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Monday, April 4, 2011

Frank Lloyd Wright's Penfield House

We had the thrilling pleasure of staying a few days at Frank Lloyd Wright's Penfield House in Willoughby Hills, Ohio (visit to book reservations!). It was early November and the crisp autumn air happily required a glowing fire in the large centrally-located fireplace. The house is on acres of land with trees and clearings for walks and views of the Chagrin River. Nature sets the stage as you (the audience) watch through floor-to-ceiling windows/doors from the comfort of the built-in Living Room bench. You are surrounded by various fall colors visible through the many windows in every room. The view of trees from the 2nd story bedroom invokes a treehouse feel -- that you're a part of the landscape, not separate from it. You "float" up to the 2nd floor by wood stair treads with open risers so as not to obstruct views (see photos below).

Louis Penfield was 6'-8" and so the house has taller ceilings and is more vertical than the infamous low-ceilinged horizontality of Wright's other work. When asked if he could design a house for someone so tall, Wright replied, "Yes, but we'll have to design a machine to tip you sideways first." The wood post supports harmonize with the verticality of the multiple tree trunks around the house. This consistent structural system is clearly expressed throughout the house, with solid or glass infill panels as screens defining space.

Overall the house is a pure joy to experience. It's like nothing else, and you never want to leave its serenity and beauty. It allows you to slow down and relax into your natural, biological rhythm. I encourage everyone to visit, but beware, you'll miss it, and you will never look at your current home the same way.

See my February 11, 2011 blog on "Frank Lloyd Wright's Palmer House" for another truly unique experience!