Monday, March 12, 2012

Our Home Remodel: A Modern Take on Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie Style

When I launched this blog, I promised to share our experiences with the agonizing and exhilarating experience that is home remodeling.  So, for starters, this week I’ll show some before and after photos of our house and highlight a few of the design elements, particularly those that were inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s prairie style homes of the early 1900’s.  

After:  The Prairie style front elevation blends with the landscape as well as with the neighborhood.  The most notable prairie style features or Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired elements are the banks of casement windows, the horizontal banded trim, the hipped roof with deep overhangs, the covered entryway, and the use of stucco and horizontal ledge stone.
Before: Front elevation of the original 1950's rambler 

I chose the prairie style because it feels very modern to me, even after more than 100 years.  And yet it is not so modern that my house would stick out like a sore thumb in our traditional neighborhood. I love the hipped rooflines, especially with multiple levels.  And the deep overhangs not only look beautiful and extend the horizontal lines of the house, but they keep energy costs down by shading the house in summer.  Frank Lloyd Wright was a genius when it came to marrying form and function, and I tried my best to follow his example.  I also share Wright's affinity for geometry and incorporated compositions of circles and squares throughout the exterior and interior of the house.

By the way, getting that hipped roof and the deep overhangs made this remodel much more extensive.  You can’t very well live in the house through construction if they have to rip your whole roof off!  We decided it was worth it because we wanted to “pop up” and build the kids’ bedrooms upstairs, but man, we didn’t really know what we were in for.  The demolition alone took five months.  I was concerned about our impact on the environment and hated the idea of a teardown, so we were trying hard to work with the original floor plan and footprint.   But ultimately (and ironically), we would have saved lots of time and lots of money by doing a teardown.  So that’s my remodel advice for this week, keep your renovations simple (avoid lots of demo) OR, if your changes will be so extensive that you can’t live in the house during construction, get advice and budget projections early on to figure out whether a teardown is more efficient and economical. 

After: Our fireplace got a facelift with slate tile and a modern mantle in the new family room.  We kept the original fireplace because, as in Frank Lloyd Wright's designs, it was well-located in the center of the house. I designed the custom cabinetry and shelving around the fireplace to give the wall a unified look.  I thought the old fireplace just stuck out into the room without feeling connected to it.
Before:  The original painted brick fireplace
During:  The fireplace survived demo!

After:  Our master bedroom got a dramatic makeover with just a small "prow" (or v-shaped) window bump-out, a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired element that feels more modern to me than a bay window. Of course, it helps that my decor is much more modern too. ;-)  Really though, the room feels so much less boxy with the bump-out, and any type of window bump-out would have done the trick.

Before:  The previous owner's
photo of the master bedroom

After:  The rear elevation shows the two-story prow window, as well as the large geometric window I designed for our kitchen dining area. 

Thanks for looking! 


  1. You've done a wonderful job - I attended and graduated from Florida Southern College in Florida, which was built by Frank Lloyd Wright - so it was a little ironic when I saw your post on the linky party. Will look forward to seeing more of your renovation. Would love for you to come visit me!
    Thanks -
    Hugs -

    1. Thanks, Carol! I'm following you now too!

  2. Wow! That is fantastic! Love the finished results and loved love love the front door!!!

    1. Thanks, Karen! I love our custom copper doors too, but they've been so much trouble that it's definitely a love-hate relationship. ;-) I will have to write about it sometime.