Taking advantage once again of the amazing architectural story surrounding this city of ours, we took a little cruise over to Oak Park to experience some truly iconic architecture.
On the way, when explaining who Frank Lloyd Wright is to my 4 year old she immediately referenced our favorite book “Iggy Peck, Architect” by Andrea Beaty. This, my friends, is a must read for kids of all ages. In fact, my daughter has given this book a “20 star” rating and we were pleased to find it in the Museum Shop!
For me, the fascination with Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture stems from his belief as to how these spaces could be truly transformative. It wasn’t about the shell of a structure but how it could enrich the lives within it. His respect for nature and drawing inspiration from its landscape is captivating. As an interior designer, I feel we draw upon those same ideals, creating spaces that genuinely improve the quality of life both functionally and emotionally. Our connection with the inside is also dependent on our connection to the outside so creating a space where those meet and compliment each other are, in my opinion, essential to an individual’s overall well being.
As we walked into the Oak Park home, we were greeted with an open light filled entry that is laid out via three rooms. The actual entry opens into a larger living space with Wright’s signature Inglenook which he borrows from Scottish architecture. It’s an intimate, partially enclosed, built-in seating area that surrounds the fireplace. The rich velvet fabric and wood millwork envelop the visitor with a feeling of warmth and coziness. Today, it was decorated for the holidays and especially complimented that Midwest warmth.
As we walked through the home (and continually reminded the kids to not touch anything), Wrights’ attention to detail was evident in everything from the ceiling motifs to the kids’ high chairs! We stopped long enough in the playroom to admire the octagonal vaulted ceiling hosting a fantastic Christmas tree in its center. After my series of small panic attacks that the kids might actually touch the presents, I managed to snap a couple of impromptu pictures before heading towards the Studio!
As a special treat the kids were able to create cards in Wrights’ own studio. I loved picturing these pint sized architects at a drafting table in Frank Lloyd Wrights actual studio. It made my heart swell!
Then I kept thinking of Iggy Peck and as Miss Lila Greer came to figure out “There are worse things to do when you’re in grade two than to spend your time building a dream…”
A little about the architect and home:
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home & Studio, located at 951 Chicago Ave in Oak Park, was the architect’s first designed residence built in 1889. At the age of 22, with $5000 borrowed from Louis Sullivan, his mentor and employer, he designed and built a home for he and his wife Catherine in the Chicago Suburb of Oak Park. He owned the home from 1889 – 1909 raising 6 children and cultivating a successful career. Oak Park was desirable for it’s proximity to the city yet offered a bit of retreat from the sometimes chaotic city life.
The house was changed several times as Wright’s craft and family matured. The first remodel was in 1895. After 4 children, the need to expand and redevelop the space became paramount. At this time, the existing kitchen was converted into a dining room and a beautiful, vaulted children’s playroom was added. The original dining room became the study and a new kitchen was built at the back of the house. With his growing clientele in the Oak Park area, the need for another space arose, and Wright added the Studio and connecting corridor in 1898. The last portion added in 1898 was the library. He worked for 11 years in the Studio where the Prairie School was born, drafting some of today’s renowned spaces such as the the Robie House, Unity Temple and Rookery building. During this time he created more than a third of his life’s work.
Since Wright’s departure from the home it was converted into rental units. The National Trust for Historic Preservation took the structure over in 1974 and the Home & Studio was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1976. A thirteen year restoration took place before opening it up to the public.
Plan your visit: http://cal.flwright.org/tours/homeandstudio