The charge: To delete unsightly additions from a Usonian. To restore it where feasible to its original condition. To enhance the original by adding sustainable features such as an accessibility ramp with snowmelt to insure winter usage; to replace the slab on grade concrete floor with a new one that contains a radiant heating system, a healthier option: to replace all wiring to insure a safe environment and to replace all A lamps with LED bulbs for energy conservation. Mitigate lead paint. Replace leaking badly installed den/former carport windows with a low E pattern compatible with original window configurations. Reconfigure concrete drive and deck to allow for more vegetation near the residence and replace concrete planters with stepped brick enclosed planting beds. Replace invasive plants on river bluff with non invasive local species to stabilize the slope. The revitalized Usonian is now ready for tours by Wrightian aficionados.
A former client of forty years past now widowed purchased a FLW Foundation Usonian designed in 1963 for the Warren Family of St. Joseph Michigan by Taliesen Associated Architects. Sited on a bluff overlooking the St Joe River, subsequent owners had converted the carport into a den. An adjacent screened porch at the rear blocked morning light. While an ersatz screened structure awkwardly linked the garage to the screened porch. In front massive concrete planters bracketing concrete steps replaced the sloped drive. Not sloped to drain their condition was hazardous. Since our octogenarian client had deliberately purchased a single story home the steps were a concern. Replacing the link and steps, an accessible ramp with snow melt begins at the garage side door and rises up to a new rear door in the den. There leaking windows were replaced and the porch removed to be replaced by a freestanding gazebo.
Inside the original concrete slab on grade floor had cracked and settled. It was removed, waterproofed and replaced by a radiant system. The Taliesen red became Steel Wool grey as did the white plaster walls, ceilings and soffits to create a more volumetric sensibility less in contrast with the dark brick.
Original lighting was augmented by wall washers. Ancient wiring and under floor ducts were replaced. Kitchen is new with glass ceiling powder room carved out. Cabinetry and millwork was either restored or replaced with programatic substitutions. Owner and architect consciously worked to respect, restore and revitalize the Wrightian aesthetic.