Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Farming, The Wright Way

Just the name “Frank Lloyd Wright” makes certain things come to mind. It might be words like “innovative” or “out of reach”. “Farming” is most likely not one of them, even though Wright himself worked on a farm himself during some parts of his boyhood.

My wife and I had the opportunity for a two-night stay at a wonderful bed and breakfast that was one of the only farmhouses that had been designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Through a unique (which is an understatement, it's one of the only in existence) twist of history, the Muirhead House was built in the rural setting of Hampshire, Illinois and had fallen into a state of disrepair.

It has been lovingly restored to a stunning setting by Sarah Muirhead Petersdorf and her husband, Mike Petersdorf. (Sarah is the granddaughter of the original owners of the home, although I have to give a lot of the credit to the hard work of Mike, who also tends to the daily work of the B&B).

Among the goals over Frank Lloyd Wright's career was to complete structures that were accessible, usable and affordable (not all of these goals were always realized, of course.) The farmhouse was designed for a working farm and was designed as such. In fact, much of the correspondence between the family and the architect (or his assistant) is saved for guest reading – which makes for quite an interesting read.

Considering only about 500 of around 1,000 designs of Wright's were ever built, the Muirhead Farmhouse is a unique gem in a very small pool of potential providers. In my understanding, it's the only house that was designed as a working farmhouse. It's one of the only Wright Bed and Breakfasts in the world, and certainly the only Bed and Breakfast Wright farmhouse :-D

If you are within driving distance of Hampshire (a short distance north of Schaumburg, IL), and it happens to be a reasonable hour, call them right now and get yourself a night or two. You'll thank me later.

Driving up to the house (don't adjust your monitor, we did go there in the winter).

View of the main bedroom and front hallway from the dining room.

View of dining room down the hallway showing the dining room glass windows.

The house is designed on a 4'x 4' grid system. The dark terra cotta colored concrete squares that make up the floor are lit from above by pin lights that are centered over each square, except near the walls. The floor also supplies radiant heat produced from a system of heated pipes built into the floor.

At 176' (if I remember correctly), the house is a very long and features two elongated hallways. The front, which was uncovered in the original house plans and altered over back and forth conversation, welcomes into the house with long, full windows into the main living area.

The front hallway is mirrored in design by the front porch, the concrete grid carries out onto the patio and breaks into a brick border.

The hallway at the far end of the structure allows much less light in, which makes sense, since the majority of bedrooms are down this hallway. These rooms were originally designed for the children, of which there originally five, now three because of size limitations of the original design. (When I say size limitations in the original design, think of rooms for monks - very small rooms.) Mike and Sarah made the wise decision of slightly altering these walls to make room for three bedrooms down this hallway, which makes even more since they are now running the house as a bed and breakfast.

One of the smaller bedrooms.

Wright, using the same materials throughout the entire house, and in his Usonian (quite minimalistic) style, brings the materials in to form a unique shower. The brick used here is the (now rare) Chiago common brick, which is very porous and had to be sealed to ensure protection from the water.

Main living room with view to front lawn.

Fireplace (one of three throughout the home) in the main living room, complete with the signature Wright angled wide open face and angled back. (You can find some similar designs repeated in Taliesin and other properties.)

Other links of interest:


Blogger Conan said...

I think I've seen pictures of this place in a book about "Farmhouses." Of course, my first thought was, "Hey, that's not a farmhouse, that's a well archetected house in the middle of a farm. [page turn]. Hey, this one's not either. [more page turns in frantic hopes of finding something more classic Americanna]. Who wrote this book?!"

Either way, though, very cool house.

5:02 AM  

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