staying over with frank lloyd wright

An invitation to spend the night in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Gardener’s Cottage (1909) was unexpected and irresistible.  (Thank you to the Martin House Restoration Corp.) Before going to sleep I caught the reflection of a Tiffany lamp in a portrait of Wright that hangs in the cottage bedroom.    The sweet two-storey cottage is set within the Darwin Martin House complex, one of Wright’s residential masterpieces that spreads some serious presence in a Buffalo neighbourhood.

Wright was intrigued by the absence of light and shadowy interiors.  But the two-storey cottage is filled with light pouring in from generous wood-framed windows that line the walls of the bedroom and the living room.  Wright’s Barrel chairs, designed specifically for the Martin House, super comfortable.  The couch not so much. The bed fantastic.

Wright specified miles of rift cut white oak and Roman brick for the main Martin House. But, for the nearby Gardener’s Cottage, materials were simplified: wainscoting in cypress and broad brush stucco. Sage green…because Wright advocated going to the woods and the fields for colour schemes.

 Morning time view from the Gardeners’ Cottage, across the terra cotta rooftop, to the Greatbatch Pavilion, a visitor centre, intelligently designed as a piece of luminous architecture by American architect Toshiko Mori.  Mori was intrigued by the sheltering eaves of the prairie-style architecture, and inverted Wright’s low-slung hip roof  for the visitor centre so that the interior ceiling dips down toward the exhibition space.

Gardener’s Cottage set between the visitor centre and adjoining clapboard homes belonging to the leafy Parkside Historic District neighbourhood.

Class difference: this is not the Gardener’s Cottage, but the reception room of the main Martin House.  The sunburst fireplace with bronze gilding in the mortar joints between the bricks was intended to warm the heart, though the Martin House fell into ruin after the Depression and is only now undergoing a massive and impressive restoration.  If you’ve been to Wright’s Fallingwater, seek out the Martin complex next.

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4 comments
  1. Mr. Frank Lloyd Wright built “The Millard House” in Pasadena, California for my Great Aunt Alice Parsons Millard a rare book collector. I have only visited twice. Once as a child with my mother Jane Parsons Dalglish and again with my friend Mr. James M. Johnson from Del Mar, CA. an architect and visionary who also builds houses in California.

  2. James – thanks for sharing your historic family connection. The Millard House with its fresh take on the lowly concrete block…didn’t Wright once say that he’d rather have designed the Millard than St. Peter’s? How were the blocks holding up when you visited?

    • Lisa–It is said they always need work yet both visits the concrete blocks were holding up as if levitating on their precarious site a rare book indeed! A nice gift I received by way of the internet are two concrete “Millard Fireplace Lanterns” yielding an inner light cut out from the concrete forms as if two lions still watching over Wright’s Garden steps.

  3. I love this post, I am the owner of the ONLY Usonian Inn in the world – in Spring Green, WI and love his/Frank Lloyd Wright’s works! Although this was design by J.C. Caraway, one of his apprentices, it was built under his watchful eye!

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