Wright Plus co-chairs Sue Blaine and Joan Pantsios say that beyond being good stewards of architectural legacy, the homeowners featured on Wright Plus go above and beyond in making their renovations and restorations of their homes sympathetic to the original house.
Often this restoration takes the form of removing paint. In the Bumstead House, Pantsios notes that the original woodwork had been painted over. Seven people worked for seven weeks to strip the paint off to reveal the beauty of the wood. The homeowners also turned to the original plans for the house to restore shelving and woodwork around the fireplace.
The owners of the Schwerin House took four years to restore their home’s original woodwork and original windows utilizing over 16 gallons of paint stripper and 1,000 steel wool pads.
At the Cronwall House, the owners removed a giant fish tank that had been added to the home and built bookshelves in the library to match the originals.
The original light fixtures were missing from the Furbeck Home, so the owners turned to other Wright designs to create their own. The dining room fixture was inspired by the pattern in the original art glass windows in the home.
They used the décor of Browne’s Bookstore in Chicago to inform their library light designs, and the kitchen light design was pulled from Wright’s Dana Thomas House.
The owners of the Gale House did paint analyses to determine what the original colors were in Wright’s design. In a second-floor bedroom that was likely a nursery, they decorated the room with alphabet stencils from an artist who worked during the time Wright designed the home.
Jack Lesniak, house captain and researcher for the Heurtley House, calls it “a prime example of restoration.”
The previous owners, the Baehrends, returned the house to single-family status after it had been converted to a two-flat. They used birch wood to match the wood used by Wright in designing a new kitchen and hid the appliances behind cabinet fronts so that they wouldn’t stand out.
The couple also removed a bathroom that a 1950s-era owner had created out of a second-floor terrace. In its place, they created a primary suite bathroom out of an adjacent bedroom, and they sourced a vintage bird-cage shower for the room.
“They are all wonderful stewards,” Blaine said.
Blaine and Pantsios said that the spirit of restoration is very evident in Wright’s Home and Studio as well. Converted at one time into six apartments, the house was in disrepair when the Home and Studio Foundation was formed in 1974 to restore and preserve the house.
Lesniak, who has been with the organization now known as the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust since that time, says the group, headed by architect John Thorpe, wrote the book on historic preservation.
‘The Home and Studio was a unique situation,” Lesniak said. “John Thorpe was the chair of the restoration committee. People did what he said. When you have five or six architects trying to work together, sometimes you need a leader.”
The group created a restoration plan in book form, and Lesniak said it became the pattern for how restorations could be down across the country.