arts and cultureinspiring spacesIssue 23

Inspiring Spaces: Frank Lloyd Wright Houses

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By Noel DanielFrank Lloyd Wright was a cornerstone in American architecture. It’s almost a little hard to believe that such a household name would establish a custom home in Modesto, California.

It’s said that Wright would encourage those looking for a place to settle down to “go out as far as you can, and then go ten miles farther.” And there’s little that’s further from expectation than a plot of land beside a Stanislaus County city.

This slice of architectural history was designed in 1957 for Robert and Mary Walton, the owners to this day, and was completed after Wright’s death in 1961. The house was built upon an aesthetically-pleasing 32-inch module—for example, the tiles in the floor are 32” x 32”, the cinderblock wall squares at 8” x 4”, and other measurements in the house are similarly symmetrical.

The Walton’s home is a single-story Usonian-style building boasting a playroom, three bathrooms, six bedrooms, and 3,513 square feet. The Usonian style, derived from Wright’s early Prairie style, showcases low roofs, natural material like wood and brick, and open living areas. Typically one-story buildings that emphasized simplicity, Usonians didn’t tend to be very economical, often exceeding their budgeted costs.

The term “Usonian” was first coined in the 1950s when Wright used the term Usonian Automatic to describe a house of that style made of inexpensive concrete. The houses were meant to be easy and inexpensive to produce, with three-inch-thick modular blocks made to be assembled any number of ways and then secured in place. The designs were simple, but elegant, with open car ports that took the place of garages and kitchens that found a place in living areas.

The Waltons hold an integral piece of the history of America’s mid-century homes. The impeccable design of the house is complemented by the interior decoration—delightfully modern art pieces with splashes of color and an abundance of natural light. This hidden gem is a truly wonderful Stanislaus County surprise, and one that we’re proud to have here.

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