and I own our first home together. Built in 1910 and technically prairie style (but not unlike the many craftsman houses in the area) it was designed by engineer J. Clyde Power serving as his family’s main residence for 25 years. With 4,000 square feet of well-crafted, grandiose, turn of the last century architecture it is in remarkably good condition for it’s age and Dennis and I are excited to restore it to its original glory. Its going to be quit the adventure getting it there, the kitchen and bathrooms consist of what those of us in preservation generally refer to as “inappropriate alterations” and the exterior is a whole another story…. We know that the roof was changed from metal tiles to asphalt shingles, a garland trim was removed from all but one small area in the back, and stucco was slathered over almost everything, but other additions and details remain a mystery.

We are looking forward to digging up more information about the history of the house and taking on as many restorative projects as possible. I’m Jeremy Irvine, an interior designer currently taking on my own home in addition to my client’s homes. Follow my blog for updates on my home’s historical past and the various restorative projects we embark on.