Chicago is known worldwide for its architecture, including the works of Frank Lloyd Wright scattered around the city. But for architecture buffs, no trip to Chicago is complete without a visit to Wright’s home and studio in Oak Park. And even if you don’t know the difference between a sloping roof and a mortar joint, you’re bound to be inspired by learning more about the man.
When you approach the Wright family home – the very first edifice where he completely controlled the design – you’ll be struck my how modest it seems at first glance. It’s a small, two-story building that Wright tweaked and tweaked over 20 years until it matched his ever-evolving ideals. Though it immediately strikes you as unusual, it also blends in smoothly with the other houses on the same block.
When you cross over the threshold into his humble-looking abode, you’ll see how Wright’s interior design talents transformed the small structure into a roomy, artful interior. It’s the perfect place to begin imagining a redecoration process of your own, inspired by the cozy red, golden, and wood-toned living room. As you walk through the study, you begin taking mental notes: oriental rugs, potted palms, Japanese print… Can’t you just imagine that hand-carved walnut dining set in your own home? Of course, then you’d also need the lacy, hand-carved Oriental overhead light to go with it. Frank Lloyd Wright loved to use elements of the foreign, the exotic, and the antique to create a space where his many guests would be stimulated to discussion and contemplation.
As you enter the centerpiece of the Wright family home – the children’s playroom – you’ll note how seriously this creative took play. The vaulted ceiling and delicately carved skylight, and especially the windows built right at the treeline, all underscore Wright’s belief that a child’s environment “ought to be as truly beautiful as we are capable of making it.” You have to agree: You’re unable to a imagine a better romping space for kids than this indoor treehouse with built-in storage and cozy fireplace.
If the weather permits, the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust – the same folks who offer educated interpretation on the house and studio tours – also offer walking and biking tours of the Oak Park neighborhood surrounding the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio. On the cycling tour, you can explore 22 of his designed structures, including the Unity Temple, Frank Thomas House, Heurtley House, Cheney House, and the Furbeck House. You can also do a walking tour any time of year. And then there’s a third version, available only on one day in May, where you can actually go inside some of the private residences that Wright designed.
Whenever you visit, expect to walk away inspired to think about your domestic space differently. They say home is where the heart is, but they never say how much heart. Once you’ve seen Wright’s home, you want to put even more heart into yours.