Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural masterpieces, while culturally important and aesthetically impressive, require serious upkeep and diligent maintenance. In the article below, The Financial Times explains why it is often very difficult to sell any of the famed architect’s famous projects:
One of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most distinctive homes was collapsing in 2000, when Dean and Ella Mae Eastman bought the property in the Chicago suburb of Riverside for about $1m. Known as the Coonley House, it had a roof that was falling down, thousands of handmade tiles designed by the famed architect had disappeared and the façade had been damaged by a fire years earlier. “You couldn’t open any of the doors,” says Dean Eastman, a retired physicist. “They were all warped.”
For a more than a decade, the Eastmans worked meticulously to restore the century-old building, tracking down Wright’s original plans and hiring craft companies to repair the woodwork and art glass that were signatures of Wright’s Prairie style. Now the Eastmans, who are both in their seventies, are ready to sell the home.
“We’re of an age that we don’t want to be taking care of the house all the time,” Ella Mae says. “We enjoyed it and had fun, and now somebody else can have fun with it.”
Yet it hasn’t been easy to find a buyer, even after the Eastmans’ painstaking restoration. The property has its quirks: it is part of an estate that was carved into four separate properties and any buyer must agree to preserve the exterior of the historic landmark and more than 270 art glass windows and doors. A year after the 6,000 sq ft house was listed for $1.79m, it is still available and the price has dropped to $1.7m.
The property has prompted “many inquiries but no real interest”, says Catherine Simon-Vobornik, an agent with Baird & Warner, the agency that is listing the house.
Wright is one of America’s greatest architects, but the homes he designed are often a tough sell. They are old and often require meticulous maintenance, and typical vendors are looking for a premium to other homes in the area.
“It’s going to take a particular type of buyer,” says Marilyn Fisher of LW Reely, the agent marketing a Wright-designed home in Elmhurst, a city outside Chicago. Built in 1901, the six-bedroom, 5,500 sq ft home is another example of Wright’s Prairie style and includes 80 feet of original stained-glass windows, three fireplaces and large formal rooms.
However, the house can seem dark and dated to modern buyers and the bathrooms are smaller than in most new homes. Fisher acknowledges this. The house has been on and off the market since 2013; once priced at $1.29m it is now listed for $1.1m.
“It’s just an old house,” Fisher says. A few years ago a Frank Lloyd Wright home “would have been a feather in the cap, something you could show off”, she says. “I think nowadays people are not into that as much.”
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