Prairie Style Design – Its Roots Run Deep

Prairie Style Design – Its Roots Run Deep

Prairie Style Design – Its Roots Run Deep

Generally, when you hear the term Prairie style or Prairie design, one prominent figure comes to mind: Frank Lloyd Wright. Perhaps not the originator of this particular school of architecture and design, Frank Lloyd Wright was arguably its most famous practitioner. A style and aesthetic that gained great momentum in the later 19th, early twentieth century, Prairie design was most notably associated with the American Midwest—where wide expanses of land, grass and trees gave birth to a form of architecture that borrowed heavily from this “plains” feel.

Today, the Prairie style has moved beyond just the Midwest and has taken hold all over the country. Design firms from San Diego to South Carolina, have embraced the horizontal lines, flat roofs and wide open interior spaces, often designed around a gigantic central fireplace structure.  Prairie architecture is featured now in cities as much as it is on more wide open landscapes. Classic Home Improvements has had the incredible fortune to be a part of some amazing Prairie inspired projects. From whole house renovations to additions, we’ve seen how deftly melding the natural world with the overall design and footprint of the home can lead to truly incredible results.

living area leading to bedroom area in cottage style housePrairie Architecture and the Legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright

Of course, most know who Frank Lloyd Wright was. Leaving his imprint upon American architecture, he truly helped herald in the era of the Prairie style. His work was inspired by the notion of organic architecture; that is to say, the design and the construction of the home needed to be a fluid, naturally occurring process almost. He saw the structure and the natural environment around it as one.

Some say that to Wright, the project was not simply about creating a home or building, it was about realizing a complete eco-system. House feeding off of land, the land in turn feeding off of the natural elements it contained. So what were some of the more notable hallmarks of Wright and the Prairie school of architecture’s general style…

  • Broad Spaces Versus Mere Rooms: For those who subscribed to Wright’s point of view, the interior also should mimic as best it could the exterior spaces. In the Midwest particularly, we’re looking at expansive plains, majestic landscapes, nature abounding. The rooms inside of the home therefore, should embody this same feel. You can clearly see this as great room flows into kitchen which flows into the dining room and so forth.


  • Structures That Were of the Landscape Not On It: Often, architects of this time period built homes that were truly at one with the natural world by literally becoming a part of their surroundings. Rather than sitting the residence atop a hill, they constructed the home within the actual hillside; thus, making it an organic extension of that landscape. In this way too, you craft a unique merger between the manmade and the natural. Fallingwater, arguably Wright’s most famous design, represents this union more so than perhaps any other Prairie inspired house.


  • Roots in Arts and Crafts: A great deal involved with the Prairie school of thought stemmed from the Arts and Crafts movement of the later 19th century in England. Focus tended to be on hand made, on genuine artifacts that represented craftsmanship. Many of the more intricate details associated with prairie design certainly speak to this Arts & Crafts mindset.


  • Flat, Low, Horizontal Lines: One of the true hallmarks of Prairie architecture, rooflines and building components composed of a series of flat, lower lying structures helped to more effectively mirror the environment in which a home was built. If we think of how gentle hills, flatlands, and valleys run into one another, we can see what inspired the shapes of some of the most prominent Prairie style homes. It was all about honoring the natural world through shape and structure.


  • Bringing the Outdoors In: Also in their quest to pay tribute to nature, Prairie architects created windows and openings that not only allowed for an abundance of natural light, but also actually helped to blend the interior spaces with the exterior. When dealing for instance with a home remodel design, these architects were able to configure ways in which they could add openings that would enhance the existing structure’s connection to the natural environment around it.


  • Maintaining the Integrity of the Materials: In Wright’s world, as well as others of this school, wood was wood and stone was stone. Drywall, plaster, paint and other such coverings and surfaces were used sparingly. They believed in the naturalness of the materials used and in emphasizing their organic quality, bringing yet another layer of the natural realm into the atmosphere of the house.

bright white kitchen and dining room with wood flooring with yellow seating areaAt Classic Home Improvements, we adore the Prairie style. Still today, it is a robust representation of the history of American architecture as well as helping point the way to some incredible future trends. Reinvented for this century, Prairie style design and architecture is making a huge impact on contemporary home construction. We would love to explore ways in which your next project, whether whole home remodel or brand new construction, might incorporate elements of this beloved school of classic design.

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