Sara and Melvyn Maxwell Smith Residence (1946)

Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
HW #45

Sara and Melvyn and Maxwell Smith were both teachers, who fell in love with Wright’s Fallingwater. They both decided that they would live in a Wright home and took patience to do so. In 1941, they met with Wright in his Spring Green Studio. Then the war came, and delayed the project from 1942-1945, in which Melvin Maxwell served in the army. In the summer of 1946, soon after Maxwell’s return, they purchased a hilly land in Bloomfield Hills. After numerous consultation of ideas, Wright came up with the drawings and construction began. Budget was one of the biggest concerns for the two public school teachers. However, with Wright’s encouragement, Maxwell acted as his own contractor, which also allowed him to select skilled workers and set higher standards. Many workers were eager to work for a lower pay, because it was a Wright design. The passionate couple were finally able to attain their dream home with the help of family, friends, and admirers of the design. Much love has gone to this house, with Wright referring to it as “my little gem”, and holding its significance as a truly Usonian home for the common person.

The house is an L-shaped Usonian with its living spaces facing south, with views to a small pond in its back yard. The construction consists of brick and cypress board and reverse batten, and uses radiant floor heating and passive solar heating. The dramatic cantilevered roof presents strong horizontality, which is broken up by the verticality of the kitchen walls and chimney mass.