10 Must-See Houses Designed by Master Architect Frank Lloyd Wright
Architecture enthusiasts are making pilgrimages to homes designed by legendary craftsman Frank Lloyd Wright this year to celebrate the 150th anniversary of his birth, which falls on June 8. To mark the occasion, the Museum of Modern Art has planned the exhibition “Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive,” which runs from June 12 to October 1, 2017.
Considered one of the most radical architects in history, Wright used revolutionary building technologies and materials and experimented with using the natural landscape as part of his designs.
Over his lifetime he designed more than 1,000 projects in the U.S., many of which were residences that are still privately owned. Many operate as museums, such as Taliesin West (pictured above) in Scottsdale, Arizona, the Robie House in Chicago, or the iconic Falling Water in Mill Run, Pennsylvania, but there are many more homes that are open to the public.
Here are 10 Wright-designed buildings that you can visit—and six that can be booked for an overnight stay.
Elam House in Austin, Minnesota
From the mid 1930s onward, Wright built ‘Usonian Homes,’ with the Elam House being the largest example of this style. Usonian houses were known for, among other characteristics, having large cantilevered roofs and were L-shaped to fit in within the existing natural landscape or garden. Elam house is mostly windows—over a hundred to be exact—and the whole structure rests on giant limestone piers. It’s an impressive home, with five bedrooms and six baths, and is available to rent for $275 per night. theelamhouse.com
Palmer House in Ann Arbor, Michigan
Billed as one of Ann Arbor’s most significant residential homes, Palmer House is one of Wright’s later designs for William Palmer, a one-time professor of economics at the University of Michigan. The home sits on two acres of hilly wooded land at the dead end of a quiet street and is a classic example of Wright’s ability to marry architecture with the natural landscape. The structure flows organically into a sloping grassy hillside. Original chairs and tables and other furnishing designed by Wright decorate the three bedrooms and a separate tea house has its own fireplace. The house sleeps six and rents for $375 per night. flwpalmerhouse.com
Bernard Schwartz House (Still Bend) in Two Rivers, Wisconsin
In 1938, Life Magazine invited Wright to design a dream house for families that earned between $2,000 to $10,000 per year. Wisconsin businessman Bernhard Schwartz read the article and commissioned Wright to build a version of what he’d designed for the magazine. Still Bend is in the small town of Two Rivers, perched along the river overlooking a large marsh. It’s possible to tour the house ($15 for 1.5 hours), or rent the entire property for weddings, parties and retreats. theschwartzhouse.com
Martin House Complex in Buffalo, New York
In the late 19th century, Buffalo was a center of urban planning and home design. Perhaps one of Wright’s greatest works of Prairie architecture is this complex of six buildings he designed between 1903 and 1905 for business titan Darwin D. Martin. The home fell into disrepair and was briefly abandoned. After a $50 million renovation of the main house, conservatory, pavilion, interior furnishings, and grounds, the Martin House Complex was completely refurbished, with the final phase due to be completed in April 2017. A new visitors center designed by Toshiko Mori helps visitors gather their bearings about the architectural complex and the history of Wright and the Martins. Each building holds a trove of Wright-designed furniture. Tours are highly in demand and reservations are strongly recommended. darwinmartinhouse.org
Graycliff in Derby, New York
Lake Erie’s eastern shore is home to sprawling summer retreats belonging to Buffalo residents. One of the most famous is Frank Lloyd Wright’s Graycliff Estate, which underwent many incarnations throughout its history, at one point serving as the home of an order of Roman Catholic priests from Hungary. Now part of The Graycliff Conservatory, the property is considered Wright’s “Natural House” for its use of indigenous rocks from the lake, and many windows that let the natural outside landscape flow in. Behind the scenes architectural tours ($42) go in depth about Wright’s work. During summer months, the estate hosts twilight tours ($44) that include wine, cheese, and fruit. graycliffestate.org
Louis Penfield House in Willoughby, Ohio
Wright was famous for designing spaces that played with proportion. Confined spaces or bottleneck breezeways opened onto grand double height rooms with walls of windows. These were features that created an element of surprise and illumination. He was also famous for designing homes with short doorframes, which was one of the first things he addressed at the Louis Penfield house, whose owner was 6’8” tall. The house is another example of Wright’s later Usonian aesthetic and features original furnishings, floating staircases, and rooms that are nothing but windows with views of the forested property. Up to five guests can rent the home for $275 per night. penfieldhouse.com
Hollyhock House in Los Angeles, California
Later in Wright’s career, when his personal life nearly destroyed his architecture practice, the heiress, feminist, and champion of experimental theater Aline Barnsdall commissioned him to build a 17-room house with a Mayan motif on Olive Hill in Los Angeles. She never liked the notion of living in the house, and before its completion gifted it to the City of Los Angeles to be designated as a public library and park. Today visitors can tour Hollyhock House independently ($7), or hire a docent ($70), to hear about all the architectural and personal details of Wright’s work and relationship with Barnsdall. barnsdall.org
Seth Peterson Cottage in Lake Delton, Wisconsin
Wright was nearly 90 at the time he was commissioned by Seth Peterson, a Wisconsin native who shared the same birthdate as Wright. Peterson never lived to see the completion of the small 800-square foot cottage—about the size of five parking spaces. Despite its jewel box size, the cottage is majestic, built high on a wooded hill above the lake. You can sleep here ($300 per night) in high season and the cozy cottage, with its big soaring ceilings, comfortably accommodates two and includes firewood, canoes and paddles. sethpeterson.org
Alpine Meadows Ranch in Montana
The expansive ranch of Alpine Meadows occupies 205 acres of Montana’s Bitteroot Valley. Wright designed the ranch in 1909, then called University Heights and Orchards, as a retreat for university professors. There are four main buildings on the property for rent: a large cider house for events, weddings and so on; a three bedroom Frank lloyd Wright Cabin; a one bedroom Writer’s Cabin; and two Meadow Suites. The architecture is less elaborate than Prairie or Usonian homes, but stunning just the same. The nature that engulfs Alpine Meadows Ranch is what really steals the show: two million acres of National Forest and more than a hundred hiking trails. amrmontana.com
Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin
For 48 years, this 800-acre campus was Wright’s home and architectural lab. His Welsh parents settled in the area in the mid 19th century and Wright spent many of his teenage summers vacationing in the Wisconsin River Valley, where he would later return to build the enormous Taliesin campus. Today the estate hosts art and cultural events, educational classes, architecture camps for students, and operates tours a range of tours that cover different aspects of the campus from May through the end of October. taliesinpreservation.org