Meyer May Residence (1908)
Grand Rapids, Michigan
The house was built in around 1910 for the May family in Portland. After Wright’s death, the owners had made additions to the house to accommodate the growing needs of the family. After the original owners had moved out and time had passed, the house started to deteriorate and when the Frank Lloyd Wright Conservancy had claimed it and took on the initiative to restore it, the house was in terrible condition. However, through the guidance of the original blueprints and pictures of the house from the daughter, they were able to restore the house and furniture to its 1910 condition. Restoring the house to this date meant that the later addition by the owners had to be torn down. Instead of discarding of the materials, they reused it to replace damaged brick walls and windows. The house was also returned back to its original, L plan.
Sagging roofs are one of the major problems in Wright’s buildings, and the original wooden beams were replaced with a steel roof structure using a truss system. The manufacturer that provided the roof shillings were still in business, so they ordered the exact same tiles that Wright had ordered for the house in 1910.
I particularly liked this house because the unusual ornamentation bring to the house a bohemian feel. The elaborate geometric patterns on the windows suggest the shape of a flower. From the interior, the calm, linear linings of wood seem to complement the complicated patterns and stark brightness from the windows with a soothing effect. While on the rest of the brick walls, the mortar is raked in horizontally and filled in vertically, the fireplace gets a special treatment with gold lining filled in the horizontally raked mortar.
As the house definitely stands out now, imagine how odd and audacious it was in the 1910’s. However, despite its unique quality that had the neighbors talking, the privacy of the users were kept well intact. The entry doorway is well hidden on the side of the house. The art glass windows are recessed in between the extruded brick pillars and the overhang, so that it restricts public views into the house, but allows for views from inside out.