Duo Dickinson is an architect, writer, and author of six books on residential architecture. He can be reached at www.DuoDickinson.com.
The Wright Stuff
Know what your buyers mean when they say they want a home with influences of the prolific 20th century architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
November 1, 2005
No other architect in history has had a longer and more productive career than Wright (1867-1959), who crafted more than 500 homes and buildings and an estimated 1,000 designs, including dozens of masterpieces ranging from the lofty Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York to his simple Usonian homes, which sought to meet demand for affordable housing. He is one architect everyone knows.
So, why should you care about Wright—beyond name recognition? For starters, his Prairie architecture style spawned a true residential prototype, the Ranch, and gave the Craftsman movement a new "edge." Wright's style also can be found in dozens of other housing features, including windows, doors, roofs, and interior design.
Wright did not just create his own "brand" in a self-promotional juggernaut, a la Martha Stewart, but he created beautiful buildings that happened to be homes—homes that were both whimsical and accessible in their scale, materials, and concept.
Triumphant among Wright's creations is Fallingwater, a home he designed in Pennsylvania that is considered by most to be his residential masterpiece. A survey by Builder Magazine five years ago revealed Falllingwater to be the single house most beloved by both architects and builders, and it's not easy to get those two groups to agree on much.
When your clients say they want a Frank Lloyd Wright home or that they like the Frank Lloyd Wright "look," you should know exactly what they mean. The housing features made famous by Wright include:
- Roofs with large eave overhangs (at least one foot)
- Shallow roof pitches (approximately 50 percent of the slope in the standard Cape)
- Casement windows (the ones that work like doors rather than slide up and down)
- Large-scale plate glass windows
- Open floor plans in which the kitchen, dining room, and living room—while occupying separate areas of the overall social space—are visually linked to each other
- A palette of materials that include beige brick, honey-colored oak, and trim that wraps around all four walls of rooms, which frequently focuses on a central fireplace
- Detailing has streamlined simplicity, but uses the warmth of natural materials (wood or stone)
More than any other architect, Wright is a touchstone for those who know his work; his creations are a standard of aesthetic excellence and distinction. In fact, there are many people who feel a devotion to Wright's work and hold out hope that some day they can own something that is in fact "Wrightian." This may mean a piece of furniture, a print, or even a row of books on their bookshelf.
When your clients look at you and say "I love Frank Lloyd Wright!" what they're really saying is that they love the spark of innovation and craft, of edginess and comfort, of freshness grounded in natural materials and clearheaded open planning. These are the common denominators of what makes Frank Lloyd Wright so beloved—beauty that transcends hype, personality, and ego.
Knowing these things about Frank Lloyd Wright can mean the difference between a client feeling that you are on their wavelength, or simply out of touch with their domestic desires.
Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation
The foundation was established in 1940 as the repository of the life work of Frank Lloyd Wright. It is committed to advancing the ideas and principles of organic architecture, organic education, and conservation of the natural environment.
Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust
The mission of this organization is to foster an appreciation of architecture, design and the legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright. View photos of Wright's work and read a biography.