We recently had the pleasure of visiting the Meyer May house in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It was designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1909, and meticulously restored to its 1911 state by Steelcase in the 1980’s. For fans of architecture, it’s a perfect time capsule and a lesson in Wright’s work.
Of course, we were particularly interested in the home’s fireplaces. From the exterior, one can see Wright’s attention to detail even in the brickwork on the chimney. He had the vertical grout lines filled to the same level of the bricks, so that the horizontal grout lines would be more noticeable. There is also an open-work effect in the bricks at the top of the chimney.
Chimney exterior of Meyer May House
Inside, the living room is centered around a massive fireplace with the same brick as the exterior. Here, the grout has an iridescent, multi-coloured finish, with the same focus on the horizontal grout lines as the exterior.
Living room fireplace at the Meyer May House
Brick detail on Meyer May House fireplaces
To the right of the fireplace Wright added a banquette and bookcases, an example of his many built-in furnishings. Apparently, he like to build in the furniture so that clients wouldn’t be able to move it and destroy his vision for the space. We couldn’t help but notice how the cove lighting on the fireplace wall mimics the natural light spilling over the bookcase wall from the entry.
Living Room at the Meyer May House
He even designed the mantel clock and the light fixtures for this area.
Mantel clock in the living room of the Meyer May House.
In front of the fireplace, he brought more attention to the focal point of the room, by centering the carpet pattern on the hearth.
Living room carpet at the Meyer May House.
Leaving no detail undone, he also designed the fire grate. Note the shared details between the grate and the rug.
Upstairs, in the master bedroom, there is a much smaller fireplace of similar design, tucked into the corner. Wright allowed for a piece of art to go above the fire here, one of the few places where he decreed the clients could have art.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s work at the Meyer May House is an excellent example of how he made simple materials interesting by paying attention to the details.