What’s the next best thing to owning a Frank Lloyd Wright house? It’s buying one built by one of his protégés. In fact, we’d venture to say that a Wright 2.0 might be an even better investment than an original.
Wait, hear us out!
Today, just over 400 of Wright’s buildings are still standing, so they’re a rarity—and it’s no wonder they often sell for a premium. Yet if you’ve ever actually toured a Wright building, you’ve no doubt noticed the strikingly low ceilings, oddly shaped rooms, or inconvenient layouts. You may have heard that these buildings are notoriously difficult and expensive to maintain, because any repairs must be approved by landmark associations.
But Wright had hundreds of students—first at his home studio in Oak Park, IL, and then at the Taliesin school near Spring Green, WI. And while this famous architect disavowed copycats slavishly devoted to mimicking his own style, many of his protégés did go on to design some very Wright-esque houses. So if you like the look of a Wright building but want to live in something a little more practical, plenty of properties abound that will fit that bill.
Before you fall in love with these Wright wannabes, keep in mind that these homes may have hidden drawbacks, too.
“Some of these homes may have deed restrictions or limitations on what kinds of improvements or updates can be done,” warns Maryland home inspector Welmoed Sisson. So carefully examine any covenant documents, preferably with an attorney.
And if the home you’re admiring has those distinctly Wright-inspired floor-to-ceiling windows?
California real estate developer Tyler Drew notes that buyers will most likely want to replace them with double or triple panes. This can be difficult and expensive, but is essential to save on heating and cooling costs. Plus, the many beautiful wood details these homes tend to have can attract wasps, bees, and termites.
And as Drew points out, “wood rot isn’t fixed with a simple jaunt over to Home Depot.”
That said, Drew points out that homes by Wright protégés are 20-plus years ahead of original Wright homes in terms of building technology. This means you probably won’t have to deal with corrugated piping and ancient wiring.
“You are less likely to find Depression-era newspapers stuffed in the walls for insulation,” Drew adds. “The houses are newer. You are getting a better model for probably half the price of a Wright.”
Intrigued? Here are five homes built by Wright protégés that you can buy right now.
Architect: Herb DeLevie
Features: Taliesin graduate DeLevie loaded this 1966 house with high drama. Grasp the Spanish medieval pulls on the 15-foot double doors, and you’ll open to a natural stone fireplace, a dining room with 15-foot cathedral windows, and wood paneling everywhere. The 8,015-square-foot house has four bedrooms, including a master loft, three bathrooms, and a sunroom.
Architect: Raymond Carter
Features: Carter’s 1965 sprawling ranch sits on 6.5 acres. A later expansion to five bedrooms and 4.5 bathrooms imbued the original design with a touch of luxury. There are marble vanities, a whirlpool tub, wood-burning fireplaces, and a study. A beautiful pool comes with a waterfall. You can host friends and family in the two-bedroom guesthouse with living room and kitchen (you’ll appreciate not hearing one of them rummaging through your fridge at 3 a.m.).
Architect: William Kaeser
Features: This 1948 midcentury modern classic is nestled on 2 acres of woods next to a monastery. But if that’s not your thing, there’s also a nearby country club and a state park. Cool brick walls and cedar ceilings and trim run throughout the three bedrooms and 2.5 baths. You can take in all the greenery in the sunroom or the patio.
Architect: Edgar Tafel
Features: The first thing you should know about this 1954 house is that it has direct waterfront access, with views of the Long Island Sound. The second thing to know is that Tafel worked with Wright on the famous Fallingwater and Wingspread homes, among other projects.
This four-bedroom, three-bath house comes with a private beach, marina, tennis courts, basketball court, playground, and even a dog park. Huge windows allow you to take in views of the surrounding marshland.
Architect: Don Schuyler
Features: This three-bedroom, three-bath, Prairie-style house is loaded with gorgeous details in leaded glass, stone, wood, brick, and marble. Built-ins abound in this well-preserved home. The spacious kitchen is updated and includes an island counter and stainless-steel appliances.
Here is just a taste of what you’ll find in this house. The windows, the French doors, the light fixture—it’s like this all over.