One of a Kind
Photographs by Jon Cancelino
Chicago pink brick, unstained Honduran mahogany, Cherokee red concrete tile floors, and at one with nature. Sound familiar? Frank Lloyd Wright’s signature elements remain aesthetically pure and unadulterated in the only Wright home ever built in Lake Forest.
Frank and Megan Beidler purchased the home in 2007. A fourth-generation Lake Forester, Frank and wife Megan, then an architect at Smith Gill, recognized the rare and well-restored Wright home during a casual walk. They immediately fell in love with and purchased the house.
Considered one of Wright’s Usonian style homes and located on a ravine off of Mayflower Road, this particular house was commissioned in 1951 and completed in 1954 by Charles Glore, Jr., son of a successful Chicago investment banker. Wright first conceived the Usonian concept in the 1930s with the intention that the end result be highly practical and affordable houses for middle-class clients. Wright based the designs on a simple but elegant geometry, creating non-symmetrical structures with his use of 30, 60, and 120 degree angles—never 90 degree angles, also Usonian houses mostly feature flat roofs without basements or attics, a feat Wright had been attempting since the early 20th century.
The kitchens, called “workspaces” by Wright, are small and efficient and adjoin the dining spaces. These spaces seamlessly flow into the main living areas, which are characteristically outfitted with built-in seating and tables. The concept of spaces, not rooms, is a development of the Prairie ideal, as the built-in furnishings relate to the Arts and Crafts principles from which Wright’s early works grew. He is credited as an early pioneer of open floor plans and the Modernist architectural movement.
“The windows are a screen to the outside,” says Megan. Wright believed that one of the most valuable inventions of the early 20th century was the mechanization of the glass industry, which created the ability to make very large panes of glass. It fit well with Wright’s philosophy of organic architecture; that is, making the home an integral element of the whole. The windows accomplished this by allowing interaction and viewing of the outdoors from within. In 1928, Wright wrote an essay comparing glass to mirrors of nature—lakes, rivers, and ponds.
His houses from that point on make mighty use of such “windows to nature,” both in large common spaces as well as studios and bedrooms. But he was also fond of using porthole-like windows in certain areas. In the entry hallway of the Beidler's home, these portholes are intended to create a more subdued atmosphere, dramatizing the abundant natural light and space of the main living area. This particular home is one of Wright’s few houses with a two-story living room. And, “Wright’s prescribed cream colored carpets and walls enable the eye to see two planes to the outside without distraction,” explains Megan. Much of modern architecture, including the early work of Mies van der Rohe, can be traced back to Wright’s innovative work.
One side of the entry hall boasts an immediate focal point: the suspended floating staircase. Supported by a brick wall and metal beams, it is a visual and structural feat that defies gravity. The opposite side of the hall is flanked by an abundant row of bookshelves over which the porthole windows preside. Wright’s frequent use of built-ins was intended to function as integral parts of the whole design. These included custom made purpose-built furniture and storage closets.
A self-confessed Frank Lloyd Wright buff, Frank Beidler often gets lost in his library of Wright books on the iconic architect. Frank comments on “the whimsy” in Wright’s designs. “Kids often respond to these houses as intensely as adults,” he says. “When my cousin Riley (age 9) first saw the house, she said with awe, ‘This is the coolest tree house I’ve ever seen!’”
Another signature Wright feature was his design of an exclusive and unique family pattern to be used in detail work throughout that house. Patterns usually incorporated triangles, squares, and circles. The Glore pattern features a geometric pattern reminiscent of a ship. The ornamental pattern serves as a coordinated design element throughout the home, used over windows, within the woodwork of doors, and as an artful yet subtle adornment for windows and cabinetry in the upstairs hall and bedrooms. A loft from the upstairs hall, equipped with shutter-like doors, opens out to the great room below.
Over the years, the Glore home housed multiple owners, stood vacant at times, and fell into disrepair in the 1970s. The couple who purchased it in 1999 lovingly restored the home, making some additions and renovations that uphold Wright’s signature elements of the original home. Chicago architect Paul Harding won a restoration award in 2000 for this work.
The Glore house is featured in many books on Wright, including Frank Lloyd Wright, Year By Year, by Iain Thomson (PRC Publishing, 2003). One of the two pictures of the home features a panoramic view from the outside lawn that offers a true appreciation for the ratio of glass to wood that surrounds the two-story main living space. An aerial view of the gable-roofed structure gives a sense of the careful placement of the home within its natural surroundings. It seems to “fit” perfectly, like the piece of a puzzle finding its rightful place within the greater whole.
Looking through a few of his Wright books, Frank mentions the William J. Vanderkloot “summer rental” bungalow. Built in 1916, it is Wright’s only house in Lake Bluff. It is a rare privilege to walk through a Frank Lloyd Wright home to experience the architect and his vision, and to feel the man’s passion for and steadfast devotion to this vision.