Can I mix Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie style into my ranch? (Part 1)

When you love your mid mod house … but also like Frank Lloyd Wright for his Prairie and Usonian design … how do you choose? The great news is that you don’t have to!

Because here’s the thing: Wright’s Prairie School and later Usonian homes are cool aunts and uncles to modest mid-century ranch houses. You can absolutely dip into Wright design ideas when you plan an upgrade for your mid-century modest home!

Let’s not be precious: “Mid-Century” means a lot styles

Today, we attribute the term “mid-century modern” to Cara Greenberg for her 1984 book title “mid-century modern furniture of the 1950s”. She was a vintage furniture dealer looking for a catch all term for the kind of relatively recent, but not quite contemporary used furniture that she was trying to find new homes for.  And she really nailed it! That’s a great term.

But … there is no one house style that perfectly embodies it.

In fact, the mid-century years were a time when lots of different people kicked around lots of different ideas for the future of american housing and design.

One of those people: Frank Lloyd Wright!

Options from Mid-Century Traditional all the way to Mid-Century Modern

Let’s take a quick tour of some of the new ideas in housing that were being kicked around during the mid-century era:


During the building boom years of the mid-century we had the William Levitt’s of the world knocking out efficiently mass-producable cottages. He drew design inspiration from the cape cod cottages of his New England background. These are Mid-Century homes. Mid-century traditional sure … but they count.

These cottage style homes (and the more traditional style ranch houses they resemble) were churned out in the millions by developers across the country.

Cliff May, Harvey Park in Denver Colorado

On the other end of the spectrum, we have clever open plan homes produced by designers like Cliff May. His concept was to shift the construction system of a house away from “stick built” frames made from lots of 2×4 studs and instead to make them post and beam structures with lot’s of freedom to put walls (or windows) wherever you wanted them.

Where Levitt wanted to create an open air assembly line, May looked for ways to pre-fabricate as much of his homes as possible.

A Cliff may house in Harvey Park and an early Levitt cottage in Levittown, New York don’t have a lot in common aesthetically.

But they share a common idea about where and how Americans would live: in suburbs or more spread out urban plots.

They both represent American societies desire to move forward into a new area of postwar prosperity where more and more people were able to afford their own property, live with greater separation from each other, along with the cars, transit services and other social life elements that formed the America we know today.

Frank Lloyd Wright “called it.”

To be specific he called it Broadacre city. That was the name he gave to his vision for America’s de-centralized future in his 1935 12′ by 12′ model exhibited at Rockefeller Center. (Ironic that he went to a city to show off plans for how Americans would be better off out of cities.) He proposed that people would live best if they spread out across the country side on 1 acre plots of land. They could get around in cars (and maybe personal helicopters!) and keep in touch with the culture using the radio

From this big picture view of how people might live, he also scaled down and predicted (or inspired) the mid-century ranch on a house by house basis.

Wright’s Usonian Houses are cool older cousins of the ranch

Let’s talk design lineage usonian houses are the younger siblings of Wright’s more grandiose Prairie School designs. And they are the cool older cousins of the mid-century ranch.

The Jacobs house, picutred above, and the other Usonian houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright are more like older cousins of the ranch – not in the direct line but still strongly connected from both a design and lifestyle philosophy point of view.

Wright started to design Usonian or USA-onian houses during the depression when he was short of clients and those he did have were equally short of funds.  They were more than cheap knockoffs, however.  Wright planned them to be a repeatable set of design details (if not actual prefabricated parts).

To describe a Wright Usonian home sounds a lot like the description of a mid-century ranch. Check it out:

  • a house with deep overhanging eaves that spread out horizontally across the lot on one level, or possibly is a split level responding to a sloped site.
  • using some elements of local cream or red brick, or a local limestone as a decorative detail.
  • a featured area around the hearth of that same masonry on the outside
  • more private (with fewer windows) to the front and much more open to the back yard
  • interior finishes and built ins made of plywood and simple pine
  • built ins used in the kitchen and in the bedrooms to remove the need for closets

Point by point they sound pretty similar. That’s because they ARE. Stay tuned for part 2 for step by step advice to ADD details to any mid-century home that will make it feel more “wright.”

In Today’s Episode You’ll Hear:

  • How Prairie Style and Mid-Century style relate to each other. 
  • Why Usonian houses feel so much like your ranch. 
  • When to tune your homes vibe toward (or away) from Wrightian hallmarks.  

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Read the Full Episode Transcript

Here’s a question I get all the time from people who live in mid-century homes. Hey, Della, I love my mid mod house. But I also like Frank Lloyd Wright, the Prairie School, this amazing Usonian place I missed one time, how can I choose? Or sometimes is that wrong? Here’s the story, you do not have to choose. And it’s not wrong to put those two ideas side by side.

If you love the design vocabulary of a Frank Lloyd Wright house and you live in a house built in the mid-century, you can put those two things together and come up with something that suits your house and your taste perfectly. Today, I’m going to dig into a little history of how writing and design and mid-century design aren’t as distinct as you might think. And next week, yeah, this is going to be a two parter. I’ll have some specific suggestions for ways to blend ready and elements into a mid-century home no matter how modest.

So feel free to draw on anything in this episode for your history inspiration, if you so choose. But I thought we might think first about the history of the term mid-century. So here’s our actual history snippet. While the word mid-century or the phrase mid-century is thrown around today, to mean any design element from the mid decades of the last century, or anything perfectly contemporary that has a vaguely non-college or non-traditional look bonus points if it has anodized rose gold as a finish.

Actually, that term was not used (asterisk) during the mid-century itself. Today, most aficionados of the mid-century era attribute the term mid-century to Cara Greenberg for her 1984 book title mid-century modern furniture of the 1950s. Greenberg was a vintage furniture dealer, looking for a catch all term that covered the relatively recent but not quite contemporary, UNIST furniture that she was trying to find new homes for the further we get from the so called mid-century era, the more that that antique and specialized items dating from that moment felt special and relevant to us rather than just out of date, until we arrived at the mid-century Renaissance at this last decade.

Now this timing aligns pretty well with my analysis that people are always most charmed by the stylistic choices of their grandparents. I think of this as the grandparent rule, the things we actually grew up with, always feel dated to us, whereas the type of the style of things that our grandparents had, is more steeped in nostalgia. There’s also a practical element to the way that we love our grandparents’ style because the furnishings of our grandparents’ era become more and more available as antiques or as use stuff as their homes and household’s turnover. So this happens over and over again.

And it’s happened throughout time. Now, while I do work with plenty of homeowners who might actually identify as baby boomers and love their mid-century homes as the type of house they grew up in, by far the biggest group of folks that I work with who love this style are our fellow millennials, my fellow millennials, who are looking back to our grandparent’s era of home design. So this analysis of the term mid-century that it did not exist during that era, and it was invented by Greenberg is what I believe to be true for quite a while, however, did you catch that asterisk that I threw in there.

A while ago, I came across a great book on mid-century graphic design by Theo Inglis, it’s called Mid-century Modern graphic design, and English is British. His book focuses on the British history of graphic design in the mid-century era. And there are some reproductions of original mid-century furniture advertisements in that book, based in Britain that use the term Mid-century Modern to describe the furniture sets that they are contemporaneously selling.

So I don’t know today whether that term was somewhat or commonly used in British design circles during the middle of the last century, or if it was just a clever term used once and quickly forgotten by a madman era advertiser in London. But one way or another, we know these words today to mean something when we say mid-century modern, but that design that term covers a lot of ground.

We’ll get into that basically for the rest of this episode. But if you’re curious about the Inglis’s book, mid-century, modern graphic design, it is great, gorgeous, and it’s included in my list of over 100 mid-century resources with a host of other useful books, internet resources, product suppliers, and mid-century homeowners to follow for good ideas.

So if books tickle your fancy, make sure you’ve got that whole list by going over to mid mod dash midwest.com/resources to grab yours. And as always, you’ll find the show notes with links to the references I’m going to make today. An outline actually a transcript of this conversation and some photos of pretty Usonian and radiant homes in this case, at mid ma

To midwest.com/seventy No for speaking of getting inspired. Sometimes deciding what to do with your home can be a recreational project that takes as long as it needs to take. It can be a hobby, your hobby can be antiquing, chatting with your friends and neighbors, visiting estate sales reading books on mid-century graphic design published in England. And sometimes it’s the opposite.

Sometimes you really need to hit the ground running super-fast, you’ve got some project that needs doing for a personal deadline or a maintenance replacement reason, and you need to make a bunch of choices for your home at top speed. If that’s you, I’ll be speaking directly to that problem, how to make choices quickly and how to make quick choices correctly in a free super-fast workshop that I’m getting one week from today, I’m going to be walking everyone through how to think about your home. If you only had 30 days to kick off a small or a big remodeling project, what would you do? What would you consider?

Let’s walk through a timeline of how to use those 30 days in the best possible way. In a 30 minute live workshop. We’ll talk about the steps you should take and the most important questions to focus on for best long term results have a short turnaround time plan. Now, that replay will be available because of course I want to make this helpful to you. But if you want to ask me follow up questions, mark your calendar right now and show up at 2pm Central one week from today. On Thursday. I will be answering questions for much longer than 30 minutes. But I’m going to keep the how to do this and 30 days in 30 minutes timeline as honestly as I can I see if I can do it. Find the link to sign up on our show notes page.

is very classically mid-century even though it was built in the 1930s. Frank Lloyd Wright is associated with many eras of architecture, and not a one to one correlation with Mid-century Modern as we generally see it portrayed in magazines today, you don’t necessarily hold up a spread indwell and a picture of a Frank Lloyd Wright building and say, yep, same thing. But he is a designer whose ideas can be very closely mapped onto the conceptual nature of mid mod design.

Now, as we’ve talked about many times before, there are a bunch of different micro styles that fall under the larger heading of mid-century because really, despite the term being made up in the 80s, by a furniture designer, or even used in the middle of the last century by an advertiser, mid-century just means designed and built in the middle decades of the 20th century. You know, we’re in the 1920s now, so as a thought experiment, how are people going to feel about this in another couple of decades when they’re in the middle of their century, this century, and the term mid-century has been fully claimed.

Of course, this is the problem we’ve been dealing with since international modernism named itself well over 100 years ago, and we’ve been referring to the evermore historical design ideas of that time as modern and modernism ever since this is just how it goes in design, folks. But Mid-century Modern is more of that, like I was saying.

In the mid-century umbrella, we have the kind of American traditional throwback type of ranch house that has hammered wrought iron house numbers, carriage lamps, a split rail fence or white picket fence out front, unnecessary shutters, and this style was particularly loved, at least in its broad brush detail by influential builders, I’m not really going to call him a designer, like William Levitt, and by track developers across the country, many people still associate the ranch style of house with that type of American traditionalism.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have clever post and beam structures being produced by designers like Cliff May, designs that could be produced quickly and assembled.

Separate from the room by room structure of the previous eras because they divorced the need to hold up the roof, the walls from any kind of internal division of the space so we have big glass walls and open space plans in the social areas. A cliff may house in Harvey Park and an early Levitt cottage in Levittown, New York don’t have a lot in common aesthetically. But they both represent American societies desire to move forward into a new area of postwar prosperity where more and more people were able to afford their own property, live with greater separation from each other, along with the cars, transit services and other social life elements that formed the America we know today.

And Frank Lloyd Wright was absolutely part of that cultural experimentation and the attempt to create a new style a new full philosophy to meet a current moment, he actually gotten a little bit ahead of those postwar developers. He was thinking about these ideas sooner. But I would argue that just means his ideas are more baked into the ones that came after. Wright influence is particularly strong in the Midwest here in Wisconsin, where we claim his name as part of our heritage all over the state and beyond.

Now, if I was to hold up a photo of a Usonian home, and a photo of a relatively designed forward mid-century house in the Midwest, they might not look all that identical, but if I was to simply describe them to you, a lot of the descriptors I could use for one are well mapped onto another. For example, let’s talk about the exterior. I’m talking about a house with deep overhanging eaves that spread out horizontally across the lot on one level, or possibly is a split level responding to a sloped site. It’s using some elements of local cream or red brick, or a local limestone as a decorative detail.

Also find it set a little unobtrusively into the landscape, it’s meant to blend in with its surroundings and greenery. It’s much more open to the backyard than it is in the front. Windows and the front door in the front are more private, more small, more closable. And more openness is happening at the back perhaps sliding glass doors or a wall of glass on the inside of this house I’m describing.

We’ve got some Featured area of the same masonry element, the brick or stone that’s happening on the outside being repeated bedroom windows with higher sills for views out but that maintain privacy, nicely constructed built ins and cabinets of slab of plywood built into the living areas and sometimes in the bedrooms instead of closets, bedrooms grouped together at one end of the one plan house and a more connected open plan social area or the other side of the house. Now, that’s a lot of similarities so far.

If I was describing specifically a Usonian house more on this later, I’d also be calling out that the deeply overhanging eaves roof was probably flat that the high sill windows in the bedroom were accurate, actually clear stories, that that means the sill height is up closer to the ceiling rather than at four feet, that there will be a slab concrete floor with radiant heating rather than a basement.

That interior walls might be made of the same plywood, as many of the built ins or of the masonry element that’s used for the outside that the front of the house is almost completely private with no I hate windows and the backside is very open to a walkout backyard patio area that there would be no garage Frank Lloyd Wright believed in social engineering, and he thought carports were a preventative to accumulating unneeded stuff. So to be clear, we do not all live in the charming architect designed little jewel boxes that he was imagining when he thought of you Sonia.

And I feel this is very sad. But there was either a lot of influence or a lot of pressure that’s baked into Wright’s vision of Usonia. Now his first Usonian home, the Jacobs house was constructed in 1937. And Madison right around the same time as the Johnson wax facility that Jim got inspired by it was being built in Racine, Wisconsin. So that’s not what I would typically class that’s mid-century.

I think for myself, what are the dates of mid-century design flex a little bit when you’re thinking about where they happen regionally. They’re almost always coincident with the end of World War Two. And they actually are more correlated to when the building boom and in particular area took off after the war. So in Madison, I would say, even a house built in the late 40s, might not be as mid-century as one that was certainly built any time after 1950.

And after 1952. In particular, we experienced a wave of building boom in this area that continued straight through into the mid 1960s. In other areas, the range of that window might shift, but roughly post World War

Just off the top of my head here in Madison. There’s an interesting historical moment of a housing cooperatives set up in the late 1930s. There’s an article in the Madison paper about it in 1940 talking about it as Wisconsin’s first cooperative housing project located quote, five miles and 10 automobile minutes from the center of Madison, unquote. Out on Middleton road, this is the Crestwood neighborhood, and it’s worth driving through if you look around here it is completely off the beaten path because of its design.

All of the houses are dead end cul de sacs and all of the properties have lots of backup into the woods. So you’ll never just happen through this area. But it has some really interesting ideas baked into it and to some of the houses have still today, quite distinct, early mid-century, almost lingering 30s Art Deco style to them.

That’s really fun to incorporate. So people were playing with ideas not only of home style, but also how home should be laid out how much space it should have between it and the next house where it should be organized in comparison to city centers. To refer to a couple of other the designers or builders that name checked earlier in the episode, you’re probably familiar with the name Levittown, William Levitt presented basically a contrast to the idea of Usonian.

Both are ex urban, that is suburban and express the idea of houses being set in some kind of a garden and the American dream of being a single family home, but in very different ways. So Usonian houses were completely individualized with remarkable close architect client involvement. In some cases, the homeowners did some or all of the construction work on their own houses. Levittown, by contrast, was totally uniform developer build system. But it had a social idea at its root, that it was an opportunity for young family to transition into the middle class in a time of economic transition.

So Levitt had built his reputation in manufacturing in World War Two. And he wanted to take his ideas into housing production. So he created an assembly line style house, and put a lot of emphasis on compact houses, with all of the things that needed to happen with that house happening in the smallest possible envelope, and then getting a lot of green grass space around each house.

But all of the houses were very regularly spaced along the house. This is houses not necessarily being set up on grids, but with a very grid like perspective of how life should be lived very different from that housing cooperative that I just described in early Madison, where each house backed up into its own little swath of woods and very different again from a Rhydian house, which is very responsive to its landscape, building into a hill, building into any natural features responding to what’s going on.

And while we have a visual contrast between the East Coast more traditional throwback look of a Levite house, and what we think of as a more mid-century modern look, and Cliff Mays developments, he actually had a similar philosophy to let it that he was trying to mass produce something, create something very efficient, very modular, that could be factory produced and then quickly installed. He believed philosophically. The idea of having relatively small spaces around houses having all the houses being lined flat up, I’m gesturing and clapping here, being lying flat up against their front lot line, very close to each other.

To him, the post and beam structure he was creating wasn’t a new style wasn’t a visual statement he was trying to create, he thought he was creating house devoid of style, a proper contemporary house that didn’t hark back to any architectural language of the past.

So it’s hard to have a perspective on what you’re doing at the time that you’re doing it. All of these different people in different parts of the country were working towards different eras.

And drawing on their own history, may had a reference that he constantly went back to of the Spanish colonial style that worked best in the places where he started building houses live, it was always going to be influenced by the New England cottage design that he was minimizing and turning into a mass production.

Wright was pulling from the language of Midwestern vernacular. And also, I would argue from his travels around the world, and particularly in Japan, which he constantly denied was part of a design influence. And I see everywhere in the buildings that he decided created after he had visited Japan for the first time. So that was rights aesthetic, but his philosophy of how people should live in this sort of future idealistic America is best embodied in his concept of broad acre city. This is something he put together for an arts exposition in the mid 1930s. And it really feels like he was looking into the future and describing the American suburbs. He wanted to give each American family a one acre plot of land they could build on and then have the entirety of American life be connected by roads and cars.

Now, none of these ideas really came to pass exactly as they were described and envisioned by the original people, none of these little, even Levittown. None of these little pockets of design, inspiration and construction are mapped out into what we actually live in. But there are ways in which all of them have influenced our thinking and our built environment today, for better and for worse. The different influence and background life experiences of each person played a big role in what people were suggesting would be the ideal settlement type for World War post World War Two America.

One more quick digression. I wanted to talk about Arcosanti, which was the manifestation of a contrasting view. Paolo Soleri was someone who worked with or studied near Wright for a while. Then took a very urbanized vision of how people could live in the future. His philosophy was that each individual person really only needed an eight foot by eight foot by eight foot cube of personal space.

So a family of three would just get three of those. Small dwelling units can be clustered together, and to towering arcologies, space alien type developments oriented. We’re in the middle of wide open spaces for public gathering. Soleri favored a distinctive sphere shell for a public gathering space that face the sun and offered daylight during the winter and a bright view in the shade for high summer.

People would be close together in these big, basically towers, I think he drew one that was supposed to be a mile tall. And then large swaths of land would remain unbuilt for farm and open space use. Now, of course, Wright believe the opposite. He thought that the radio meant people no longer needed to be in close proximity in order to share ideas or have whatever social necessity they got out of human connection. So they could just spread out over America into our big open spaces and then get around by car.

I’ll give him this, Wrights idea of an ideal American life is at least unhypocritical. That was the lifestyle that he himself preferred. He had his own little castle tucked under the brow of the hill at Taliesin, in Spring Green Wisconsin from which he could travel and to which people would make pilgrimages to soak up his greatness. He had no desire to live in an urban environment after he left Chicago, and he didn’t push that development for anyone else.

So I have to give him that credit because a lot of other great man tile architects work differently. Paolo Soleri, for example, lived out the rest of his life, surrounded by disciples who came to learn from his philosophies and I should full disclosure say I spent a season at Arco Santi myself in 2004, right before I went to grad school and had a great time there.

But I couldn’t help rolling my eyes at the fact that the students and apprentices and visitors who came there and lived and worked around Soleri did in fact live in eight foot by eight foot by eight foot concrete cubes in the desert, whereas he held down two residences, both spacious, open plan apartments with the best views on the property and travelled regularly between the rural Arco Santi property and the more connected one in Scottsdale to take advantage of the best weather and the best socializing.

So I go through phases are thinking of Wright as a good designer or a frustrating one troubled figure or a bad person, unfaithful husband, an architect who cared more about his idea than the comfort of his clients, but at least he was recommending to other people that they might want to live a lifestyle reasonably close to what he himself enjoyed throughout his career. Let’s get into right here.

Wright was a dedicated iconoclast who refuse to be categorized into anyone else’s idea of modernism or design style. And he went through a number of iterations in his own career starting with the training that he had in Chicago school, working under Louis Sullivan, and then designing his own so called Prairie School with long broad houses of multiple stories, but kind of chunked into pieces with taller parts and wider parts, deep overhanging gable roof lines.

Then he moved into a period where he spent a lot of time in Arizona and eventually got interested in designing with a kind of Mayan style concrete block. And eventually he decided he would spend his time creating a new American suburban landscape with the house type he called Usonian, that is you as a Usonian small houses for individual homeowners that were meant to be situated in the car accessible suburb or ex urban spaces.

So I want to talk a little bit about a house that’s very dear to my heart, the Jacobs house, which I first dug into when I was doing my graduate school architecture thesis and is now on my dog walk route. This was the very first Usonian house that Frank Lloyd Wright designed. And this and other Usonian houses are not ranch houses are not strictly mid-century were designed before the mid-century, at least the early ones were, but they are the older cousins of the Midwestern ranch house, not a direct lineage, but a very strong connection both from a design and a lifestyle point of view.

Now, when Wright started to design the Usonian houses during the Depression, he was a little short on clients, and those who did have were equally short of funds. They were almost a cheap knockoff of his better or his more interesting to himself design ideas, but they started to capture his fancy. Eventually he created the Usonian concept as a building system adaptable to each client with whatever modifications he might need regarding space or site conditions. So he meant them to be somewhat of a kid house, but not a physical construction type material could house a sort of design idea kid house.

The house that Wright designed for Herbert and Susan Jacobs, the first Usonian project, set the type with its orientation away from the street. The L shaped plan that protects the private spaces from view out and creates a kind of public front that’s very closed and an open to the garden design.

He also used very limited materials because he asked his family, they came to him and said, would you design us a house for $5,000? And he said, what’s not only wrote back to them and said, Would you really be interested in a $5,000 house, most people want a $10,000 house for $5,000. Now that that’s such a snotty thing to say to a client, but he did have a point.

The American focus on getting more for less has never, or at least only rarely, ever included an interest in getting less for less, even with a not so big house movement. There’s never any discussion getting less value for less money. But this was a time of constricted budgets. So the original Usonian houses were meant to be incredibly minimalist. Now this seems weird because we look at these houses and they are filled with gorgeous little details, Wright couldn’t help himself, and also in the 1930s.

And even in the 1940s, we were still dealing with a default level of craft that’s just absolutely out of view for what we have today. He meant the first Usonian house and the ones that follow to be attractive to be beautiful, but to have a limited number of details. He made them affordable, because the cost of skilled labor was quite low during the depression and war years. The critical cost was in the materials. So he limited his material palette, both in scale and initial value. He looked for the most simple basic materials, wood, brick, cement, paper and glass.

He wanted to do away with fancy interior finish, no plastering, no molding, and he wanted his wooden walls left unpainted. Trim was extraneous. So the plan of Usonian house was a simple L with one arm for the public spaces, it was pretty open plan again, saving on the complexity of building little rooms. And the other bedrooms, which were usually loaded along one hallway with Windows on one side, letting in some light sometimes there would be Windows between the hallway and the rooms.

Those rooms would sometimes also be separated from the hallway space for sound privacy with storage. And then they would have windows facing into the private interior backyard space, a plumbing core, which would be at the junction between the two spaces and provide visual separation and sound separation from the private sleeping areas and the open plan house.

Wright always designed his houses from the inside out. So he would arrange the rooms to suit themselves and then work the elevation the outside walls of the house to coordinate with them afterwards. And this allowed him to fit into a site better and to have more fluidity than if he was starting from a four square and then fitting different rooms and spaces inside of it.

He’s minimizing designs from his earlier Prairie School designs, he’s taking what he had been doing in the previous era of prairie designs with ornate wood work ornate molding, bigger roof overhangs, more dramatic multi level buildings, lots of leaded glass and interior building details and just kind of boiling them down into their most necessary elements. But he’s also making some changes.

Because the Prairie School design, we’re generally speaking intended for wealthier clients who would have in house domestic staff. So there was a clear separation between sleeping areas, which were grouped above and near domestic service areas like a kitchen, butler’s pantry, etc. And then the public parts of the house which were having daytime use for the household residents and for having visitors into that.

Separation meant that while the bedrooms could be very nice, those service parts of the house were not considered particularly interesting to him at all. In a Usonian house there was no domestic staff. He suddenly reconceived the kitchen as the workspace of the home a sort of domestic modern laboratory for the housewife and brought it into sometimes open to public space. So the kitchen becomes connected to living spaces, and it’s finished in the same material. It feels like it’s part of the familial activities.

But again, remember those materials are very basic plywood, brick, stone, no plaster wood walls. Those materials don’t sound exactly like a mid-century ranch. But some of the layout concepts do that idea of grouping the bedrooms on one side of the house and the more social public household guest oriented spaces on the other carries right through. In a mid-century ranch. It’s more common to have a bathroom located next to the bedrooms and the kitchen separate but you do sometimes see those even pull together.

Although again, the mid-century houses were less focused on maximum economy with still incorporating design and just kind of boiling down design even further from Usonian house. I’m about to cut this off and pick up again next week with more ways that you can incorporate the design ideas, the material palette, and the visual language of Usonian house or even a prairie schoolhouse into a mid-century ranch.

But let’s just remember that we’re dealing with the same types of plots of land. We’re dealing with the same ex urban locations, we’re dealing with some of the same ideas around having a relatively small, modest set of bedrooms that are mostly for sleeping in and having a family gathering.

In the social parts of the house, putting more energy into those areas, and having the kitchen even though it might be a separate room feeling like more part of the daily life of the house, certainly than it did, and a Victorian house or even a Prairie School House where it was clearly a space for domestic staff, even if that also included the housewife of the house. Oh, how the patriarchy has done us wrong.

But there are so many things that we can draw similarities between this older cousin nature of the Usonian idea and Frank Lloyd Wright continued to develop his ideas of Usonia and Broadacre City right through until his death in the late 1950s. And to talk about those publicly and to let those ideas percolate into the ideas of other designers and builders in the area. Here in Madison, Wisconsin.

We live in the shadow of Taliesin, in a good way, we live in a place where many Frank Lloyd Wright apprentices who worked and studied and trained to Taliesin then came because they wanted to live a little more urbanly, build their own homes, build their own practices, created homes for other people around the Madison area. And as they were taking the ideas they had learned from Wright and developed in collaboration with him and applying them in Madison, other less trained designers, contractors, builders, even tract home builders in the area, we’re seeing those houses and pulling little bits of inspiration from them and building them into the builder grade houses that we see filling up the neighborhoods around the mid-century core of Madison.

So this isn’t as true in other more far flung parts of the Midwest. But the ideas that Frank Llyod was talking about, were showing up in popular culture and magazines in the world around and they were trickling down if I can stand to use that term into the general design language of certainly Midwestern mid-century America.

So in particular, if you are located in the Midwest, and you’re a little bit of a Frank Lloyd Wright aficionado, and you’re wondering, can I incorporate these ideas into a mid-century rant? Is that okay? Yes, it is. And next week, we’re going to talk specifically about the various materials you might choose the colors you might choose, and how to find little moments of detail that can bring a radiant sense into a mid-century home.

So here’s your weekly pep talk to round out and wrap up this discussion we’ve been having about Is it alright to apply radian design ideas to your mid-century house? Of course it is. But you might be saying, Della, you tell me not to try to turn my ranch into a cottage you tell me not to try to turn my ranch into a modern farmhouse.

That’s true. I want people to listen to the design DNA of a mid-century house and not try to turn into something that it’s not. The thing that’s important to consider when you’re looking for the inspiration points to go Where are you going to find ideas to apply to your house is to think about how they are connected by as few degrees of separation as possible. So already in house or Usonian house might be a good connection to your mid-century house, because it comes from right before that moment in history.

It has some timeline connection, you might also look for Wrightian and houses Usonian houses, in your climate zone in your geographical vicinity. Just like when you’re looking for other design inspirations, I would recommend that you go and check out the coolest several houses in your neighborhood or in the neighborhoods around your house in your city. Because those houses are going to be built to respond to the climate that you have the building materials that were available at the time, even though they may have had a bigger budget or a more creative use of that budget when they were constructed.

They are cousins to your house. And they’re a good place to look for role models, if you will, you can also look to other houses that were built in the same your year as yours. In other parts of the country. If you want to look at what were the design ideas that were happening at that moment. So you could look for magazines like Better Homes and garden or sunset and find the issues from the year your house was built and look for other ideas that were being built the higher design higher budget houses across America, from the exact moment of your house’s construction, you can also take your house forward or backward in time.

If you have a 1960s Ranch, but you really love that vintage twee of the slightly earlier eras you can build back in a color block bathroom, or a slightly more historic kitchen. Or if you have a very early mid-century house, you can turn it forward in time by looking to houses in your area that were built in a later parcel of development and try to bring some of the more 60s mod ideas into a 1950s or even a 1940s house.

The point is not to reach too far from the starting point the center of your house. And that’s how you’re going to end up with something that feels organic to the house that feels like it might have been there all along. That has a timeless effect that’s not going to be rooted in the trendy decisions of today.

And that will last you for years decades to come. hopefully that’s given you some good ideas for where you can look for fun ideas. And if you’re looking specifically for design inspiration from Usonian homes. I’m going to pull images a few of my favorites into the show notes for today’s episode. Check that out at midmod-midwest.com/ 1704.

Plus, don’t forget that next week one week from today I’m going to be delivering a live 30 minute workshop on how to plan a remodel in just 30 days, and exactly what you want to focus on. If you want to make the best possible use of your design time, I’m not saying you will spend from dawn to dusk for the next 30 days you will fit into your regular life and 30 days, the design thinking you need to do the most essential design thinking to set you up for success on a project large or small.

Of course, ideally, planning a remodel takes longer than that, but sometimes you just don’t have it. And that doesn’t mean you should do no design; it means you should design efficiently. So show up next week and we’ll talk through how it can all go. If you’re there live. I will stick around after the 30 minutes to answer as many questions as are asked.

And it will be happening during business hours because this is for people on the go people in a hurry. Mark your calendar for 2pm Central time. You can sign up for that at midmod-midwest.com/1704. All right, see you next week.

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