Friday, October 16, 2009

Fallingwater

Last weekend I toured Fallingwater, the famous Frank Lloyd Wright designed country house for Edgar J. Kaufmann, Sr while in Western Pennsylvania. This is the famous view as seen from across the waterfall. I hadn't visited in a few years and was hit again by how modern this house really is: hard to believe it was designed in 1934. Edgar Kaufmann Jr. was studying with Frank LLoyd Wright (a low point of FLW's career where he taught to make ends meet) and convinced his parents to hire him to build a country house on their land in Bear Run, PA. The highlight of the land was a beautiful waterfall and Wright ingeniously recommended building ON the falls rather than facing them (the common approach). The Kaufmann's would escape here with friends or alone for years: lots of parties and drama, trust me! The commission revived Frank Lloyd Wright's career, even making the cover of Time magazine shortly after it was completed. Not bad for a private country house!
The living room connects you to the outside in many ways. You can hear the falls situated right right underneath, as seen below. The natural stone walls and flooring also connect you to the site as do the large open expanses of windows.
Numerous seating areas in this large entertaining space make for a great party room. The house is much smaller than you would think, about 2,500 sf, and this is the only public space. A very modern idea which many of us have in our own homes, one room for living room, den & dining room.
The Kaufmann's must have really kept Tiffany's in business. The house is littered with beautiful objects such as these bowls on the low tables in the sitting area.Unfortunately, an overly zealous maid had attacked them with a brillo pad, scrubbing the gilding off!
The falls are connected to the living room directly with a set of stairs which take you down to the stream right before the waterfall. The windows telescope back allowing access.One of the nicest features is that the house is set up as if the Kaufmann's might walk in at any moment with many personal items and fresh flowers in every room. As air conditioning was rare in 1934, cross ventilation was extremely important, even in the mountains of Pennsylvania. In the guest room on the 2nd floor, these small windows are located above the bed along with a large wall of glass facing south.Even Mrs. Kaufmann's bathroom is set up as if in use: much of this beautiful glass is from lalique. Extraordinary! Love the planters screening the bathroom from the master bedroom's terrace.More Tiffany pieces on Mrs. Kaufmann's dressing table.The lamp seen here on Mr. Kaufmann's nightstand is located throughout the house and was designed by FLW for the house. They're available for purchase in the giftshop: I was so tempted!!Mr. Kaufmann's desk in his bedroom (yes, seperate his and her bedrooms) had fresh flowers and a Tiffany inkwell: the most important thing to note is the notch in the desk to allow the window to open bringing in the sound of the falls.One of the most noted features of the home are the linen shelves with reeding to allow air to circulate: I wish I had this at home!Mrs. Kaufmann sadly committed suicide here at the house but her memory lives on. Besides being buried here with her husband, this photo of her with fresh flowers lies in her son's 3rd floor bedroom.My favorite part of the house is probably the ascent to the guest house, built a few years after the house which contains additional guest & servant quarters along with a carport.
The path of stairs is covered with this cantilevered roof which is really breathtaking: A true structural feat!The guest sitting room is really comfortable and as beautiful as the main house. One bonus feature is the taller ceiling! Additional guests could sleep on the built in sofa along the window wall as well as in the guest bedroom next door which housed many famous luminaries of the day, including Einstein.

Edgar Kaufmann, Jr realized the importance of this house and donated it to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy in October, 1963 after his parents deaths. He remained an active supporter of the museum till his death when his ashes were strewn over the grounds, near his parents.

21 comments:

Habitually Chic said...

I am so grateful that my family lives one hour away from this magical place! I've seen it twice and have been amzed by it both times! I'm so glad you enjoyed it too! I think every architect and designer should make a pilgrimage to Fallingwater!

Kwana said...

What a beautiful and tranquil home. I'd love to be able to spend some time there just meditating.

Terry said...

We only see the iconic photos. It's great to see some evidence of human occupation. Thanks so much.

columnist said...

Such a great time of year to go, with the beautiful autumnal colours.

pve design said...

I toured Falling Waters when I was in college (with my first beau) and I remember it like yesterday. I want to take my children. There are so many similarities with our home. I love those swivel lamps. Another fabulous post.
You really should be next on the Skirted Round Table.
A pod cast with you would be wonderful.
pve

VictoriaArt said...

What a great tour. FLW was so incredibly gifted. I have read some of the lately published books about his private live (plenty of drama too), but know his work only from catalogs and the Metropolitan Museum.
This is wonderful. A inspiration to travel...
Love all your insights,thank you!

home before dark said...

Love that cantilevered roof/staircase and the reeded shelves. I've never been a gaga fan of FLW, but your affection shines through. Wonder about Mrs. K's suicide here. What was the story on that?

Windlost said...

What a wonderful tour and a fascinating home. I can't imagine hearing that waterfall all the time - I love the sounds of water. Wonder if it would make you mad after a while? I had heard of the house but did not know much about it, so thanks for the wonderful introduction!

Haven on Hanover said...

Wow - I've been to the house several times and never knew that Mrs.Kaufman committed suicide there. How sad. Maybe the sound of the falls could drive you crazy!! You've really captured the feeling of it in your photos - how lucky you were to see it in the fall. Thanks!

Cote de Texas said...

You are such a good tour guide - I felt like I was there! that picture of the house over the waterfall = it truly does look like that? you know how you see pictures of something and then in real life, it's not quite the same - but your picture shows how beautiful it truly must be = the landscaping only is incredible. I would love to see it in person one day. can you seen that view from the guest house? that is what i would have done = built it so that i could escape and look at the house from that vantage point - can you imagine? I probably would never go back into the big house!!

wonderful wonderful post!!

Renee Finberg said...

a must see for me !!
S - :)
i have always wanted to see this place.
you have taken such incredible shots...now i definitely need to be there and FEEL IT!
xx

Merilin said...

I've never been there unfortunatelly but I guess it really is a must-see. Thank you for this detailed post!:)

Lenore Eisner said...

Really nice post! It brought back fond memories. It's definitely worth another visit back there. A visitor can feel inspired, respectful and balanced there, just like the dwellings intention.

Laura Casey Interiors said...

One of my favorite spots by one of my favorite architects. great post.

Debra Healy said...

What an amazing site. Was Wright the first to use cast concrete like that? To cantilever the terraces out over the water, It is simply breathtaking . The fall leaves look so lovely, What a nice time of year to visit that part of the country.

Semigloss Chic said...

What a great tour. I also have been and didn't know she committed suicide there. I think I could stare out at that scenery all day and never want for anything more.

Landscape Designer said...

Stefan this is such a wonderful post. What I admire so much about FLW is that his houses are one with their suroundings. In this case the cantilevered balconies look like an extention of the waterfall. Just genius!
Sandra Jonas

Lady San Pedro said...

Oh my god! I read about this place in my old Childcraft book back when I was a little girl!

So amazing to stumble upon it now and see that its still well-maintained up to this day!

Michelle said...

I love the stories of Fallingwater...never been, but Taliesen West was wonderful.

to be part of the waterfall instead of looking at it is one of my favs.

Best,
Michelle

Rose C'est La Vie said...

Thanks for great photos and insight into this iconic house I've always loved. How strange that such an idyllic location bears the sadness of Mrs. K's suicide.

Russ Manley said...

Great pictures, thanks for sharing these. I'd seen the standard exterior photo before, of course, but never knew how nicely the house was decorated inside. Neat stuff.