Field Farm – Mid-20th Century Design

Field Farm – Mid-20th Century Design

The guest house at Field Farm - The view from the pond.

The guest house at Field Farm – The view from the pond.

If you like Mid-Century Modern design, go to Field Farm in Williamstown, Massachusetts!  The grounds and views are lovely and you can stay there,  as the house is now a bed and breakfast. This post focuses on the guest house and its grounds;  the next post will be about The Folly, a freestanding guest house on the same property.  The Mid-Century vibe is everywhere!

As part of my receiving the Valerie Moran Grant, from the IFDA Educational Foundation, I visited the Guest House at Field Farm. A 20th century historic home, built by Lawrence and Eleanore Bloedel in the late 1940s, this main house was bequeathed to the Trustees of the Reservations on the death of Eleanore in the 1980s. The architect of the main house was Edwin Goodell. The Folly was designed in the 1960s by Ulrich Franzen. The Folly wasn’t open during my initial visit, but I was able to tour it later. For more information on the history of the property and the houses, go to Field Farm History.

From the Trustees of the Reservations website;  the description of Field Farm:

The Guest House at Field Farm in Williamstown MA, offers an authentic mid-century-modern Bed & Breakfast. This architectural gem is a museum of modern furnishings, that will transport you back in time. Featuring an unparalleled view of Mt. Greylock, Massachusetts’ highest peak, it is a refreshing change from your usual bed & breakfast. The house and landscape feature period artwork and thirteen sculptures in the surrounding gardens. Explore the property or visit The Folly, a three-bedroom, pinwheel-shaped shingled guest cottage, designed in 1965 by noted modernist architect Ulrich Franzen.

Graycliff – A Quick Tour Through Frank Lloyd Wright’s Summer House for the Martin Family

Graycliff – A Quick Tour Through Frank Lloyd Wright’s Summer House for the Martin Family

As the 2017 International Furnishings and Design Association Educational Foundation’s (IFDA EF) recipient of the Valerie Moran Grant, I was funded to visit a number of historic, 20th century properties, to experience great exterior and interior design first hand, and in turn, pass along what I learned to my clients’ projects.

In October of 2017, I visited two iconic Frank Lloyd Wright (FLW) homes in greater Buffalo, New York.  The Martin House Complex, designed from 1901 to 1909, was commissioned by Darwin and Isabelle Martin.  My blog entry about the Martin House Complex can be found here.  The second home I visited, Graycliff, is just outside of Buffalo on Lake Erie, and was also commissioned by the Martins, as their summer house, twenty years after The Martin House Complex property.  Plans were completed in 1926.  The Martins started using the property in 1928.  When I visited the property, in 2017, the interior was starting to undergo significant preservation work.  That work has been completed and I look forward to going back!!  For more details on visiting the property, go to the Graycliff Conservancy.

Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) was an architect, writer, designer and more.  One of the best known architects of the 20th century, who designed, according to Wikipedia, over 1000 structures.  Much has been written about him, so I won’t go into his biography here, but if you are interested in reading more about his life, go to The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.

According to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Buffalo Venture’s author, Jack Quinan:

“The house is a product of circumstances that differed significantly from those surrounding the Martin House Complex built twenty years earlier.  During the latter half of the 1920s Wright was embattled – two marriages and a divorce in four years, two significant house fires, flight from the law, a brief jailing….”  Wright was nearly destitute according to Quinan, and Darwin Martin wanted to provide work for him. The house was completed during Wright’s post-Prairie style period and prior to his regaining his career in the mid 1930s.

Darwin Martin had retired in 1925 and his wife, Isabelle, wanted to take charge of building a summer home where their entire family could gather.  Isabelle first contacted Wright in March of 1926 – a local contractor began building the house in the fall of 1926, with the completion of the house in early 1928.  

The house was built with three original components;  the main house, the heat house and the garage with an apartment over it.  As you can see in the photos, the house is built with low-pitched hip-roofs.  Darwin Martin died in 1935 and Isabelle, who summered at Graycliff until 1943, died in 1945. The house, after being vacant, was sold to an order of Roman Catholic priests (the Piarist Fathers), who established a boarding school on the grounds and added other buildings to the site.  In the late 1990s, the Graycliff Conservancy was formed and it purchased the entire site.  Much preservation work has been needed to bring the house back to its original condition.  (Details from The “Frank Lloyd Wright Quarterly, Spring 2015.)

Graycliff

Main House Plans – Frank Lloyd Wright’s Buffalo Venture, page 147

Graycliff doesn’t have the grandeur of the Darwin Martin House – according to the Frank Lloyd Wright Quarterly, Spring 2015 edition, as a summer home, the Martins wanted Wright’s eye for detail, but at the same time they wanted a clean, unfussy aesthetic and to be able to relax, away from the city.  

The photos below show both exterior and interior details;  much of the interior preservation work had not been done when I visited, so my photos are not comprehensive, but even undergoing renovation, etc., what a great property!!  And thanks to the Buffalo News and their photos showing the completed interior preservation work, in 2019.

The simplicity of line, along with the simplicity and repetition of design elements (door knobs, light fixtures, etc.), as well as the bringing of the outside in, are all hallmarks of Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs, and also certainly speak to Mission and Arts and Crafts design styles.  With the repetition of design elements, including, for example, the windows that flank the living room on the first floor, and line the gallery on the second floor, FLW creates a rhythm to the home.   And provides a relaxed atmosphere….

In addition, the sight lines that FLW provides, whether in the interior, the view along the gallery, or the views outside the living room and dining room, create an expansiveness.  There are intimate spaces as well, including the library off the living room (which I don’t show), and the bedrooms;  most of us like both types of spaces, depending on time of day, how we feel on any given day, etc.  The materials used on the outside of the house also move into the inside, for example,  the stones (on the floor and the fireplaces) and provide a strong connection from outside to inside.

Russel Wright and Manitoga – Where Nature and Interior Design Meet

Russel Wright and Manitoga – Where Nature and Interior Design Meet

I continued my fall 2017 visits to 20th century historic properties, by touring Manitoga, Russel Wright’s home in Garrison, New York.  (Supported by the Valerie Moran Memorial Grant, from the IFDA Educational Foundation!)

Russel Wright was a 20th century American designer – he is perhaps best know for his pottery designs, including his “American Modern” dinnerware for Steubenville Pottery Company.   

Partnering with his wife, Mary Strong Einstein Wright, also a designer and a marketing whiz, Wright’s designs took off.  After a career in theatrical design, starting in the late 1920’s, Wright produced everything from a spun aluminum line of housewares, to wooden serving accessories.  Furniture followed in 1935 and by the late 1930’s, “American Modern” dinnerware was introduced, which was Mary and Russel’s first major success. 

Mary and Russell Wright

As you walk onto the property, (which was originally a granite quarry without much vegetation) the buildings appear to organically be part of the hillside, that is, part of the landscape.  A highly individual creation, Wright designed the buildings (working with architect David Leavitt), their interiors and the landscape.  

Wright and his wife, Mary, purchased the land in 1942;  Mary died from cancer in 1952.  The house, which Wright called “Dragon Rock” was built from 1956 to 1962; Wright moved to Manitoga full time in the mid-1960s and lived there until his death in 1976.  The house is composed of two separate structures;  one for family living (which includes the bedrooms for his daughter Ann, who was adopted in 1950, and the housekeeper) and one for Wright’s studio and bedroom.

Wright himself felt that the property should be a combination of natural and machine-made items.  To my 21st century eyes, nature is still the predominant influence;  Wright even changed the linens and interior color selections to match the seasons;  warmer colors for the fall, cooler for the summer.  

According to one of the docents on the tour, Wright coordinated all the exterior landscape design, as well as all the interior design;  he wanted all the components of the property to work together, and in his own words, ” My aim was to have this unusual piece of land be the most important part of the whole project. In other words, I didn’t want there house to dominate the land.” (Taken from “Russell Wright: The Nature of Design.”)

Particularly in this time of Covid-19, connecting with nature, even looking at photos of nature and natural settings, is calming and centering.  Wright showed his connection to the land at Manitoga in every room in Dragon Rock!   While most of us might not want large stones in our living room, or large pieces of slate on our floors, we can access nature with something as simple as having plants in our interiors and/or selecting paint and other finish colors and patterns that are found in nature.  If we are designing a new home, or renovating an existing one, perhaps we could see the landscape outside our doors with new eyes; and see the connections we could make with the landscape and the home interior!

 Also, in designing our homes today, sustainability is something we are now focusing on more than ever;  Wright was ahead of his time in many of his interior selections.  The selections that were “man-made,” including fiberglass, formica, foam rubber, metal foil and styrofoam were chosen for their durability, ease-of-maintenance, and those that are not recyclable today, could be replaced with more sustainable choices.

Perhaps what struck me the most, was how nature predominated in every room;  for example, in Wright’s bathroom, in his studio, he could lower the entire window over his bathtub to its sill, and I imagine feel more like he was outside than inside.

How do you see the communication from landscape to interior (and back) as you join me walking through Manitoga and inside, through Dragon Rock?

Photos by KDZ Designs unless otherwise noted

Visiting Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin Martin House

Visiting Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin Martin House

As the 2017 International Furnishings and Design Association Educational Foundation’s (IFDA EF) recipient of the Valerie Moran Grant, I was funded to visit a number of historic, 20th century properties, to experience great exterior and interior design first hand, and in turn, pass along what I learned to my clients’ projects.

In October of 2017, I visited two iconic Frank Lloyd Wright homes in greater Buffalo, New York.  The Martin House Complex, designed from 1901 to 1909, was commissioned by Darwin and Isabelle Martin.  It includes seven components, according to Jack Quinn, in his book, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Buffalo Venture, “… the plan, the main house, the pergola, the conservatory, the garage and stable, the fountain and the landscape – in a continuous narrative sequence.”  The Martins moved into the main residence in 1905, with completion in early 1907, according to Quinn. The second home I visited, Graycliff, is just outside of Buffalo on Lake Erie, and was also commissioned by the Martins, as their lake house, twenty years after the Martin House Complex property.  Plans were completed in 1927.  The Martins started using the property in 1928.

This blog entry covers the first of the properties, the Darwin Martin House Complex and specifically, the main house, pergola and conservatory.  The garage and stable are now the gift shop, the Barton House on the grounds was under renovation and couldn’t be visited.  Also, at the time, the upstairs of the home was not open to the public, and no photos were allowed inside the main house.  The restoration of the main house was completed in the fall of 2019, and I look forward to going back!!

Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) was an architect, writer, designer and more.  One of the best known architects of the 20th century, who designed, according to Wikipedia, over 1000 structures.  Much has been written about him, so I won’t go into his biography here, but if you are interested in reading more about his life, go to The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.

Darwin Martin House, South View from Jewett Parkway

South View of the Darwin Martin House Residence, Buffalo, October 2017. One of Frank Lloyd Wright’s favorite plans, according to Jack Quinn, it is an important early work of Wright. The main entrance to the home is concealed – a common FLW design feature; it starts just behind the foliage container in the center of the photo. KDZ Designs photo

Darwin Martin House, West View Facing The Visitor’s Center

West View of the Darwin Martin House Residence, Buffalo, facing the Visitor’s Center, October 2017. KDZ Designs photo From www.martinhouse.org: The Martin House Complex is a prime example of a Prairie house, a revolutionary design developed by Frank Lloyd Wright in the first decade of the 20th century. The Prairie house style is characterized by rectilinear, horizontally-oriented structures linked by crossing axes and “woven” into their site. The Martin House complex was designed in this fashion, allowing clear, linear vistas throughout the various buildings and surrounding landscape.

Darwin Martin House, East View

East Side View of the Darwin Martin House Residence, Buffalo, October 2017. KDZ Designs photo From www.martinhouse.org: Design Components of the Prairie Style:

* low, hip roofs with broadly cantilevered eaves * prominent foundations that anchor the house to the site * horizontal emphasis in masonry, sills, copings, and garden walls * horizontal bands of windows (usually with art glass) * intentionally concealed entrances and sheltered spaces * “organic” application of materials * cruciform floor plans

Darwin Martin House First Floor Plan http://www.thecraftsmanbungalow.com/frank-lloyd-wright-darwin-martin-house/

Wright also referred to the Prairie Style as Organic Architecture; Wright was influenced significantly by the Arts and Crafts movement that began in the 1880s in England; new designs that reflected social reform (away from industrialization, for example) and didn’t follow prior historical movements were established.  Wright viewed the entire architectural enterprise, including the interior, as his responsibility and it was important to connect furnishings, finishes and more to the overall design and to the environment and landscape.

Arts and Crafts objects were produced in all media: metalwork, ceramics, glass, textiles and furniture, while architecture typically provided the context within which these objects were brought together.

The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust. 

https://flwright.org/researchexplore/wrightandinternationalartsandcrafts

At the time of my visit, we were not allowed to photograph the interior of the house, aside from the pergola (enclosed passsageway, in this case) and connecting conservatory. I have attached photos from other sites (credited) to give an idea of what I was able to see of the first floor interior.  Many of the following photos are by Sharon Cantillon – Buffalo News: https://buffalonews.com/2017/06/03/gallery7354/#image=78

Frank Lloyd Wright designed almost all the furnishings in the house;  he was exacting about finishes and in the restoration of the home, finishes, tiles and more are all being redone as they would have originally been in 1907.

Darwin Martin House Entrance

FLW typically concealed his entrances from the street, as is the case here. Upon entering, the entry hall is small with the ceiling lower, but moving into the house, ceilings become higher, views of the second floor are visible, as is the long view into the pergola. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/art-and-architecture/buffalos-martin-house-reveals-a-piece-of-the-citys-architecturallegacy/article35625458/

Darwin Martin House Reception Room

The reception room, to the left of the entry, when entering the house; the horizontal nature of the house is dominant – the constants that appear in all the rooms that I saw on the first floor include the brick (wider, than higher) and its recessed gilded grout/mortar, which on the horizontal is wider, the furnishings which showcase both straight and curved lines, were made expressly for the Darwin Martin House. The ceiling molding moves in one direction and the ceiling is bronzed to give it a lightness. Dental molding runs from room to room. Throughout the first floor, there are Japanese paintings and decorative arts. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/art-and-architecture/buffalos-martin-house-reveals-a-piece-of-the-citys-architecturallegacy/article35625458/

Darwin Martin House – Relating to Design in 2020

There are a lot of “take-aways” from the Darwin Martin House for today’s interior design. The open plans and clean lines of the house design, inside and out, are a far cry from the fussiness of Victorian living. As I wrote earlier, Wright was strongly influenced by the International Arts and Crafts Movement. Repeating features to unite spaces is something that architects and designers do today; the brick work, color palette, dental molding, artwork, and the style of furniture are just some examples. One space flows well into the next. And while there are clean lines throughout the space, some are straight, but some are round or curved to provide more interest. In the living room, dining room and library space, the sight-lines allow someone to see from space to space, while at the same time feeling the separate function of each space, particularly with the interior columns and dropped ceiling “enclosing” each space. The color range is subtle and restful. Today’s homeowner would want to include more lighting, both in general and to provide accents for artwork and task lighting for reading, than was originally provided by Wright. Wright’s references to nature (the fireplace tile, for example) in the interior and having many windows that allow anyone in the space to connect visually with the outside space, not to mention the conservatory and its plants, would support today’s focus on connecting-to-nature promoting wellness.
Wilbraham Bath Updates – Master Bath

Wilbraham Bath Updates – Master Bath

Three Wilbraham Baths – Master Bath

In updating the three baths in this two-story mid-century home, with some traditional style accents, we introduced fixtures and features that emphasized those more traditional features, which had previously been missing.  The clients preferred adding pedestal sinks in two out of the three baths, which worked well with the “feel” we were looking for. We maintained the existing square footage, and in the case of the upstairs hall bath, we were able to create the sense of a much bigger room, by downsizing the cabinetry.

In the master bath, the original footprint was not changed, as was true of all the baths.  The vanity and countertop were replaced with a new vanity and Cambria quartz Berwyn countertop (the Berwyn was also used as shower shelving and the threshold going into the shower), and undermount Toto sink.  A cabinet to match the vanity was added for more storage, over the toilet. The toilet is Toto’s Eco Promenade in “Cotton.”  The faucet, as well as the shower-bath components, are “Cassidy” from Delta (two-handled) in polished chrome.  The sconces, flanking the  beveled mirror, are Feiss, “Huguenot Lake” sconces, in polished chrome.   

The tile floor (and shower floor) are Vallelunga Vintage Grey Argenta tile. The gloss subway tile on the walls is Medley by Fine in grey.  The paint colors are all Benjamin Moore;  the walls are a matte Titanium, with Mountain Peak White trim.

Thanks to contractor Tom Silva, of Triple S Construction, and his great sub-contractors, for doing superb work.  Cortina Tile provided a great selection of tiles for all the baths.  Connecticut Lighting Centers, working with salesperson, Laura Carrier, collaborated on the perfect lighting fixtures.  FW Webb, in Springfield, was an excellent source of faucets and fixtures.  Scott Anderson at Cowls in North Amherst provided his expertise and great cabinetry.  Oasis has the best selection of shower doors.  And thanks to the fabulous clients!  See these photos and more from the other two baths, as part of my portfolio.

Wilbraham Bath Updates – Upstairs Hall Bath

Wilbraham Bath Updates – Upstairs Hall Bath

Three Wilbraham Baths – Upstairs Hall Bath

In updating the three baths in this two-story mid-century home, with some traditional style accents, we introduced fixtures and features that emphasized those more traditional features, which had previously been missing.  The clients preferred adding pedestal sinks in two out of the three baths, which worked well with the “feel” we were looking for. We maintained the existing square footage, and in the case of the upstairs hall bath, we were able to create the sense of a much bigger room, by downsizing the cabinetry.

In the upstairs hall bath, the original footprint was not changed, as was true of all the baths.  The vanity and countertop were replaced with an American Standard “DXV” Fitzgerald pedestal sink in “Canvas White.”  The toilet was a match – the  Fitzgerald two-piece.  The faucet, as well as the shower-bath components, are also American Standard, “Ashbee” (two-handled) in polished chrome.  The sconces, flanking the Restoration Hardware medicine cabinet, are Hudson Valley, “Bradford,” in polished chrome.  Semi-flush ceiling fixtures are also by Hudson Valley, “Randolph.”

The tile floor is white matte porcelain, with a cobalt blue dot. The gloss subway tile on the walls is in an ice white.  The paint colors are all Benjamin Moore;  the walls are a matte Santorini Blue, with Snow White trim.

Thanks to contractor Tom Silva, of Triple S Construction, and his great sub-contractors, for doing superb work.  Cortina Tile provided a great selection of tiles for all the baths.  Connecticut Lighting Centers, working with salesperson, Laura Carrier, collaborated on the perfect lighting fixtures.  FW Webb, in Springfield, was an excellent source of faucets and fixtures.  Scott Anderson at Cowls in North Amherst provided his expertise and great cabinetry.  Oasis has the best selection of shower doors.  And thanks to the fabulous clients!  See these photos and more from the other two baths, as part of my portfolio.