Article: Goetsch-Winckler House - Okemos, MI

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jay
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Post by jay »

One criticism of Wright that I think is fair, is how his homes leave little decorative creativity to their occupants. Only particular types of people seem to be able to effectively marry their style with Wright's... I'm sympathetic to this homeowner, even though some of their personal touches seem out of place, in my opinion.

SDR
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Post by SDR »

And so we encounter the question "What is good (or, better) taste ?" But that's too big a chew, and anyway it overreaches if we're talking about just
one (modernist) designer. So, what's special about Wright when it comes to furnishing one of his buildings ?

Well, he's not just a credible modernist architect -- there are many of those. He's the American modern architect who, more than any other, populated
(and attempted to populate) his buildings with furnishings of his own design, thereby implying (and indeed, on occasion, stating) that in his mind his
furniture is more in keeping with his architecture than anyone else's could be.

Not that this is a world-shaking or unheard-of position -- it's just that Wright was somewhat more consistent in his performance here than others
were, and that he had quite a long career in which to carry out his program.

Those who come to Wright, today, are perhaps more likely to be informed about modernism, and thus to be more inclined to favor it in their
environment when given the choice -- because, once begun on the trip toward understanding art and design, its history and its progress, one is
likely to see modernism as the desirable conclusion (for the time being, anyway) to that history and thus preferable, all other things being equal, to any
previous "style" or mode.

So far so good. Then, there are the other components of the matter: spousal input, for instance. There's no law of nature that requires both
members of a partnership to have like opinions on every aspect of their lives, including how they want to live and what they're comfortable living
with.

I don't think that Wright's Usonians are too restrictive as to what seems to work within, aesthetically. We've seen Eames plywood dining chairs, as an
early example (Pew, Rosenbaum); we've seen Nakashima dining furniture, case pieces, and seating. It's even possible that home-made or generic
plain wood furniture has a place -- as that description loosely fits Wright's own pieces, with their exposed plywood edges, unembellished board shelves
and button-knobbed cabinetry.

And many Wright owners have introduced their own collections of decorative and functional objects. Perhaps the worst that could be said is that these
interiors have a way of honing one's preferences, of suggesting that some objects are more worthy -- more natural, simpler, more honest in their
craftsmanship and more sympathetic in their patterns or textures -- than others, leading sensitive owners to self-edit . . . one can hope. It happens in
some homes more than in others -- again, quite naturally.

SDR

Reidy
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Post by Reidy »

I agree with you about the furniture. Another point about these houses is that you can't easily hang pictures. The answer is that this is not the only way to appreciate pictures. You can take them out deliberately and make them the center of your attention rather than the background.

Ca. 1900 many homes had print tables for just this purpose, and Wright did several himself. The user would keep the prints in a collapsable table and take them out to enjoy them. The Japanese had a longer tradition of keeping their artwork in closed alcoves or in storage, rotating them in and out of the house.

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Yes -- the tokonoma. It's perhaps surprising that Wright didn't employ that device himself. I think he does, in describing his early houses, mention (as
you do) the temporary display of a select picture ?

I wonder if the use of a display easel is common in the home, anywhere in the world. But there's nothing to keep a Usonian owner from putting a small nail
into the joint between the board and the sunk batten -- or wedging a small block into a deeply-raked brick bed joint -- from which to hang a picture. A
small nail hole is less noticeable in a wooden wall than in a plaster one . . .

SDR

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

The difference is, in part, original vs subsequent owners. What many clients wanted was the whole ball of wax, the total FLW experience. Later owners brought their own sensibilities with them. Isn't that the way it is with every architect-designed house? Or even every house from a pattern book? A former owner of Schwartz had a Victorian Chesterfield in the living room, a choice FLW would never have approved of. Now it's gone. As long as the fabric of the structure remains, what's in it is not important.

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Not important ultimately, but potentially ruinous to photos, and to the experience of being in the space for those interested in "the total FLW experience" ?

"Naked" photos of Wright interiors show up, from time to time: I just came across eight color photos of the Millard residence (La Miniatura) in Weintraub's Lloyd Wright monograph. I would guess he came to the house when it was between owners . . .

SDR

DRN
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Post by DRN »

We've found objects with clean, preferably straight, lines look best in the Sweeton house. Wood objects, close in tonal value to the surrounding trim and plywood look best. Chrome looks out of place in the rooms. Some brushed stainless objects on the dining table or dining shelves look OK. Bold patterns are hit or miss, but usually miss. Large white objects look out of place...even matting in a picture frame. There are places for art in most Wright homes, just not many and they are often singular places in a room, like the Tokonoma SDR noted. Asian and Native art tends to work well in a Wright interior....the geometry, the simplicity? Not sure.

Most modernist interiors are visually neutral...gray, white, beige planes with large glass screens. Their interiors are not bristling with ordered regular patterns (boards and battens, panelized or directional board ceilings, deep red gridded floors) built-in furniture, or projected planes or surfaces. Most modernist interiors can accept a wide variety of objects because they are often as neutral as a museum gallery. Wright's interiors are not neutral, they are figural; they are themselves compositions rather than neutral containers. That is why they look good "naked" while other houses just look empty. Adding to a composition is tricky.

Wright's furniture is of a piece with his respective interiors. Even Wright of different periods can be odd to the eye in a given Wright interior. Pieces not of the house need to at least harmonize with it in a meaningful way and not try to strike out in too different a direction.

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

"Naked" is the way Sam Freeman liked his living room best. He said when he and Harriett moved into the house, they had only orange crates and boards to sit on, and the room looked its best. There may be no other room in FLW's history more figural than Freeman.

While FLW went the full Monty on his clients' behalf, remember that in his own living room in Wisc., there are department store chairs with Queen Anne feet.

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Heh. Well, if that's Wright's version of "the cobbler's children go barefoot," the rest of us can be excused. I'm certainly familiar with "my clients get the best,
I'll be satisfied with the rest" . . .

It's a relief to have at least one Wright devotee on record as preferring the empty room. I agree with DRN that the "figural" interiors of Wright's houses
call for restraint; what would you add to a virtually complete painting by a master ? "Nothing" is the right answer, it could be argued. Wright provided a
seat, a fire, a kitchen, a bath, and beds. Sometimes, bookshelves. Take it -- or not -- from there ?

SDR

SDR
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Post by SDR »

As if the simple but rich material palette of the Goetsch-Winckler house -- one of the finest of a rare breed: a house built
with identical materials and details, inside and out -- weren't enough, Wright contemplated a patterned board ceiling,
mitered at its corners, and figured perforated-board clerestories, on paper, before these were replaced before construction
by a plywood ceiling and plain glass throughout.




Image


Image


Image


Image


Image


Image

Alan Weintraub caught the house at an interesting moment. Published in 2007, in "FLW-MCM," the interior is so carefully curated as to appear monochromatic.

SDR

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Three photos published in the early 1990s.


One forgets that the glazed clerestory band extends more than three-quarters of the way around the room. And, looking toward the bedroom "tail," one would almost forget that it is there . . .



Image
© Balthazar Korab

And for our autophiles, there's THE photo, with XKE.




Then this visual treat; there's your figuration, plus juicy materiality ! Futagawa makes do -- almost -- with available light.


Image

© Yukio Futagawa

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

I don't mind that the perfs and patterned ceiling were not executed at G/W. There's something about this house that makes it even more basic and rough than Jacobs I. The main room looks more like an artist's studio than a sitting room, justifiably. The removal of the carpet greatly enhances the space.

DavidC
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Post by DavidC »

Perhaps part of the 'roughness' to the look of the interior is related to the brick: it wasn't laid uniformly - some stand slightly proud of others. Also, all of the mortar joints are flush - not raked horizontally, as would be expected.


David
Last edited by DavidC on Sat Feb 24, 2018 7:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

JChoate
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Post by JChoate »

that photo with the Jaguar is another THE photo. Little brother to THE Rosenbaum.
(If it doesn't already exist, a good thread would be photos of houses where interesting cars in the photo contribute.)

SDR
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Post by SDR »

The "rough" quality of some early Usonians is precisely what makes the work so poignant, because it is paired with exquisitely abstracted and diagrammatic
formal design. In photos, at least, I prefer these houses to the carefully-crafted and more "finished" ones of the 'fifties.




Baird represents another example of this "crude" brickwork.


Image




Like G-W, Lewis is built of Chicago Common brick, and likewise has essentially unraked mortar. Perhaps the "soft" and irregular edges of this brick wouldn't lend themselves to a deeply raked bed joint ?

Image

© Futagawa, early 'nineties.


SDR

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