Monday, July 25, 2011

A Visit With Frank

Click on the picture to see a larger view.
My husband and I are HUGE fans of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture and we are privileged to have a few of his houses in the Detroit area. Over the weekend we were lucky enough to visit the Turkel house that has been bought and worked on for the last 4 years. (Unfortunately I can only show you photos of the outside of the house since taking interior shots was forbidden by the owners.) It was an open house put on by the Detroit Art Deco Society and we got to go and have champagne with lots of yummy hors-d'oeuvres and wander around the house. We also spent a lot of time "grilling" one of the owners about their 4 years of torture/learning/renovation. It was wonderful to see it because my husband and I found the house when it was abandoned and actually up for sale. He had seriously considered buying it at the time but after hearing all that the owners did and went through I am glad we didn't purchase the house. (We would never have been able to put the kind of money into the house that they obviously did.) The roof had failed, the furnace was condemned, there were serious leaks all over that had destroyed the woodwork, floors and plumbing. It was sad to say on the "junk heap" and ready to be torn down if this couple had not bought it and fixed it up. And looking at all they had done it must have been at least a million dollars that they have spent on getting it back to Frank's original design.

 The house was built in 1955, it is 4200 sq. ft. and is called a Usonian Automatic house. It is all made from concrete blocks that are molded on site with a special machine that had to be purchased by the contractor. (We were told there is a total of 36 different types of block that make up the house.) What that is supposed to mean is that the house can be purchased and assembled by anyone but in actual fact it was quite a nightmare to build due to lining up and leveling all the blocks precisely.

It is one of the few 2 story houses built by Frank and is the only one in Michigan that is 2 stories. Originally it was just meant to be a long rectangle but when Mrs. Turkel contacted Frank she said she needed 4 bedrooms because she had 3 kids. To make space for the extra bedrooms the "L" shape was added to the end of the house.

When the original concrete patio was built it ended at the stairs. The new home owners had the patio extended and had a fountain added which was approved by the FLW Society. The old part of the patio had also seriously deteriorated and was re-finished with a new polymer coating in the famous Cherokee red that Frank used a lot. (It also continues into the interior of the house along the hallway and in the front music room.)

The garden are quite extensive and I really should have gotten more photos of it while I was there. When we originally found the house the side lot was seriously overgrown and we could not even walk through it.

The music room is the large room that faces you as you walk up to the house. From the inside it is 2 stories high and has a cantilevered balcony that hangs out into the upper part of the space and also has the door out on to the balcony you see in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th photos above. By the way... this was quite the artsy event and I wish I had taken more photos of how people were dressed. I did manage to catch a photo of this one lady that you see talking to her husband. Take a good look at her pants and see if you can figure out what they are made from. Her top was also very cool and was printed on the front with the Statue Of Liberty. Another lady was dressed in an authentic flapper dress complete with headpiece. Another women had on a knee length black lace cocktail dress from the fifties with a full crinoline and black lace gloves that went to her elbows. Another women had on a white pinstriped pant suit with a black bowler hat and a little pencil mustache drawn on her upper lip. We were also honored to meet and rub elbows with Cari Cucksey from the new show called Cash and Cari on HGTV. 

All in all it was a fabulous evening even though we were all dripping wet with perspiration. 


bobbie said...

Le sigh... FLW is my hero, and I'm jealous you got to see this!
Thanks for sharing ~ and I loved the lady's pants!!

Anonymous said...

How wonderful! Oooo, I would have LOVED to have seen the inside of this house! A Lloyd home is a sight to behold. I actually have a collection of mercury glass doorknobs from one of his homes from the Seattle area. It was being torn down and my father reclaimed them for me! (the house was is no state for salvation and the new owners of the property wanted a mansion built in its place) We have used a few of the lovely knobs in our home in some remodeling projects with many more of the beautiful pieces left over ... they look ever so shiny amassed in a huge rustic urn.

Sounds like you enjoyed a wonderful night save for the heat!

Ann said...

what a wonderful time you had. i'm just green with envy!!
i ,too, am a huge fan of Frank Lloyd Wright!! i would have loved to been there!
i have no idea what her pants are made from !!.. they are different.. i can't decide if i like them or not!!

Arlene said...

I just love Frank Lloyd Wright's buildings. No one like him. WOW... what a privilege! Thank you so much for sharing.

Deanna Cosgrove said...

Wow, Valerie, you were so fortunate to get to see the house and attend the event. I am so grateful that I happened onto this post while perusing your blog. We, too enjoy all things FLW. Thanks so much for the pics and all the specific details, made me feel as if I were there!

Nancy said...

Look at all of us FLW fans!! I, too, am VERY envious, Val, of your time at this house. Many years ago, I toured his home & studio in Oak Park - and someday, somehow, I'll be able to do the same with more of his houses. There's a small area here in Columbus that has FLW-inspired/approved houses - but I've yet to find it. I will, though! lol
And that woman's pants? Feed sacks? Postage sacks? Interesting, regardless!