One of the most famous architects to come from America was Frank Lloyd Wright and it was he who brought us Prairie style architecture. Wright designed over 1000 buildings during his lifetime including museums, houses, churches, schools, offices and libraries. Prairie style homes and buildings were first designed in the early 1900s and are recognizable by their horizontal lines, basic materials and low wide roofs with a large overhang. The Robie Residence designed in 1909 in Chicago is thought to be one of his best examples of Prairie style design. Prairie houses were originally designed to blend into landscapes that were flatter like the Prairies and were a popular style of house up until World War I when they then fell out of style. However today it is becoming more popular once more because of how easy it is to adapt to the more contemporary designs, and Prairie style influence can be found in many buildings today. This article looks at specific details about the architecture and how to take the prairie style and use it in your home design.
Details to look for in Prairie style architecture
Prairie style architecture developed in rejection of the more ornate and squat Victorian architectural style that was common at the time. It was influenced by the Midwest and Japanese elements and tended to use natural materials like stone, wood and so on with respect. There should be natural progression moving from the outside to inside the home. The building itself is low and long with a low pitched roof and deep overhanging eaves and covered porches. It has a central chimney and includes high windows above eye level to allow in as much light and air as possible. A prairie house should not over impact on the surrounding land but be part of it and in harmony with it. The windows create geometric patterns and shapes and art glass is sometimes used. By placing several windows together a sense of openness is created and they frame the nature outside.
Contemporary prairie design
If you need more rooms and want to add more upper levels this is done in a cantilevered way so that the house does not rise up too high and stays low and long. Instead of the Victorian small square rooms inside the layout is open plan creating a flowing space and horizontal lines inside as well. Rooms could be divided sometimes but with leaded glass panels. There were not a lot of decorative features added unless they had some purpose, for example the masonry piers to support the porch roofs. The shape of the house can be T shaped, L shaped, pinwheel shaped or Y shaped. The entrance of the house is tucked away rather than prominent.
More design styles:
Designing a Prairie style home
Many original houses were designed with the interior also done for them. For people who could pay things like furnishings, furniture, light fixtures, accessories and rugs were all designed and placed as part of the build by the architect or designer.
If you have bought a Prairie style home and wish to bring that look into the interior of the house there are several things you can do. When choosing color be influenced by the four seasons in the Midwest, Green for grass and leaves and the Spring and Summer with touches of red, yellows, blues or whites for the flowers. And then for Autumn and Winter browns and greys, oranges and beige, fire red, deep oranges, gold, burgandy and deep plum.
Wood trim is popular along the walls and ceilings and the walls were often created to have a textured look and feel that made wallpapering impossible. The last coat of plaster is often tinted in traditionally built homes in colors like green, ochre, cream or browns. In a modern home if you want to create the Prairie look use paint in one of those shades and use glaze to give the textured look and feel, or use suede paint if you do not have children in the home. Trim could also be white if you prefer which is a the cheaper option as you can use a less expensive and less attractive wood for the trim and just paint it. Because of all the trim it is possible to use a number of colors on the walls if you wish to in the same room. Keep them muted but rich in tone.
There are two main style of chairs people think of as Prairie style the Barrel chair and the high back dining chair. Whichever you opt for, make sure it is something you find comfortable, there is no point in getting seating no-one wants to sit in! The furniture needs to look like it belongs there and fit with the horizontal lines, the trim and so on. Traditionally the material used was oak and it can then be stained to suit the room. If you want the traditional fumed look to give it a dark color it can be done at a furniture maker. Original pieces are going to be expensive, but you can do it in a more affordable way by getting craftsmen to create reproductions for you, or there are large furniture retailers that have simple styled furniture that would be suitable at a very budget friendly level.
Placement of furniture can be tricky in this style of house with the open floor plan. Try to group seating together, around the fireplace is good. For a modern home where placing the TV is an issue consider getting a built in for it or hanging it on the wall. Many original homes had some seating and furnishings already built in so that the problem of placement and clutter was removed. Whatever furniture you choose keep in mind it needs to be simple in style with little to no ornamentation, and should echo the horizontal lines of the house if possible. For example long benches at the dining table, a chaise lounge in the front room with a coffee table that is low down and long.
For flooring therefore consider either hardwood flooring in medium to dark brown or even terracotta tiling depending on the room you are decorating. Despite having lovely hardwood flooring rugs were popular too. If you wish to lay rugs down use these to add pops of color like reds, oranges or greens and have them tie in with the geometric shape theme. Avoid fringes on the rugs as it messes up the lines and looks less clean. Rugs can be used to help divide the space too and are made from wool or silk. For people with a larger budget consider getting rugs specifically made for you to suit your house’s style, but other more affordable options include wool and synthetic fiber rugs from main manufacturers and flat-weave rugs.
Accessories needed for this design style
Keep in mind to use good quality natural materials like slate, stone, and oak wood around the house. Use natural fabrics in solid colors that work well with the earthy tones on the floors and walls. Since Prairie style architecture was inspired in part by Japanese style it makes sense to use it in your home today, for example you could add a futon to the spare bedroom or a low to the ground tatami mat. Use plant motifs, geometric shapes and patterns, folk art and textiles, clay sculptures and colored glass to decorate the house. Keep it uncluttered, open, simple and warm.