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!

EP68: Drywall Tips, Brilliance of Mr. Wright, Whole House Generators 101!

This week we talk to the Wall Doctor and get tips to make our your next drywall project go more smoothly. If you’ve ever hung your own drywall, you know there are little things that can make the project frustrating. Today, you can listen to an expert spill the beans on everything he does to make sure every project goes well!

We’re also in the studio with Brad Krause from Service Professor to talk about power generators. Sure, we all know about the portable options, but are you aware that there are systems that are permanent? That can be installed at your home and which will automatically kick on within 10 seconds of a power failure?

On top of all of that, we talk about an amazing opportunity right here in Grand Rapids! The Meyer May House is a home designed by none other than Frank Lloyd Wright. It was completely restored in 1985 and is now open for free tours! It’s a remarkable opportunity to take a peek into the mind of one of America’s finest, most brilliant architects!

Listen here: 

SHOW NOTES

Segments 2 & 3: The Meyer May House

We promised pictures of our visit and here they are!

EP67: German Smear, WD-40, Roofing 101 with the Sheriff!

Today’s show highlights a project that we think has tremendous potential! So many of us have brick houses that look and feel a little dated. They’ve got that 70’s or 80’s brick and we just don’t know what to do to breathe new life into it. Well, if you’re an HGTV aficionado, you’ve probably heard of German Schmear (or Smear). It’s a great way to update that old brick. However, it’s a bit labor intensive. Well, we’ve got a contractor who just created the same look on a house with a much simpler method involving RepcoLite’s waterbased exterior stain! If you’re sick of the brick, we might have a project for you!

We also cover a number of unique uses for WD-4o. And then, in the last two segments, we sit down with Matt Williams from Sheriff-Goslin Roofing (a roofing company who has been around for 112 years) to discuss . . . of course . . . roofing. We talk about what signs will tell you when your roof needs replacement and we dig into lots of new roofing technology! Matt even gets a little “sciencey”!

Listen now:

SHOW NOTES

Segment 1: German Schmear

We promised pictures and examples on the show and we intend to deliver! Check out the gallery below. The first gallery is taken from the job we mentioned in the segment. The second gallery is a link to our Pinterest page for examples from around the web!

 

German Schmear from our Pinterest Page

Segments 3 & 4: Sheriff-Goslin Roofing

In this segment, we interview Matt Williams. He is the manager of the Lakeshore division. If you’d like to get in touch with Matt, you can reach him at 616-392-3373.

 

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EP59 – May 26, 2018: Beautiful Lawns, Paint Color Woes, Paint Question Smorgasbord!

We recently had a customer who really had a strange paint color problem. In the can, the color looked right. On the wall, it was remarkably different. She was frustrated and confused: What was going on? More importantly, what should she do? We tackle that paint question and many others on today’s Home Improvement Show.

Show notes for episode 059:

Jan Meeuwsen from De Bruyn Seed Company in Zeeland joins us in the studio for two segments. She covers everything from what to do about dead patches on your lawn to how to fix a mossy backyard.

We go over a question we received from a listener that is a real head-scratcher! The color looks one way IN the can, but completely different on the WALL! Confusing, yes. But we've got answers!

This segment focuses on a number of wide-ranging paint questions. We talk about how to clean composite decks and shift right into how to clean and repaint your aluminum awnings!

EP57 – May 5, 2018: Spring Exterior Painting, Gardening With Children, and Trash Heap Desk Revival

When we think of gardening, we think of things like container gardening, pest resistance gardening, and vegetable gardening. We don’t necessarily think of gardening with and for our kids. But why not?! It gets them interested at an early age and it gets them out in the fresh air. It will be something they look forward to every year. And they will be able to see the fruits of their labor.

Listen here:

Show notes for episode 057:

This past week has been filled with BEAUTIFUL weather! It's been warm and sunny and we even got some much needed rain. Spring has finally graced us with its presence.

Because spring seems to be a little late this year, people are frantically working outside to get spring projects done. And often, those projects involve paint. We got a question from a listener wondering what the temperature needs to be for her to paint outside. Is it warm enough just because the calendar says May? Find out!

With the arrival of spring, many of use are thinking about planting flowers and vegetables. What we might not be thinking about is including our kids. It's a confidence boost when they see something they planted grow from a tiny seed into a great plant.

We are thrilled to have Ian Warnock, Lead Horticulturist from Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in the studio with us. Ian has worked at the Gardens for over 20 years and has spent much of his time designing and maintaining the Children's Gardens. He involves young visitors to the garden in as many ways as possible. He'll even let them mow the grass!

Photos courtesy of Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park

How many of us watch those shows in TV or Netflix where people take a junk piece of furniture and turn it into something that everyone is clamoring to buy? How many of us want to be able to do that?

We like those shows as much as anyone, so we decided to try it. We learned a few lessons and have decided to share them. The effort was definitely worth it.

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