Graycliff Estate

A few weeks ago, we took advantage of a beautiful spring afternoon to visit the Graycliff Estate in Derby, NY. This is one of the many Frank Lloyd Wright designed homes currently being restored and preserved around the United States. This house was the summer home of the Martin family, who also commissioned Wright to design their Buffalo residence, along with the Larkin Administration building, where Darwin D. Martin’s business was headquartered (the later was demolished in 1950).

When the family’s fortune ran out in 1951, the summer home was sold to an order of Roman Catholic Priests, who used it as a boarding school. When it went back on the market in 1997, the Graycliff Conservancy purchased the estate, saving it from demolition. Since then, it’s undergone several phases of renovation.

So far, this has been my least favourite of the Wright houses we’ve visited.* It’s a beautiful home with a stunning view of Lake Erie, but it’s lacking so many of the unique design features that make his buildings stand apart from the rest. Even taking into consideration that the restoration is a work in progress, much of the intricacy and drama Frank Lloyd Wright designs are known for, are missing here.

This hideous (and condemned) staircase, from the top of the bluff to the beach, was not designed by FLW.

On the other hand, this is a practical house. Unlike so many Wright homes, you could actually live here comfortably. It’s breezy and illuminated by natural sunlight. It has a garage and even closets. These are rare features in Frank Lloyd Wright houses, as he believed that anything worth having should be beautiful enough to display and closed storage just encouraged collecting junk.

This pragmatic design is what makes it so boring though.

After our tour, we drove back toward the border along the lake, making some detours to visit our usual American shopping spots (Target and DSW). Then, we enjoyed some fine dining at Boston Market before heading home. Although Graycliff Estate left us underwhelmed, we still had a fabulous day.

*Other Frank Lloyd Wright homes we’ve visited:
Oak Park
Hollyhock House
Darwin D. Martin House

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  1. I haven’t researched much about FLW design but I know it when I see it. I would’ve never guessed on this one. Also, had no idea he didn’t believe in closed storage. Ha! Where do you keep your Christmas decorations Frank?

    So… did you get anything good at DSW and Target?

  2. I doubt Frank was the type to decorate for the holidays. I’m sure he would have deemed it tacky and unnecessary.

    I get that whole minimalist philosophy to some degree, but I do love my stuff.

  3. I didn’t end up finding anything at DSW or Target. I really wasn’t in a big shopping mood though, nor was I really looking for anything, so I wasn’t disappointed.

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