March 12, 2024

Five Steps to Refresh Your Home, Frank Lloyd Wright Style

Wondering how to give your home a refresh? Look no further than the guidance of Frank Lloyd Wright. Considered one of the greatest American architects, Wright was dangerously capable of refreshing a home. In fact, this was often a sore spot between himself and his clients. In The Natural House, Wright notes that very few of the houses he designed were, “anything but painful to me after the clients brought in their belongings.”

Wright’s pursuit of simplicity, comfort, and nature are seen in many of his designs and writings.

With these themes in mind, let’s explore steps anyone can take to refresh their home, Frank Lloyd Wright-style.

Exterior of a Frank Lloyd Wright building in Iowa. It has clean horizontal lines and is sitting on a green lawn.

photo by: Orange Suede Sofa, Wikimedia CC By SA 3.0

Exterior view of the Lowell Walter House in Quasqueton, Iowa.

Step 1: Declutter, Declutter, Declutter. Then, Declutter a Little More.

Sometimes, our homes can be reflective of our minds. Things pile up, and soon what was a few books on a dining room table has evolved into a small library. When this happens, it is time to channel your inner Frank Lloyd Wright.

Clear out anything that is no longer functional or a source of happiness. Donate items that are still in good condition. Recycle the remaining items when possible. If you’re unsure whether you want to keep something, put it in a box to revisit later. Once it’s out of sight, you may realize you don’t miss it.

“We no longer live in simple terms, in simple times or places,” Wright once wrote. “Life is a more complex struggle now. It is now valiant to be simple; a courageous thing to even want to be simple.”

Once you have decluttered your space, look around. How do you feel? What stands out to you?

Step 2: Maximize Space.

Now that your space is decluttered, review the larger items surrounding you. Is there anything that is obstructing your space unnecessarily? Are you holding on to furniture pieces you rarely use? Are your windows covered in heavy drapes, preventing you from accessing the windowsills?

See what you can move around to permit as much space and natural light into your home as possible.

View of a bedroom at Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West in 2016. The room has wood beams across the ceiling with painted walls and rose colored chairs.

photo by: kboehlert via Flickr CC By NC SA 2.0 DEED

Bedroom at Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Step 3: Identify What Makes Your Space Unique and Emphasize that Uniquity.

Your home now has less clutter and more space, so you can start exploring what it is about your home that makes it special. This could be something as major as large windows that let in a lot of natural light, or as minor as an unusual doorknob you installed yourself.

The trick is to spend time in your space and identify what makes it feel special to you. If you’re having trouble thinking of something, try asking yourself the following questions: What do you miss when you’re away? What is one of the first things you notice when you arrive home?

If you’re still unsure, try asking a family member or a friend who is familiar with your home what they think. Their answer may surprise you, and it may make you think about your space differently!

Once you have identified something about your space that is special to you, think about how you can emphasize that quality. Wright maintained that homes should be unique, just like the people living in them. If you adore the hand-shaped curtain tie-backs you installed in your living room, consider how you might draw more of that style into the rest of your home (in a minimalist way, of course).

Interior of Louis Penfield House with modern furniture in a living room with large floor to ceiling windows.

photo by: GPA Photo Archive, Flickr CC By SA 2.00 DEED

Interior of the Louis Penfield House in Willoughby Hills, Ohio.

Step 4: Create Connections to Nature.

Wright usually designed with nature in mind, most often seen through his use of large windows and natural materials. In his book The Natural House, he compares humans in their homes to plants in the soil, writing “Whether people are fully conscious of this or not, they actually derive countenance and sustenance from the ‘atmosphere’ of the things they live in or with. They are rooted in them just as a plant is in the soil in which it is planted.”

Look for new ways to incorporate the natural world into your home. If you have large windows, open them! Alternatively, if your home does not receive much natural light, invest in light-colored window treatments and try using mirrors to keep light moving through your space.

Consider investing in living plants and furniture pieces made from solid wood (thrift shops and antique shops are great places to find solid wood pieces).

Pope Leighey House kids' room

One of the bedrooms at Pope-Leighey House, a National Trust Historic Site, in Alexandria, Virginia.

Step 5: Form is Function.

Your space is now decluttered, spacious, unique, and connects you to nature. Wonderful. However, is it functional?

Throughout his life, Wright argued that form is function. He was an avid believer in practicality, at one point writing that he became an independent architect because he, “longed for a chance to build a sensible house,” and felt, “hungry for reality.”

Does your home support your lifestyle? Does most everything in your home have a function?

If the answer is no, then it’s time to start thinking about your needs.

If you’re an artist, maybe you need to invest in a drafting table. If you love to cook, maybe you need to explore new ways to maximize the counter space in your kitchen (perhaps by investing in an island).

When your home is functional, it will feel like a continuation of yourself and your life. It will uplift you. As Wright once said, “When you are conscious that the house is right and is honestly becoming to you, and feel you are living in it beautifully, you need no longer be concerned about it.”

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Emma Peters is the Associate Manager to the Chief Marketing Officer at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. A history graduate, she is constantly humbled by the way past lives and societies can alter the way we consume the present.

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