If you take a stroll down Chicago Avenue in the beautiful, western Chicago neighborhood of Oak Park you’re bound to take note of the many beautiful homes nestled along the street’s edge. However, there is one home in particular that will certainly stand out, regardless of whether or not you arrive knowing what it is. Number 951 sits right along the avenue, with an undeniable air of remarkability about it—an air that accompanies the architecture of much Frank Lloyd Wright’s work. But what makes this house particularly special is that it’s the home and studio of the iconic architect himself.
Built in 1889 as a sort of experimental project—and a home for his family—the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio evolved substantially over the two decades that the architect resided there. The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust refers to it as “the birthplace of Wright’s vision for new American architecture,” as it would go on to inspire many of his later commissions.
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It’s clear within the walls of his home that Wright drew inspiration from the late 19th-century in terms of the original design for the house; the ideals of Transcendentalists like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, both of whom infused nature and “the honest life” into their respective works, is reflected in Wright’s own design. Additionally, movements like the English Arts and Crafts, as well as the Household Art Movement, influenced both Wright’s interior and exterior designs, instilling principles like simplicity, morality, and the act of bringing art into the home.
In terms of the design, Wright turned to the iconic Shingle style—a departure from many of the surrounding Oak Park homes—for the structure’s exterior, embracing bold, geometric shapes (like a triangular gable and polygonal bay windows) for the building’s facade. The interior, despite being small in scale, was a reflection of Wright’s careful use of space, liberating it where possible—a practice he employs in quite a few other designs. The rooms were arranged around a central hearth, and connected via wide doorways, resulting in a feeling of spaciousness. This, paired with stunning artwork, antiques, and decor collected from around the world, yielded a rich and inspiring environment for his family.
The first expansion took place in 1895, when he designed a new dining room, as the family entertained often, and added an impressive children’s playroom which would become known as one of Wright’s best spaces, and very influential in his later work. The second-floor playroom is marked by a high, barrel-vaulted ceiling, Roman brick walls, leaded glass window bays, and a beautiful skylight at the center of the vault’s arc.
The studio wing was introduced just before the turn of the century, in 1898. Long and horizontal, and constructed from shingle and brick, it faces Chicago Avenue and connects to the rest of the home by a hallway.
For information about guided Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio Tours, you can visit the Trust’s website here.