Home, Simplicity & Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright Robie House

“As we live and as we are, Simplicity – with a capital “S” – is difficult to comprehend nowadays. We are no longer truly simple. We no longer live in simple terms or places. Life is a more complex struggle now. It is now valiant to be simple: a courageous thing to even want to be simple. It is a spiritual thing to comprehend what simplicity means.”

-Frank Lloyd Wright

November 28, 2012, Washington, DC: I paid my first visit to a Frank Lloyd Wright house on Saturday. We just so happened to drive by the Robie House on Chicago’s South Side on a cold afternoon with time to spare. It probably won’t surprise you that I wandered inside and signed up for a tour.

What we’d signed up for, actually, was a perfectly timed reminder about simplicity on the advent of a season that quickly overflows with clutter.

And so it begins again — the lights, the ornaments, the music, the anticipation of a winter break. I love all of it, and I loved being in Chicago over the weekend to watch the season shift. But this is the time of year when clutter begins again too. We heave boxes down from the attic, dumping a layer of dust along with them. We rearrange the living room to make room for a tree.

Safe to say Frank Lloyd Wright had no tolerance for a cluttered home. As reflected in the Robie House, the legendary architect streamlined his creations and stripped his houses down to their cleanest lines. Built-in benches, cabinets and furniture designed specifically for the space were created to prevent additional furniture from creeping in. The lines of the home’s bricks mimicked the horizontal lines of the prairie once visible just outside the home’s southern windows. Every space and feature is of use, every detail a reflection of values. Wright ensured we walk through the Robie House experiencing a series of deliberate transitions, making three right turns into the front door, followed by three left turns up its staircase into the main living space. He intended for visitors to anticipate and then unwind, to compress and then expand into his work of art.

It is through this space that we moved Saturday, listening to stories of Wright’s purposeful efforts to achieve what he called organic simplicity. “Organic architecture seeks superior sense of use and a finer sense of comfort, expressed in organic simplicity,” he said.

“To know what to leave out and what to put in, just where and just how—Ah, that is to have been educated in the knowledge of Simplicity.”

Do you strive to achieve simplicity in your home? Is it a challenge to fend off clutter during the holiday season? Do you agree with Frank Lloyd Wright that “we no longer live in simple terms or places?” 

Frank Lloyd Wright Robie House

Frank Lloyd Wright Robie House

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2 thoughts on “Home, Simplicity & Frank Lloyd Wright

  1. I went on that tour while living in chicago and really enjoyed it. Then read Loving Frank and The Women (?) about the great loves of his life. both highly recommended. I tried to pare down all my belongings and tendency to clutter things up in this apartment (although you might not know that to see it). I think it feels nicer, esp after coming in off the busy city streets.

    glad you had a good trip to chicago! when is the next nyc venture?

  2. Pingback: Tiny Houses & The Culture of Stuff

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