Preservation… The “Wright” Way

Natural light filters through slit windows, imbued with additional texture from a wooden sconce.

Natural light filters through slit windows, imbued with additional texture from a wooden sconce.

When viewed from above, facing downriver, the shape of the house hints at the prow of a ship.

When viewed from above, facing downriver, the shape of the house hints at the prow of a ship.

The half-moon space overlooking the Potomac includes glass curtain walls that Wright favored greatly over traditional siding.

The half-moon space overlooking the Potomac includes glass curtain walls that Wright favored greatly over traditional siding.

The entire building is only 2,600 sq. feet, and it is one of a series of low-slung cinderblock houses that Wright designed, which have come to be known as Usonian homes. Upon arrival flat copper roof is striking; the unassuming entryway leads up a few steps to reveal a classic “breathtaker”: a half-moon of perfect Brazilian rosewood that stretches 80-feet, with floor to ceiling windows along the entire vista. The central living area is anchored by huge stone fireplace, and nearby, a shallow bed of river stones serves as a constant reminder of the bond that exists between the dwelling and the river it overlooks. On the opposite side of the house the master bedroom offers an uninterrupted view up the hillside. The majority of the furnishings throughout the house are Wright-designed, and they include a beautiful reading armchair and a sofa that would look perfectly at home today in a chic SoHo loft.

One of the most interesting characteristics of the residence is that unlike most Frank Lloyd Wright houses open to public view, the Mardens did not abide by Wright’s ideal vision of absolutely minimalist interiors, during the nearly 50 years they lived here. Instead, they used the myriad surfaces and alcoves in the house to display a fascinating collection of art and artifacts. The result of their unique taste is that the house is a strikingly self-assured combination of Wright’s iconic furnishings and the Mardens objects d’art.

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