Last weekend we went on the trip of a lifetime. Okay, my lifetime. I am a huge Frank Lloyd Wright fan. Somehow that has rubbed off on my daughter (11). She wants to be an architect (she’s got four female architectural mentors in our circle of friends). For her birthday trip (we don’t give gifts for birthdays, we make memories by going on trips together) she wanted to go to Wright’s Fallingwater, in Bear Run, PA (a five-plus hour drive from Buffalo). This brought tears of joy to a father’s eyes.

The first built-in planter. Outside, on the approach to the house, built-in planters are incorporated into the bridge over the creek. These planters are sort of a bridge themselves, bridging the woodland path to the stone work of the house foundation.

I will spare you my impressions of the 1937 house, and how Wright redefined how one can live in a house, and how a structure can be one with its environment, how to incorporate innovation while at the same time utilizing centuries-old craftsmanship. I won’t even belabor the point that this building, as with most Wright buildings, still looks futuristic–after almost 100 years! It’s been said Wright is the only American-born person considered a genius. But now I’m gushing. Maybe I’m not sparing you much.

Skipping you all the design commenting I could blather on about, I will concentrate on how, at Fallingwater, he incorporated the setting into the house and the house into the setting, with plants. The house was built for Edgar Kaufman, of Pittsburgh’s Kaufman’s Department Stores (now Macys).

Rhododendrons are everywhere. They are native here and there are hundreds and hundreds around the property.

First off, as you walk from the visitor’s center to the house, you are struck by the seemingly thousands of native rhododendrons. They literally surround the path and property. If I do get there again, I have to make sure it’s when the rhododendrons are in bloom. You also notice the structure of the stone in the woods–the horizontal, blocky, masses of layered stone cantilever over each other, in a cubist fashion, along the path to the house. By the time you get the first glimpse of the house, you can see where he stole the “vernacular” for the building–from the creek bed itself. The cantilevered terraces jut into the trees, maximize its setting and multiply the living space of the home.

The cutting garden on the walk to the house.

On the way to the house, you pass the cutting garden. Every room of the house has flowers. Every room. Having an organic, natural element in each room was mandatory in a Wright house. That being so, he ensured it in most rooms by creating built-in planters inside and even on the exterior of the house.

Before you even walk in, plants/planters greet you at the doorway. The stone was quarried on-site.

Rather than fancy artglass, as can be found in other Wright homes, nothing obscures the view of the outdoors from the inside. Even the corners of the rooms are glass butting glass. With most rooms cantilevered, outside walls are not weight-bearing. Wright took advantage by having the corners of rooms disappear. From any room, with windows open, you hear the waterfall below. A boat-like stairwell, covered with glass doors takes you right down to the creek for a swim from the living room.

Originally, the Kaufmans wanted the house sited across from the falls to take advantage of the view. Wright suggested the house be part of the waterfall. It made the cover of Time magazine in January, 1938. And history was made. Fallingwater is a piece of art that can be walked through.

A built-in planter in the living room, on either end of the built-in sofa.

The inside view, looking outward from Mrs. Kaufman’s bathroom.

Mrs. Kaufman’s terrace looking toward her bathroom window with the plants. No need for blinds or screen or draperies here.

Their son’s room terrace hosts an herb garden. This is the upper-most terrace on the third floor.

The “back door” which leads to the guest house gets this semi-circle indoor/outdoor built in planter with a moss garden.

The window pane actually cuts the planter in two.

The moss garden planter from outside.

Opposite the indoor/outdoor moss garden planter is its inspiration – moss and ferns growing on the rocks the house is built around

On a little-used terrace, a small tree peeks around the corner. Above it is a roof-line built-in planter with trailing vines.

The spring-fed guest house pool, in the woods, surrounded by rhododendrons. Wisteria arbor above.

Even the pool has a built-in planter.

Gratuitous shot of the rimless open windows.

Gratuitous shot of the expansive living room.

Gratuitous shot of one of the sitting areas of the living room.

Gratuitous shot of the fireplace and the existing boulder that was incorporated into the floor.

Gratuitous shot of another sitting are of the living room. All furniture, textiles and art are original to the Kaufmans from when they lived there.

Gratuitous shot of the stairwell from the living room to the creek.

Gratuitous shot of the guesthouse living room.

0 comments on “Fallingwater

  1. I was hoping you'd post about your visit. You know I'm with you on Wright admiration. What I'd really like to know is…how did you feel moving through the space–was that seamless inside and out also?


  2. I've always wanted to visit Fallingwater. Thanks for the “gratuitous” shots. 🙂


  3. It was probably not as seamless as you may envision. The public areas were pretty “seamless,” but the doors and windows were shut. With the doors and windows open especially with the “boat hatch door” leading to the creek, it would be absolutely seamless– you'd catch every noise, scent, breeze & bug in the woods. Where it wasn't so seamless was the bedrooms. They were pretty small and claustrophobic (to me anyway) probably a Wright device to have you NOT want to spend time in the bedroom. Each bedroom had a balcony, which was odd to me, but in each case the bedroom balcony tripled the space of the bedroom.Jean,Get there if your at all able. It's worth the trip.


  4. Thanks for the awesome tour!


  5. Great photos…Fallingwater is definitely on my short “To-Do” list. After seeing your pics, it makes me want to go TODAY!


  6. I've always loved this house and it is a treat to see your photos. I like Wright's exteriors better than the interiors. There is a Wright home less than one mile from our house. I think it may be the only one in Alabama but I'm not positive about that. It is now open to the public.


  7. What a lovely way you have to celebrate birthdays. Good Memories are the best gifts you can give your child. I enjoyed every one of your photos. Taliesin, Wright's summer home,in Spring Green, WI is also an interesting visit.


  8. Susan,I'd take you on a tour anytime.Doug,In addition to Fallingwater, just a couple miles away from there is Kentuck Knob, another Wright building. I didn't get there, but I'm told there is a great collection of outdoor sculpture.Phillip,I like the interiors, but here at Fallingwater, the interior belies the futuristic-looking exterior. The built-in furniture and textiles “deemed” by and collected by the Kaufmans had sort of a '70s vibe, square-ish, orange or harvest gold and and low to the ground, shag area rugs and so on. Which looks dated, but at the time they lived here, it was decades ahead of the style & tastes.


  9. Donna,I've been to Talieson in Spring Green, and Talieson West (Scottsdale), Guggenheim, as well as the Martin house here in Buffalo (as well as the other seven Wright structures here). Next pilgrimage will most likely be Oak Park. We decided early on that our daughter would get plenty of trinkets that don't stand the test of time (don't need more plastic junk) and that a family trip would be something memorable she'll always have with her.


  10. When I was there, probably 14 years ago, the living room was crowded with multiple tour groups. You could barely hear for all the noise. I see your photo with an empty room and wonder what has changed.Thanks for the photos.


  11. James,Oh the crowds were there, later on. We were the first full-house, three-hour tour of the day, starting at 8:30 a.m.–on a Sunday. By the time we were done, the crowds had set in and it wasn't possible to get a shot without people in it.


  12. that is spectacular! i love visiting your blog…


  13. Anonymous

    I like Fallingwater from your gardener's perspective. It must be fabulous when the rhododendrons bloom. Celebrating birthdays with a trip shared by loved ones is a lovely tradition. Your daughter is destined, I'm sure, to be an architect.Donna


  14. b&G girl,Why thank you. Thta' very nice of you tosay.mothernaturesgardin,We'll see if she becomes an architect. We're not pinning any hopes on that, as long as she does something she likes doing. We're at least happy she'll have a life-long interest in architecture and/or art.


  15. The trip looks like it was more than worth the drive. And that is such a great way to celebrate a special occasion like birthdays. I know someone in town here who lives in a Wright house and certain spaces are very tight — like the kitchen. I assume that is partly because FLW wasn't necessarily the one who did the cooking!


  16. When I visited over twenty years ago, the crowds were there, but I remember the rooms without them. I am a Chicago-area landscape designer who tells anyone who asks that our two national treasures are the Grand Canyon and Falling Water. Before you visit Oak Park: be in touch and we'll give you a tour of some less prominent sites.


  17. Thank you so much for this post. It refreshes my memory of my visit to that wonderful, unforgettable place. Some of your observations complement very nicely the information given in the official website.


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