Design and Decor Lessons from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Meyer May House

Trying to discuss and convey the influence, importance, and the style of an architect like Frank Lloyd Wright is the work of biographers, not bloggers. There’s no possible way to do any justice at all to the man in a few short paragraphs. But after a trip to the Meyer May House in Grand Rapids, Michigan, I find myself wanting to give it a try.

The Meyer May House, located at 450 Madison Ave SE in Grand Rapids, was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for Meyer May and his family in 1908 and construction was completed the following year.

In 1985, a major restoration was begun and by 1987 the home had been meticulously restored to Wright’s original vision. Today, it’s open to the public for free tours and is truly a great experience. Knowledgeable guides lead you through the home, pointing out every detail that Wright incorporated into his design. When the tour ends, you’re left with a better understanding of the architect’s brilliance.

If you’re not familiar, Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural style was all about horizontal lines, simplicity, and a desire to integrate the home with the environment. His designs are marked by simplicity in design and decoration (yes, he was involved in everything that went into the home). The structures were noted for pronounced horizontal lines and flat or low hip roofs. This style came to be known as Prairie Style Architecture and the Meyer May House is a perfect example.

Recently we toured it and were struck by the foresight and thought and the beautiful design work that went into the project. And while there are literally hundreds of “lessons” or ideas to take from the home, here are a few concepts we came away with that can be applied in any of our homes!

LESSON 1: It’s OK to Buck the Trends!

So often, we want to be “trending”. We want to be right in line with what other people are doing. It’s more comfortable there sometimes. But, Wright completely ignored trends and worries about “what was popular” when he designed his homes. In fact, almost everything about the Meyer May House bucks the trends. It’s completely unique in the neighborhood. The houses around it (many of which were already standing when construction began in 1908) are all ornate, “boxy” homes. Traditional homes. The kind of homes everyone built.

And then there’s the Meyer May House with a style and flair all its own. It’s long horizontal lines, low, flat roofs and modern feel must have seemed strange in that neighborhood all those years ago. Not to mention the way it’s set on a lower grade than the street so that it actually seems to rise from the earth organically! Look for the front door all you want, but you’ll never see it from the street. It’s tucked away along the side of the home. There’s a beautiful veranda that can be seen from the street, but oddly enough, there’s no approach! A line of hedges seals that front porch off from uninvited guests.

The exterior is definitely unique in that neighborhood, but even more interesting (in our opinion) is the interior. Wright designed this home specifically for the Meyer May family. The ceilings are low (Meyer May was 5′ 8.5″ tall) and the furniture (designed by Wright as well) is made for people of that height. The windows are set lower than you might think. In fact, everything about the house is designed specifically for the Meyer May family. We even noticed on our tour that taller people felt much less comfortable there than those of us closer to Meyer May’s “near perfect” height! And that’s perfectly fine! Taller people don’t feel at home there because, in Wright’s estimation, they shouldn’t: it was not their home. This home belonged to Meyer May and his family. And as such, it was built for them specifically–not for anyone else. The main priority was comfort for the family who lived there.

And that’s a great decorating point! So often we choose colors based on trends. We wonder what’s popular, what’s “in”, what’s cool. We worry what other people will say about colors we select. We’ve all been there. We’ve all picked a color for a room and shared it with someone in the family (or a decorating-savvy friend) only to watch that friend wrinkle her nose and make a face of complete distaste. “You can’t use that color! You’ll be stuck in the 70’s forever if you do!” In the end, we often decorate our home to match tastes other than our own!

Taking advice and second guessing our original thoughts isn’t a bad plan. Just remember that the home you’re decorating is your home! Just as Frank Lloyd Wright didn’t think twice about designing a room with low ceilings, neither should you worry too much about choosing colors you love just because they’re not current or popular. If you love them, that’s what matters. It’s not about what designers say or decorators recommend. It’s not about what’s currently trending or popular. It’s not about Benjamin Moore’s Color of the Year. All of that is interesting and helpful, but in the end, it’s all about what colors you like!

So, design and decorate your home first and foremost with you and your family in mind. That’s the first point. We’ll get to the next one tomorrow!

EP56 – April 28, 2018: Fire Safety, Troubleshooting a Leaky Sink, Painting Rusty Metal

 

Today we sit down with Holland’s new Fire Marshal, Bret Groendyke to talk about fire safety. According to recent statistics, the number of fire deaths among people 60 and over is rising. We discuss why that could be happening and what we can do about it. We also talk about how to troubleshoot a leak under a kitchen sink, and how to paint a metal fence so you have perfect results every time!

Listen here:

Show notes for episode 056:

We are hoping this PSA saves lives. Or at least starts us on the way. We came across an alarming statistic that says 40% of fire deaths are those over 60. And that number is climbing. The great thing is, there are things we can do for ourselves, our loved ones, and our neighbors to bring this number back down.

We are lucky enough to be joined in the studio by Holland's new Fire Marshal, Bret Groendyke. Bret's goal is to make people aware of simple things most of us have never thought about, that can actually save lives in the event of a fire. We didn't know there is actually maintenance that has to be done on a smoke detector. These segments are absolutely worth a listen!

Ok, we've all been there, right? We pull the trash can from under the sink and the trash is actually floating. We are instantly filled with dread and terror. How did this happen?!?! Where did all this water come from?!?! How much is this going to cost???

Well, we know the water came from somewhere in the sink area.....obviously. But we don't know specifically where. We are left wising we could figure out what's going on, without calling the plumber. Maybe it's an easy fix. And when the plumber comes and tells us how simple the problem is, we feel a bit foolish.

So we decided to take matters into our own hands and give you a few ways you can troubleshoot the problem, before calling the plumber. Maybe you can fix it, maybe you can't. But you certainly feel good knowing you identified the problem on your own!

We got a great questions from a listen about painting a rusty steel fence. He is replacing the posts with wood but something HAS to be done with the steel. He'd like a paint solution and, of course, we have a great one! It's a solution that can be used with almost any steel you would want to paint.

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EP55 – April 21, 2018: Silicone Caulk, GFCIs, and Thomas Jefferson: Interior Designer

This show has a little of everything! We talk about GFCIs and why those little buttons should actually be used. We talk about a couple new electrical gadgets. And one will save you money if you have kids! And because Dan needs his own segment, we have a great one called Use With Caution. And finally, we are airing the last segment from last week because it didn’t air due to technical difficulties. It was too good to let slip by!

Listen here:

Show notes for episode 055:

Betsy has her own segment so it's only fair that Dan should have his own, right? That's why we are introducing a new segment, very appropriately named, "Use With Caution!"

In this segment we tackle silicone caulk. A lot of people think caulk is just caulk and that the more water resistant it is, the better. However, we recommend using it with caution for a reason! If you use it for the wrong application, the consequences can be almost tragic.

We might not all know that GFCI outlets can actually save our lives. Any place that has water present should have them. We also might not be aware that those little buttons in the middle of the outlet should actually be pushed regularly to test the outlet.

In the studio with us to explain the finer points of GFCIs is Brad Krause, Master Electrician and owner of Service Professor. And don't think they only do electrical! They do everything from heating and cooling, plumbing, and electrical to air duct cleaning (that's duct NOT duck!). And they have outstanding customer service. There's a reason these guys (and ladies) get stellar reviews!

Last week we had some "technical difficulties" and segment 4 didn't air. The problem is, the segment was too good for people NOT to hear it! Who knew that Thomas Jefferson was such an amazing interior decorator?!

EP54 – April 14, 2018: Home Repair Services, Solving Paint Problems with the Right Info, and Thomas Jefferson: Interior Designer

Today we interview Joel Ruiter from Home Repair Services in Grand Rapids. It’s a remarkably non-profit organization who’s mission is to help homeowners of all income brackets maintain and improve their homes! We’ll also be talking with RepcoLite’s president, Dan Altena, regarding a paint question that came in on our Facebook page. And finally, we’ll wrap up with a little decorating segment built around our 3rd President, Thomas Jefferson!

Listen here:

Show notes for episode 054:

Joel Ruiter, the Executive Director of Home Repair Services, stops by to talk about just one of the many programs they offer: the Remodeling Together program. It's an incredibly unique (and almost too-good-to-be-true) program that helps homeowners install brand new kitchen cabinets and counters in their home for as little as $1300! If you're in Kent county, you NEED to check out this segment!

And just to give you a taste of what they can help you do, here are a couple of before and after shots of regular folks who updated their kitchens:

Sometimes a paint problem is straightforward. The answer is clear. However, there are other times when a wide variety of causes could be at the root of the issue!

When that's the case, we need as much information as possible to help you find a resolution. Today, we're joined in the studio by Dan Altena, president of RepcoLite Paints, to discuss just what information you should bring with you to the paint store whenever a frustrating problem arises!

Spring is apparently never coming. And so we decided to talk about the perfect color to add some warmth and energy to your walls! Interestingly enough, Thomas Jefferson looms large in this talk about yellow!

Yellow Inspired By Thomas Jefferson

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EP35 – December 2, 2017: Kitchen Trends that Last, Head Lice 101, The Perfect Workshop, Dealing with Ice Dams!

 

Kitchen renovations are expensive. But if they’re done right, they’re worth it. Just make sure you do it right! Today we talk about some kitchen trends that always work! We also dig into the creepy, crawly topic of head lice. Sure, we didn’t want to talk about the, but if you’ve got school-age children, there’s a good chance you’ll be dealing with the stress of head lice in a classroom. When that happens, it’s good to know what you’re up against and how to protect your family! That and more on this episode!

Listen here:

Show notes for episode 035:

A kitchen update or renovation is expensive. However, if we do it right, the benefits will outweigh the costs. And if we do it right, we could even recoup nearly 70% of our investment if we'd sell. But...we've got to do it right! And with all the choices and decisions to make, it's easy to make a mistake along the way.

One of the most common mistakes people make in a kitchen is to get drawn into trends and fads--items and colors and styles that are new, unique, interesting...but which have limited staying power over the years!

On this segment, we talk about some tried and true kitchen trends that will never go out of style! Choose these items, these colors, these styles, and you won't be looking back 2 years from now wondering what you were thinking!

Well, this is a topic guaranteed to have you scratching your head. As unappealing as they are, head lice are worth talking about.

On this segment, we bust some common "Lice Myths" and then move on to provide you with a handful of preventative measures--little things you can do to keep your kids lice-free this school year!

Years ago Dan painted the dirty concrete floor of an old basement room. What started as a simple job turned into a full room repaint and resulted in a workroom anyone could be proud of! And, best of all, the new room also brought about a surprising effect: Dan spent a lot more time there, working on projects, learning how to do new things, getting more done. All because the room was enjoyable.

No matter how much work you do with tools, every home needs a good workshop. And the good news is that a great workshop is EASY to create. You just need the right paint and the right stain on the right surfaces!

So, in this segment, we talk about the products you'll need to make the perfect workshop in your own home!

Benjamin Moore's Scuff-X is Magic!

Every winter, ice dams become a problem for many homeowners. In this episode, we talk about why they form and then give you a couple ways to deal with them: solve them, or fix them as they arise. Both approaches have their place depending upon your situation.

Now, there were a lot of things we said we'd link to in these notes. Here it all is:

Insulation

We mentioned a chart to determine the R-Value of the insulation in your attic. We've got it below along with a couple of articles that are worth checking out.
  • Fiberglass (blown): 2.2 – 2.9
  • Fiberglass (batts): 2.9 – 3.8
  • Cellulose (blown): 3.1 – 3.8
  • Rock Wool (loose): 2.2 – 3.3
  • Foam (sprayed): 3.6 – 8.2
Just measure the depth of your insulation, determine the material and the multiplier, and do the math! And here's an article highlighting how much insulation you should have.

Avalanche Roof Rakes

I've used a lot of different roof rakes as a homeowner and this is EASILY my favorite. You push the "rake" up the roof and it rolls on wheels, cutting the snow. Huge pieces then fall off your roof, sliding down the big plastic chute!

Sure, it takes some getting used to and yes, it's still work...but it's significantly better than any other rake I've ever used. And it's easier on the roof at that!

And below, in all it's glory, is the video Betsy referenced in the show.

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EP34 – November 25, 2017: Stress-Free Holiday Decorating, Safety Tips from Holland DPS, and Drywall Patching and Touch-Up Tips!

 

Every day seems to bring new scam and fraud alerts. The news outlets tell us to be careful with our credit cards and identity. Facebook is full of posts warning us about some new scam that has us on edge every time we go to our inbox. That’s why we contacted the Holland Department of Public Safety. They will help us know what to look for, how to stay safe while out Christmas shopping, and a few other things many listeners probably don’t know. Their goal is to keep us safe so we can all have a Merry Christmas season.

Listen here:

Show notes for episode 034:

Christmas decorating can be very stressful. It can also seem stale. All too often we get stuck in a rut of putting the same decorations in the same spot year after year. If this sounds like you, maybe this is the year to try something different. Maybe it's the year to go "Scandinavian." Now this doesn't mean go out and buy all new decorations and take up new traditions. It simply means to scale down what you are doing. And, if you happen to be selling your house, this is the perfect way to highlight your home's best features while still having that Christmas feeling.
Every time we turn on the news, pick up a paper, or check Facebook, there seems to be a scam or fraud warning. Are they really something to worry about or just a lot of hype? It's the Christmas shopping season and we want to be sure that all of our listeners are safe at home, as well as when they leave the house. We sat down with Officer Dan Keuning and Officer Adam Sokolove of the Holland Department of Public Safety to get their thoughts on these warnings. They also have some ways to keep our homes and property safe while we enjoy all the season's festivities.
Officer Dan Keuning and Officer Adam Sokolove in our studio! Thanks for stopping by!
Do you have a wall in your home that has a hole from that time last year when the kids decided it would be a GOOD idea to play catch in the house?? Are you concerned that no matter how hard you try, everyone will be able to tell where you made the attempt to patch and paint the wall? We've been there before. We've left the hole because we simply didn't know how to fix it and have it blend in. We've got the tips on how to properly patch that hole in the drywall and then touch-up the paint so no one will ever know what happened. And if you teach the kids how to do this, you'll never need to know about another hole in the wall ever again!

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