William L. Thaxton Jr. House
|William L. Thaxton Jr. House|
|Design and construction|
|Architect||Frank Lloyd Wright|
The William L. Thaxton Jr. House is a large single-story Usonian house, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1954 and built in Houston, Texas in 1955. The Thaxton House is Wright's only residential project in Houston. Thaxton was a successful insurance executive and commissioned Wright to design a work of art that would also be suitable for living and entertaining.
This Usonian is one of Wright's smaller designs at 1,800 square feet and is designed as a parallelogram and constructed of concrete block. Wright designed the house around a "diamond module" with 60- and 120-degree angles. The red cement floors had a diamond pattern in the same shape. The skylights were equilateral triangles, each corner 60 degrees. The pool, nestled into the wide corner of the L-shaped house, was a parallelogram with a notch out of one corner. Other interesting facets of the house include a long screened in patio (the roof of the patio is a screen as well, not a roof), a swimming pool only a few feet from the master bedroom door, an unusually shaped built-in bed in the master bedroom and triangle shaped recessed lighting bays.
As he often did, Wright designed all the furniture himself, with most of it anchored to the walls, so the homeowners couldn't even rearrange it. He drew parallelogram bunk beds and a bed for the tiny, prow-shaped master bedroom, and a fabulous, funny little mini-bar. He drew a half-octagon dining room table that attached to a wall, with rolling stools so low to the ground that they seem built for children. For the long wall of the living room, he designed a long built-in couch as the only seating.
Wright was quoted in the August 1958 issue of House and Home magazine as saying `We will have a good garden.` The house is planned to wrap around two sides of this garden. We must have as big a living room with as much vista and garden coming in as we can afford, with a fireplace in it, and open bookshelves, a dining table in the alcove, benches, and living room tables built in.
After Thaxton sold the house, it fell on hard times. In 1991, when it was last on the market, it had been stripped of its specially designed furniture and its Wrightian dignity. Whacked-out pineapple finials bedecked the flat roof. The redwood walls had been painted white, and Ionic columns - perfect symbols of the classicism Wright rejected - had been installed.
It was saved by a married couple of architecture-loving dentists, Alan Gaw and Betty Lee. Over the next five years, they spent millions to restore the house as closely as possible to Wright's vision and to build a much larger addition, attached to the house, in which their family could actually live.
The addition, designed by Bob Inaba of the Kirksey-Meyers firm, turns the L-shaped house into a U. The big, bright, Wright-ish wing is built to emphasize inhabitants' view of the pool and the house. One Wright fan I know grumbled that it's "an abomination," but then, Wright fans tend to be purists; like Wright, they hate any deviation whatsoever from the master's work. The addition frees the restored Thaxton House to function more purely as a work of art, to be gazed upon like a sculpture.
- Storrer, William Allin. The Frank Lloyd Wright Companion. University Of Chicago Press, 2006, ISBN 0-226-77621-2 (S.384)
- Photos on Houston Mod
- Houston Chronicle Article
- Photos on Swamplot
- Thaxton House on waymarking.com
- New York Times Article
- KC Modern Article
- Photos on Arcaid