The best part about summer….Road Trips!! Destination, Grand Rapids Michigan!!
Our day began in the Heritage Hills Historic District of Grand Rapids, at 450 Madison Avenue, at the Meyer May house. What makes this house so special? It was designed by the famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright in 1909.
It is called the Meyer May house because that is who the structure was initially designed for, a wealthy clothier in Grand Rapids and his family. What is really interesting about the house is that even though it was built over a century ago it doesn’t resemble the “typical” style of the 1900s. That is thanks to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie style architecture which was the first uniquely American architectural style. The Prairie style was inspired by the Midwest with its broad flat landscapes and focused more on space, patterns, form, and lines, such a dramatic shift from what the “typical” style was of the time. So much so that Mr. May’s children were called “odd” thanks to the odd house they lived in. Back then most homes resembled a Victorian style and were highly decorative and ostentatious.
The Meyer May house is now owned by Steelcase and thanks to their funding and the time, research and meticulous detail of many professionals the Meyer May house has been restored to its original design after years of neglect including an addition to the original structure (which was removed), modifications (including lifting the entire roof and adding steel supports in order to restore the roofs cantilever design), etc. It truly pays homage to Wright’s original design. And is such a magnificent gift to the public. The viewing of the film and tour of the house are FREE!!!
As an Interior Designer one of my fascinations with Frank Lloyd Wright is that he extended his work beyond the architecture, he designed the furniture, carpeting, stain glass windows, beds, toys for the children, etc. He truly encompassed the Arts and Crafts movement.
Wright described his goal as such: “To thus make of a dwelling place a complete work of art… this is the modern American opportunity.”
It just fascinates me how he took meticulous care of detail in both the architecture and interior design. His use of scale and proportion can be noted throughout but two significant areas of the house that really stood out for me were the entrance and the master bedroom. The entrance was so tiny (to small to get a proper photograph), in fact the tour guide compared it to the entrance of a cave, I know I was experiencing a bit of claustrophobia when I entered. But then it gives way to this huge space, or does it?
The grandeur of the space is mostly due to the fact that the entrance was so tiny and enclosed. The master bedroom also plays a visual illusion on the occupant thanks to the cantilevered roof it has a protruding window and large window box in addition to a higher ceiling that provides this sense of stateliness when in fact the square footage isn’t that big.
Also his careful use of lines, form, space, shape, and light add to the optical illusion of the interior. His tactful use of positive space and negative space inspires me. He manages to have a barrier between one space and the next yet also utilize daylighting thanks to his careful placement of lines.
He also seems to be obsessed with shape, particularly the circle within a square form; it can be seen quite frequently throughout the house.
I could have spent hours in each room meticulously analyzing every angle, piece of furniture, placement of glass, etc. but the tour guide would not allow it.
Which is why I am so thankful that the tours are free and the house isn’t located to far from home, thus, I am totally going back!! Though I shall forever treasure the first time I toured the house with my architects, my father & brother (who are both architects, what can I say, it runs in the family).
But wait, our day in Grand Rapids Michigan isn’t over yet!! Wait to you hear about where we ate! And where we enjoyed the perfect cappuccino! More to come soon…stay tuned!