Frank Lloyd Wright did not believe in “decorating” a house. He felt it was a way for a person of lower means to try and imitate the house of someone much more affluent.
Instead he pushed the idea of letting the beauty of a material speak for itself. It did not really matter what the material was, as long as it was honest and not wearing a disguise for the sake of looking like some expensive material that it was not. For example, think of plastic siding that is imitating wood siding or paint-soaked drywall that is covering up the wood beneath it.
He felt the same of the occupants (live within your means and build within your means). The philosophy of this is way beyond this individual blog post but for now, realize Wright wanted the homeowners to be and show who they were and that the materials show WHAT they were (not something else). For this reason, paint was hardly ever used (if ever) in “decorating” a Usonian house.
I recently read a quote from the daughter of a couple that literally hand-built their Usonian house in the 40s and 50s that described what FLW was trying to achieve. She said, “The living room had glass on three sides, so we were very much affected by the seasons and the changing colors. In the summertime it was absolutely incredible, but the house changed with every season. There was a huge sugar maple outside the living room, and when it turned yellow in the fall, that was the color scheme.”
This is a critical quote as my wife has been very concern about the fact she will not be able to paint the place (after-all, we met when I came to paint her house as a favor to a friend).
I keep trying to tell her that by changing paintings on the wall and placing items will give the sense of changing decor you are looking for. However, that statement says it all because we are lucky enough to live in an area that has seasons and each has its colour palette or its color picker!
OK, saying all that we have been working on the specs of the house (picking the materials and quoting them out) and we have pretty well come to these conclusions (actually mutually agreed on them).
Before we began this project we both agreed we would not want red brick but actually preferred a brown brick. Since the decision to start this project, homes are now popping up all over with the brick color we prefer. It is a two tone brown color.
My wife is still thinking it should be even darker but I don’t think she is fully considering how dark it will be on interior walls.
Sorry about the McMansion picture but subconsciously I think I picked it to show the absolute waste of materials in that roof. There has to be $5000 to $10,000 in wasted wood, insulation and extra shingles.
We want the natural color of the wood to be the showpiece of the house so this is EXTREMELY important. In other words, no stain to cover up the beauty of the natural wood.
For most of the columns and windows we have mimicked Tim Sutton’s Usonian Redhouse in picking Douglas Fir. It has this super rich red and brown tone that no other wood really has and it is somewhat native to the area (and pretty cheap). The only other more proper native material would be oak and it is not a good choice of exterior applications. After talking with a local saw mill, we are certain the fir is going in.
The board and batten on some of the walls and the soffits will likely be cypress. We considered douglas fir, oak, pine, cedar and poplar but fir tends to crack over time in thin board, pine is just not the look we want and poplar is too greenish. Cedar would be our second choice. We originally thought the cypress would be out of our price range due to shipping costs but the guy at the mill told us he can order the logs and almost match the price of pine. Bonus!
Frank Lloyd Wright’s color of choice was of course “cheyenne red” for floors (and just about everything else including his cars). My wife and I both HATE the color inside a house. Well hate is a strong word. I would say its like ice cream and hamburgers to me…I can eat them but do not prefer them.
The process of coloring the concrete floor is done with something called Lithochrome Color Hardener. It is a powder that is placed on as the concrete is drying. The advantage to this is you can pick multiple colors to give it that “leather-look” we want.
I think the colors we are going for are “Dark Walnut” with an under-tone of “Padre Brown”. This will bring together the redness of the wood and the brown of the brick and certainly give us that leather look we are looking for.
As for the rest of the colors in the home, that is up to us to hang paintings and rely on the beauty of nature to paint right outside our windows…