Jeff's Blog - Thursday, June 7, 2018 - The Meyer May House in Grand Rapids, Michigan

The Meyer May House is a prairie-style house in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built in 1908-9. It was owned by several families over the years who had made several modifications to it. Steelcase, an international office furniture company founded and headquartered in Grand Rapids, purchased the house in 1985 and has done a beautiful job restoring the home to it's original 1909 state. This is purported to be the most completely-restored Frank Lloyd Wright building in existence. The home can be toured for free; my tour lasted about 3 hours, starting with a movie about the home and its restoration, and continuing with a tour by a docent for a group of about 15 people. I highly recommend that you tour this home if you find yourself anywhere near Grand Rapids, Michigan at some point in time.

The home is located in a neighborhood of victorian houses in Grand Rapids. The contrast between the 3- or 4-story victorian homes in the neighborhood and this 2-story horizontally-oriented home is obvious. Exterior shots of the home are below. Notice the way Wright emphasized the horizontality of the home by making the horizontal mortar lines deeply recessed (as is usually done), but filling the vertical mortar lines out to nearly the surface of the brick so they're not as prominently shadowed. He also used a color of mortar that more closely matches the brick color for those vertical mortar lines. This technique was used in most buildings he designed to make the bricks look like very long horizontal bricks. As always, you can click any photograph to see a larger version and view the caption. Click again to put the photo back into the page.

    
The front exterior of Frank Lloyd Wright's house designed for Meyer May, in Grand Rapids, Michigan
    
Front and side exterior of Frank Lloyd Wright's house designed for Meyer May, in Grand Rapids, Michigan
    
Front and side exterior of Frank Lloyd Wright's house designed for Meyer May, in Grand Rapids, Michigan
    
Front and side exterior (with detail of copper ornamentation) of Frank Lloyd Wright's house designed for Meyer May, in Grand Rapids, Michigan
    
Rear side exterior of Frank Lloyd Wright's house designed for Meyer May, in Grand Rapids, Michigan
    
The rear exterior of Frank Lloyd Wright's house designed for Meyer May, in Grand Rapids, Michigan

The entrance to the house is de-emphasized, as Wright did in most of his properties. It's often difficult to find the doorway into a Frank Lloyd Wright home or building.

    
The entrance door of Frank Lloyd Wright's house designed for Meyer May, in Grand Rapids, Michigan
    
The windows beside the entrance door of Frank Lloyd Wright's house designed for Meyer May, in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Once you enter a Frank Lloyd Wright house or building, you're typically in a hallway with low ceilings and narrow walls. This entryway leads to a transition into the main part of the building, which typically feels spacious and often high-ceilinged. This is called "Compression and Release" architecture -- you feel constricted by the architecture, then pass through a portal where the angels sing and the grandeur of the universe is opened up for you. Seeing as how the Meyer May House was the first Frank Lloyd Wright property I've toured, I didn't capture this "Compression and Release" moment photographically; hopefully I'll do better in the future.

The main floor of the Meyer May House consists of the Entryway, the Living Room, the Dining Room and the Kitchen. The Kitchen is not authentic, so I didn't photograph it. Photographs of the Living Room are below. The Living Room is the most important room in all the Frank Lloyd Wright homes I've toured. He wanted the family to spend all its time together in that common space, and he made that space the most visually attractive in the house. The bedrooms were small, plain, and for sleeping only.

    
Living room of Frank Lloyd Wright's house designed for Meyer May, in Grand Rapids, Michigan
    
Bookshelves in the reading nook of the living room of Frank Lloyd Wright's house designed for Meyer May, in Grand Rapids, Michigan
    
The Music Nook corner of the living room of Frank Lloyd Wright's house designed for Meyer May, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with the Hollyhocks mural by George Niedeken visible at upper-left
    
The Music Nook corner of the living room of Frank Lloyd Wright's house designed for Meyer May, in Grand Rapids, Michigan
    
Desk, windows and skylights in the living room of Frank Lloyd Wright's house designed for Meyer May, in Grand Rapids, Michigan
    
Fireplace in the living room of Frank Lloyd Wright's house designed for Meyer May, in Grand Rapids, Michigan
    
Wall light in the living room of Frank Lloyd Wright's house designed for Meyer May, in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Between the living room and the dining room is a partial wall, with a mural of hollyhocks painted by George Niedeken.

    
Hollyhocks mural by George Niedeken between the living room and dining room of Frank Lloyd Wright's house designed for Meyer May, in Grand Rapids, Michigan
    
Hollyhocks mural by George Niedeken between the living room and dining room of Frank Lloyd Wright's house designed for Meyer May, in Grand Rapids, Michigan

The Dining Room features a table and chairs designed by Wright. In the homes he designed, he not only designed the building itself, but also much of the furniture and lighting. In this dining room, for example, he positioned the lights and planters at the corners rather than centrally on or over the table, so the family could all see each other and converse during mealtimes.

    
Dining room of Frank Lloyd Wright's house designed for Meyer May, in Grand Rapids, Michigan
    
Cabinets in the dining room of Frank Lloyd Wright's house designed for Meyer May, in Grand Rapids, Michigan
    
Cabinets in the dining room of Frank Lloyd Wright's house designed for Meyer May, in Grand Rapids, Michigan
    
Windows in the dining room of Frank Lloyd Wright's house designed for Meyer May, in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Next the tour goes back to the Living Room and up the stairs to the second level...

    
Desk half-way up the stairs in Frank Lloyd Wright's house designed for Meyer May, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with living room visible at right edge
    
Desk half-way up the stairs in Frank Lloyd Wright's house designed for Meyer May, in Grand Rapids, Michigan
    
Desk half-way up the stairs in Frank Lloyd Wright's house designed for Meyer May, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, also showing the leaded-glass windows along the stairway

...where the simple bedrooms are located. The master bedroom has a nice fireplace but a mere two twin beds.

    
Master bedroom fireplace and clothing rack in Frank Lloyd Wright's house designed for Meyer May, in Grand Rapids, Michigan
    
A bedroom in Frank Lloyd Wright's house designed for Meyer May, in Grand Rapids, Michigan
    
A bedroom in Frank Lloyd Wright's house designed for Meyer May, in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Adjacent is a "morning room", which was Mrs. May's dressing room

    
Morning room in Frank Lloyd Wright's house designed for Meyer May, in Grand Rapids, Michigan

There are two bedrooms for children.

    
Richard's bedroom in Frank Lloyd Wright's house designed for Meyer May, in Grand Rapids, Michigan
    
Richard's bedroom in Frank Lloyd Wright's house designed for Meyer May, in Grand Rapids, Michigan
    
Harriet’s bedroom, opening to the balcony, in Frank Lloyd Wright's house designed for Meyer May, in Grand Rapids, Michigan
    
Outdoor urn, from Harriet's bedroom, in Frank Lloyd Wright's house designed for Meyer May, in Grand Rapids, Michigan
    
Outdoor urn, from Harriet's bedroom, in Frank Lloyd Wright's house designed for Meyer May, in Grand Rapids, Michigan
    
Harriet’s bedroom, opening to the balcony, in Frank Lloyd Wright's house designed for Meyer May, in Grand Rapids, Michigan

From here, the tour goes back down the stairs and out of the house.

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