Experiencing Great Architecture and Creative Built Environments

Posts tagged “Houses

Palmer House – Interiors (1950)

Frank Lloyd Wright, Architect

227 Orchard Hills Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Aerial View and Directions

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Visited September 15-16, 2012

See my post “Palmer House – Exterior” for information on the property.

The interior dramatically changes personality as the light changes in the space. From morning light, afternoon light, evening light and then artificial light the spaces are transformed as time goes by. When the trees, lawn and natural gardens are in sunlight, the interiors takes a back seat as the windows and walls seemingly disappear and the beautiful natural hillside is the star. In the evening after the sun sets, the glass appears as black panels focusing attention inward to the interior. The integrated indirect lighting transforms the oil-finished cypress clad ceiling of the living room into a warm canopy focusing on the fireplace. The polished Cherokee red concrete floors subtly reflect the light from above. Wright’s Origami Chairs ( which are quite comfortable ) are placed around the living room focused on the fireplace. Built into a wall by the kitchen is the dining table surrounded by dining chairs ( which are not comfortable).

All of the interior walls come together at 60 or 120 degree angles, as the floor plan is organized on an equilateral triangle grid. This grid is implemented in the furniture as well, even the beds have 60 and 120 degree corners.


Palmer House – Exterior (1950) – revisited

Frank Lloyd Wright, Architect

227 Orchard Hills Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Aerial View and Directions

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Visited September 15-16, 2012

Look at my first Palmer House post from two years ago for a description of the building.

The Palmer House has been purchased from the Palmer family estate, and is now available for overnight rentals (when the new owner is not in town). The purchase agreement comes with a very strict preservation agreement. Since it was purchased from the original owner’s estate, and the preservation agreement is in effect, this is an incredible opportunity to “live” in an original Frank Lloyd Wright house. The experience is pure Wright, without any unfortunate “updates” that mar many Wright properties that have gone through multiple ownership changes over the years.

Although recuperating from a back injury and not prepared with my tripod, I could not pass up an invitation from some amazing friends to spend the night. I have documented the house in 3 separate posts showing the exterior, the interior and the tea house on the property.


Palmer House – Tea House (1964)

John Howe, Architect

227 Orchard Hills Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Aerial View and Directions

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Visited September 15-16, 2012

After visiting Japan, the Palmer’s planned a teahouse on their property sited down the hill from the main house. John Howe, the on-site Taliesin representative during construction of the main house, was the architect (Wright had passed away 5 years earlier).

The tea house uses the same materials and equilateral triangle grid as the main house. It includes a recessed sitting area and table for tea drinking, a fireplace, bed, and small kitchen and bathroom.


Lykes Residence (1959-66)

Frank Lloyd Wright, Architect

6636 N. 36th Street, Phoenix, AZ 85018

Aerial View and Directions

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“Wright’s last residential design to be built by the original client” – as identified in William Allin Storrer’s book The Architecture of Frank LLoyd Wright A Complete Catalog.

The design was sketched by Wright before his death in 1959, and Taliesin Fellow John Rattenbury supervised construction, which didn’t commence until 1966.

This pink block building gracefully arcs on the desert hillside above Phoenix. Clearly visible from the road, you can appreciate the mature work of Wright by taking a short roadtrip up 36th street from the city.

There are several Wright houses in the Phoenix area, but most are not very visible from the street. You can see the gate and part of the roof of the Harold Price Sr. house (1954) at 7211 Tatum. The David Wright House (1950) at 3212 E. Exeter had recently been purchased at the time of my visit, and was under renovation with a construction fence around the property. The Adelman Residence (1951) at 5802 N. 30th Street, is visible across a very large front lawn, but what I was able to see was not of great note (in my opinion). Next door is the Boomer Residence (1953) at 5808 N. 30th Street. Through the densely wooded yard you can just make out the roof from the street. The Carlson House (1950) at 1123 W. Palo Verde Dr. is a white paneled house with bright blue trim behind a block wall and blue metal fence. The carport is visible from the road, but the most prominent feature on site at the time of my visit was a classic red convertible.

After the roadtrip hunting down the Wright houses, even if just to catch a glimpse, I recommend a drink and dinner at Wright’s at the Biltmore, a fine food restaurant in the Arizona Biltmore (1927). See Traverse360 Restaurants for a description.


Smith House (1946)

Frank Lloyd Wright, Architect

5045 Pon Valley Road, Bloomfield Hills, MI

Aerial View and Map

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Photos taken January 7, 2012

The Smith House is a great example of Wright’s Usonian Houses. It is a more refined version of the first Jacobs House in Madison. Situated in the upscale Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills, this rather modest house is surrounded by huge mansions of the more traditional style.

The low, horizontal composition hugs the earth and extends across the site with the brick garden walls. The owner’s large scale sculpture collection still graces the grounds and provides a nice visual break from the otherwise austentatious bigger than big neighbors.

This house is visible from the street, with a complete view of the front and north side facades across the lawn. The Smith House gives you a clear view of a pristine example his Usonian House concept. Well worth the trip if you are in the area. It is just down the street from the Cranbrook Educational Community with it’s original Saarinen designed campus, and close by is Wright’s Affleck House.


Bart Prince Residence and Studio (1984/90)

Bart Prince, Architect

3501 Monte Vista Blvd. NE, Albuquerque, NM

Aerial View and Map

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From the Archives, Photos from December 13, 2008

While in College, I remember seeing this building published and was intrigued by it. It seemed a little too “hippie” or as we would say in Ann Arbor a little “granola” for my taste, but was still intrigued none the less. During a trip to Albuquerque a few years ago, I had some time to search out interesting architecture while I was there. Luckly I recalled this building was there…and I found it after a quick search.

Located in a residential neighborhood just east of the University, there it was, right on the corner, with the second story ribbed capsule visible above the trees and landscaping (If that doesn’t get your attention, just look for the metal dinosaur sculptures in the front yard). Driving down the street, with fairly normal houses lining it on both sides, when you come upon this house you know that a very creative person lives here, and that a very creative architect designed it. In this case, they are one in the same – Bart Prince.

This is his Residence and Studio. It is a creative burst of crafty energy, reminding me in some ways of Bruce Goff’s organic spirals and forms, with a little Jules Verne submarine imagery thrown in for good measure. The more you look at it the more you see. There are tile patterns, steel stud sunscreens, round porthole windows, ribbed frames resting on steel beams, Arcosanti Bells, various antennae, post and masts, and stucco shells “lifted up” providing clerestory windows. This is the type building that is fun to discover, one that you can just enjoy the creativity as you walk around in wonder and awe – mostly about how he got those steps and guardrails going up the side of the concrete block curved wall past the building code officials.

The Model Architect – Video from Dwell Magazine on Prince

Link to Architect’s webpage

Link to Architectural Digest Profile of Prince

I am taking the time to go through my archives and posting some of the buildings I have visited prior starting this blog. While some of the photographs are taken with early low-resolution digital cameras, hopefully they capture the general feeling of the buildings…prompting a visit of your own.


Affleck House (1941)

Frank Lloyd Wright, Architect

1925 Woodward Avenue, Bloomfield Hills, MI

Aerial View and Map

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Photos taken October 29, 2011

The Gregor and Elizabeth Affleck House is a great early example of Wright’s Usonian Houses. A model of the house was displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York before it was constructed. It is in very good condition after several restoration projects undertaken by The Friends of the Affleck House and Lawrence Technological Univeristy’s School of Architecture which owns the structure.

I have been to the house many times since my college days. I was in the area late saturday afternoon and thought I would stop by and snap a few photos. The recent Chrysler commercial which features the house must have been in the back of my mind as I drove down Woodward Avenue.  If you respect the owner’s of the adjacent houses, you can easily view the house from all sides from the drive that loops the house. I will go back after all the leaves are off the trees to get some additional photos featuring the cantilevered living room and deck. The University does provide tours of the house (see attached links). I thought it was interesting that I found a 1948 Oldsmobile TV commercial online that featured the house as well (see attached link to view). Look for a post of the nearby Smith House by Frank Lloyd Wright in the coming days. I stopped there following my visit to the Affleck House.

1948 Futuramic Oldsmobile TV Advertisement featuring the Affleck House

LTU’s Web Page of House

Tour Brochure

Exhibit Catalog– which contains copies of some of Wright’s drawings for the house and early B&W photos of the house and interiors


Alden B. Dow Home and Studio (1933-41)

Alden B. Dow Architect

315 Post Street., Midland MI 48640

Aerial View and Map

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Last Visit – April 21, 2012

Photos taken September 24, 2011

Architect Alden B. Dow is the son of Herbert Dow, the founder of the Dow Chemical Company. Alden returned from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin in 1933 after an 8 month apprenticeship and set up his architectural practice in Midland. He immediately began designing his studio, and constructed it in several phases through 1937. His own house was added to the complex between 1939-41. The Complex has been designated a National Historic Landmark.

The Unit Blocks, a Dow creation, are composed in a dramatic arrangement that towers up in the center of the building, and gently cascades down to the pond’s edge, and  extends out as stepping stones into the pond. The composition is tied together with a low copper roof that hovers over the blocks diagonally and dissolves into an open trellis. The conference room that projects out into the pond is nicknamed the “Submarine Room” as it’s floor is 18 inches below the water level. The view of the studio from across the pond, is the signature view which embodies Dow’s statement “…Gardens never end, and buildings never begin…”.

Alden and his wife Vada’s house, behind the studio, is also constructed of his signature Unit Blocks and is built at the edge of the pond. Overall the house is not as dramatic from the exterior as the studio, but is beautiful in it’s own right. There is a screened porch that projects out beyond the blockwall above the pond. The interior provides a very spacious, creative living space, well ahead of its time.

I highly recommend a visit- just the view of the studio from across the pond is one of those seminal architectural experiences that inspires and validates architecture as art – a Masterpiece.

Click for link to the Home and Studio website


Alden B. Dow Buildings in Midland

Midland, MI

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All photos from September 24, 2011

As the son of the owner of the Dow Chemical Company, and an architect, Alden was the logical “choice” of Dow corporate executives that were building new residences. Luckly, Alden was a very talented and creative architect, otherwise the result could have been unfortunate for Midland!

Here is a selection of buildings in Midland that Alden designed.

The Midland Center for the Arts is the public building that leads this slideshow. The rest are all residences, just a sample of the many houses Alden designed in his hometown. There is an annual tour of Dow designed buildings, including the interiors of several residences, that I can recommend. I attended several years ago and that was well worth the visit.

You can see the heavy influence of Frank Lloyd Wright in Alden’s designs. This is understandable, as Alden attended Taliesin and was one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s apprentices in 1933. After his 8 month stay at Taliesin, and with an architectural degree from Columbia University, Alden returned to Midland and just started building. By driving around the upscale neighborhoods in Midland, you can pick out his distinctive designs (or do a quick internet search for some addresses).

Alden’s own Home and Studio has its own post, do not miss it, as it is truly an architectural masterpiece.


Feiman House (1954)

Frank Lloyd Wright, Architect

452 Santa Clara Dr., NW, Canton, OH 44709

Map and Aerial View

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Visited June 1, 2011

The north side of this inline plan Usonian house is very visible from the public street. The low slung flat roofed house and carport hug the site with a raised flat roof over the living room with unusually tall clerestory windows. The clerestory windows do not have the decorative plywood screens, but the low band of windows have the unique decorative plywood screens covering them. The brick wall extension shielding the private yard from the street also has an open abstract design in the brickwork.

Unfortunately, the brickwork has undergone extensive reworking or repointing with mortar that does not match the original mortar. These patches are obvious and are all over the wall and carport piers, but I guess the alternate of a crumbling wall and carport would have been much less desirable.

This is the 145th Frank Lloyd Wright Building I have visited (but who is counting…?).

A block away is Wright’s  Rubin House (1953). This house is not sufficiently visible from the street to warrant drive-by if you are looking for photos, at least in the summer with the heavily wooded lot fully “leafed out”.  (The 146th FLLW Building I have visited).

A little over a mile away is Wright’s Dobkins House (1953). This house, althought set back quite a distance from the road, is visible from the street if you look over the wide expanse of well manicured lawn between the trees. (The 147th FLLW Building I have visited).


Weltzheimer House (1948)

Frank Lloyd Wright, Architect

534 Morgan Street, Oberlin OH 44074

Aerial View

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From my Archives (visited 09/21/08)

The Weltzheimer House is the first Usonian house built in Ohio. It is an example of Wright’s L-shaped Usonian plan and is based on a 2’x4′ organizational grid. It has a radiant heating system within the red stained concrete floor slab.  The masonry mass contains the  “workspace” (kitchen) areas and fireplaces. The other walls are made of redwood board and batten construction and large floor to ceiling windows and french doors opening the rooms to the terrace and great lawn.

After undergoing unsympathetic renovations by a subsequent owner, an Art History Professor at Oberlin bought the house and restored it during her ownership.   The house is now owned by the Oberlin College Allen Memorial Art Museum and is open to the public twice a month. The museum has posted additional photos on its  Flicker site. The house has many pieces of Frank Lloyd Wright furniture, and provides visitors with an excellent example of what living in a Usonian house is like. You can walk around the house and really take in all of the details and experience the unique quality of the spaces.

While in Oberlin, visit the Allen Memorial Art Museum with an addition by Robert Venturi.


Palmer House (1950)

Frank Lloyd Wright, Architect

227 Orchard Hills Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Aerial View

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I recently came across this website for the Palmer House which is now available for weekend or weeklong rental. Along with photos and information, there is this video with a tour.  It was set up by the new owner of the house who purchased it from the Palmer Family.  I decided to look at a few of the snapshots of the exterior I took while the house was for sale – and have posted them here.  I toured the house with potential buyers who had owned a Frank Lloyd House on the west side of the state, and were interested in something closer to the Detroit area. I have no interior photos respecting the “no photos” request once we were let inside.  Luckly, the interior has been photographed professionally and the photos show up in the many Frank Lloyd Wright Usonian House books. Also, the realtor’s website is still up (as of today anyway) with a series of interior photos including rooms not usually published.

The Palmer House was the first Frank Lloyd Wright house I visited. My first visit was while I was in High School. The Palmer’s had the house open for the Ann Arbor Women’s Club House Tour. I skipped class and stood in line with a group of  ladies from the Ann Arbor Women’s Club. I think I was the youngest person in line by at least 30 years. The line slowly worked its way up the gravel drive, past the carport, and up the wide angled stairs to the front door. I remember next to the door there was a large shallow dish on the floor with a bird of paradise flower in front of a large floor to ceiling window. Simple, beautiful, and unusual. This glazing had a 30 degree angle with a glass to glass miter joint. I had never seen a window with a mitered joint like this. I was fascinated. Once inside, I experienced the magic of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture for the first time. The low roof at the entry compresses the space, and then after a carefully orchestrated path to the living room, the space opens up with the trangular ceiling lifted over the living room. The house  is layed out on an equlateral triagular grid. All of the walls come together at either 60 or 120 degree angles. This includes the masonry walls which use specially manufactured brick for the corners. I destinctly remember a woman telling her friend as they walked through the living room french doors to the natural garden path toward the tea house “It is an interesting house, but I cannot imagine anyone wanting to live here”. I was thinking to myself that I could imagine what their homes were like, and I could not imagine anyone wanting to live in their homes!  As a young high school student taking drafting courses, this visit was one of those memorable milestones which inspired me to become an architect.


Two Houses by John C. Senhauser FAIA Architect

Indian Hill, OH

Aerial View Maps: House 1, Lamson-West House

These two houses are directly across the street from each other in a remote location which is pretty hard to find. I have to thank my friends in Cincinnati, not only for telling me about these houses, but also for driving me there.  The “green” roofed Lamson-West house was featured in the Design-Milk site and includes additional great exterior and interior photos. I am looking forward to another trip in the summer so I can see the green roof when it is actually green!

It was also featured in a House Hunters episode of HGTV. It is the first house they visited in the episode. One of the teenage daughter’s reaction driving up to the house was “it is weird”.  At the end of the show, one of the girls said  “its too perfect…especially for us”.  I agree.


Boswell House (1957)

Frank Lloyd Wright, Architect

8805 Camargo Club Drive, Indian Hill, OH 45243

Aerial View Map

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With the leaves off the trees, you can look down into the entry court from the road and get a feeling of the overall layout. In the summer I believe it would be difficult to see anything from the road. The Cincinnati Enquirer posted a narrated slideshow of the house with additional views of the exterior, as well as the interior. This home was on the market for $3.4 million in 2008. The house is in great condition based on photos taken while it was on the market. The kitchen was very sympathetically renovated by Architect John C. Senhauser.

The carport appears to be an addition not by Wright. This is just a gut reaction, as it does not “feel” original to me. It is a separate pavillion with an independent roof,  not an extension of the main house’s hipped roof. The intermediate brick columns are too small and just their existance seems odd.  These vertical “sticks” visually breakup the strong, low horizontal line prominent in the rest of this design.  I would have expected no columns here, providing the gravity defying “floating” feeling of so many other Wright carport roofs (and it is fairly simple to span a two-car space without requiring an intermediate column). I could be wrong, but…..

Many aspects of this house are very similar to the Carl Schultz House in St. Joseph, MI (1957). These are very large, expensive and expansive structures for wealthy clients that Wright designed in his final years. Many of his earlier Usonian homes were of more modest scope (in both size and expense) and used only wood for the ceiling finishes. These later Wright homes are a curious combination of  his Usonian and earlier Prairie style homes. Here Wright has reintroduced plaster ceilings with light colored finishes similar to his great prairie style rooms. This change provides a lighter feel in these large rooms compared to the more cabin-like feeling of the smaller wood sheathed ceilings of the typical Usonian homes.

This is the 144th Frank Lloyd Wright Building I have visited (but who’s counting?).


Boulter House (1954)

Frank Lloyd Wright, Architect

1 Rawson Woods Circle, Cincinnati, OH 45220

Aerial View Map

Angled on a steep corner lot, this house overlooks the house across the street into the Rawson Wood Preserve. Although located in a fairly typical upscale neighborhood subdivision, the Preserve partially surrounds this neighborhood. With the natural planting of the front yard instead of the typical lawn, and the proximity of the Preserve, this house retains the feel of the typically more isolated Usonian house settings.

Complete Photo Archive Here.

This is the 143rd Frank Lloyd Wright Building I have visited (but who’s counting?).