Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Wright Way

When we let go of the details and focus on the outcome instead, dreams really do come true.

As has been indicated in my two previous post, I've had a dream. A dream that one day, I would visit an original Frank Lloyd Wright designed and built home. To witness up close and in person the genius that was FLW.

While we were in Grand Rapids for my birthday on the walking tour that took us to many beautiful homes, we were able to see, outside and inside one of his works that was built in 1910.

Yes, 1910! I know, it looks like something from the 60's or 70's. That's how ahead of his time he was.

This home was designed and built by Wright for clothing store owner, Meyer May. May was a rather short man and wanted a home that would not make him look and feel so short.

Mr. Wright designed this home with a strong horizontal feel, which makes anyone look tall. Even though the ceilings are at nine feet, each room is designed with these horizontal lines that emphasises anything that is vertical.

 Even to stand in the garden, you will look taller.
 The front door is even tucked around on the side because it is too much of a vertical line for this design.
 As you step inside, it is laid out with a open great room. This minimizes the vertical lines created by walls.

This was a strange concept back in 1910 when heating and cooling was a challenge in Michigan.
Mr. Wright designed EVERYTHING about the house, including the furniture.

In the dinning room, he designed highback chairs to create a sense of enclosure when seated at the table.

And to eliminate the vertical feeling of a chandelier, he designed lamps built into the corners of the table.

 To separate rooms such as the entryway, he placed  arts and crafts style spindles instead of solid walls. This gave a sense of separation yet allowed for airflow on those hot summer days.
 In the living room, the furniture keeps the horizontal lines going even though the windows start low and wrap up onto the ceiling as stained glass sky lights.

Even in 1910, the skylights were designed with lighting inside. This way, it was always sunny, even on cloudy days.
 On this side of the living room, built in shelving maintains the strong horizontal lines. As does the inlaid glass tile between the bricks on the fireplace.
 Every stick of furniture and even the rugs, all were designed by Wright.
 To me, the bathroom was the only place where 1910 shown through. But even here, the tub keeps that horizontal line consistent throughout the whole house.
 Every single window in the house looked like this.

No matter what the view outside is, how can it be bad with windows like this?
These are the children's rooms on the second floor.

Who wouldn't want to grow up here?

Where do you put all your posters and high school memorabilia though?

Throughout the house, there are pegs installed in the picture rail. Wright placed these pegs where it was appropriate to hang artwork.

 A bit of a control freak, Frank Lloyd Wright even designed the clothing that you would wear when entertaining in such a house. Because he wanted you to look your best in the setting that he'd created for you. You needed to wear just the wright colors and just the wright style.
 Before Lay-Z-Boy technology, Frank Lloyd Wright even designed his own version of a reclining chair.

In the mid-1980's this home was purchased by Steelcase Corporation, who turned it into a museum-piece of Mr. Wright's architectural prowess.

Already well known during his lifetime, Wright was recognized in 1991 by the American Institute of Architects as the Greatest American Architect of All Time.

Wright lived from 1867 until 1959. He was an architect, interior designer, writer and educator who designed more than a thousand structures and completed more than 500 works. He believed in designing structures that were in harmony with humanity and it's environment. A philosophy he called Organic Architecture. Something that 100 years later, we are trying to understand and even mimic.

His designs were efficient in heating, cooling and overall harmony of living. He is most famous for his work completed in 1935 in Southern Pennsylvania appropriately named Fallingwater as it is built over an actual waterfall.

For me, visiting this home, was a dream come true. I am inspired now to make a trip to Southern Pennsylvania. Or perhaps Wisconsin or Arizona where his two homes and studios are located. Taliesen East and Taliesen West

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Grand Walking Tour

 Grand Rapids is a town rich in history.

It is the home town to Fredrick Meijer, the founder of Meijer Thrifty Acres. Now just known as Meijer.

For those that are unaware, the story goes that one day, Fredrick was shopping at a K mart and received very lousy service. So bad in fact, that he decided to open his own store where the customer always came first. He was initially a barber by trade and would cut men's hair a little shorter than they wanted, with the reasoning that he wanted them to get their monies worth. He carried that through to his stores too. It started out just a Michigan thing and now, Meijer's can be found across the country. They are even rivaling Walmart. For the longest time, we didn't have Walmart in Michigan because of Meijer and Kmart being so prevalent. (Kmart corporate headquarters was in Troy, Michigan before it sold out to Sears).

The other thing that Grand Rapids is known for is the home to Amway. Anyone that doesn't know what Amway is lives under a rock or something. But even then, you probably use Amway's all natural soap to clean that rock.

Everywhere you go in that town you see the names of the people that started those two companies.

But that's not all that's from Grand Rapids. There is Howard Miller Grandfather Clocks and Steelcase furniture located there as well.

The city was in existence before Michigan was even a state. And the history shows it.

As you all know, I am a nut for history and architecture. So, for my birthday, my wonderful husband got us tickets to a walking tour of the Heritage Hill District, downtown.

We were able to tour homes built from 1840 to about 1920.
It's amazing what you could do with your money, when you didn't have to pay income taxes. Some of these homes are just way too big and ornate for anyone to keep up so often they came with a full staff upon purchase.

Unfortunately post World War 2, many of the homes were split up into apartment buildings and many remain that way today.

 Yet, other homes have either remained single family homes or been restored to their once grand status in the community.
 Since they were all built at different times, they are as diverse as the people that live in the city.
 Many of them are of Victorian styling, but there are also many Arts and Crafts Bungalows.
 It was difficult to photograph inside most of them. But I have included a few shots of some interesting features.

For the most part, I was enjoying the outside fretwork, more than the interiors.

The Historic Society maintains that the house must remain of original styling outside. But the insides, obviously needed to be updated for modern living.
 Some of these homes were not officially on the tour, but I loved the artistry of them anyway.
 Such beauty in each and every one of them.
 If I didn't love my home, I would be ready to pack up and move to any one of these.

But, I'd probably end up with the one that needs all the restoration done to it still.
 And while I'd love every step of the process, I just don't know if I could live in a constant state of construction.
 I could go on and on with all the beautiful homes that we saw.
 Some had lines to get in and see, while others, we were able to walk right in.

We were each given a set of booties to wear on our feet so we didn't track up these folks homes. They looked rather silly, but I understand.
 Here's a shot of a dining room ceiling that is sort of an inspiration for my own ceiling. I've had the idea for a while, but since returning home, I've actually started construction.

It's my goal to have the kitchen finally finished by the end of summer. (It's only been over a year already)

I hope that you've enjoyed this walking tour and brief history lesson of Grand Rapids.

And NO, you haven't seen the best part (for me) yet.

Stay tuned....

Monday, May 28, 2012

Grand Weekend

Anyone who follows this blog, knows that it's been a little overwhelming around these parts lately.
My sister is out of the hospital and under 24 hour supervision (by family). My oldest sister volunteered to take my father with her to Alabama so we could concentrate on recovery and get some other household issues cleaned up before he comes back home. Of course we just passed the anniversary of my mother's passing and that was a little rough on many of us. And just for fun, my niece decided to get married on that same weekend. Yes, if you recall, the weekend of my birthday. 

I had made plans in advance and desperately needed to keep them. 

This get-a-way took us to the West side of the state of Michigan to a city called Grand Rapids.

 My birthday was on Friday and we both had to work Thursday night/Friday morning. After a quick nap, we loaded up the new car and got our butts out of town. We were there before we knew it. We got a nice room with a private access to the pool and hot tub.

We spent the evening wandering around downtown seeing what we could see. We were not disappointed with our choice of destinations. While Detroit is a pit of poverty and dis pare, Grand  Rapids seems to be thriving. The temps were warm in the high 80's / low 90's and everything was clean and beautiful.

We strolled along the Grand River's edge enjoying the sights and sounds.

Everywhere you looked there was something to catch your eye. We felt safe and comfortable at all times.

There seemed to be a beautiful mix of old architecture and new standing proudly side by side.

Older bridges have been preserved for pedestrian traffic and newer bridges now carry the autos. Anyone that's been to Detroit knows that it's all about the cars here. Pedestrians venture out at their own risk. Not the case at all in Grand Rapids.

Being a Friday night in May, there were no shortages of young students all dressed up for their prom and romantic carriage rides to show them around the town.
 Everywhere we looked on the sidewalks, someone had written out encouraging words and short sayings in chalk.

Our former president Gerald Ford was from Grand Rapids and after his Presidency, he returned home and opened the Museum you see here.
We walked along in front of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, dipping our sore feet in the fountain.
 This wouldn't be "The Brighter Side of the Grave" without a little bit of grave, so here we have the final resting place of President Ford and his wife Betty Ford. Located along side the museum and just steps away from the river right in the heart of downtown. A beautiful and peaceful spot.
A little further up the river, we found the fish ladder. You can't see them here, but there were fish using this to go up stream. My question is how do they know to use the ladder instead of trying to navigate the small water falls?

 It was getting late, so we made our way back to where we had left the car along the riverfront park.
We stopped again in front of the Presidential Museum as the sun went down and the city lights began to glisten off the water.

It was a great start to an even greater weekend where I got to achieve a life long goal.

Stay tuned.

Friday, May 25, 2012


Somebody's celebrating his eleventh Birthday today...

This little ball of fir has brought more love and joy into my life than you could ever imagine.
I have been so blessed for the past eleven years and looking forward to many, many more.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Week of Silence

Today, I break this week of silence that I have been observing on the blog.

Last year at 10:04am, my mother drew her last breath.
Today at 10:04am, this post will go live and this whole past year of first will come to an end.

The first Thanksgiving, the first Christmas, etc. And most recently, the first Mother's Day ... without my Mom.

I know that the pain will never go away. But at least we can stop saying, "This is the first..."

It's been a rough month remembering everything that we went through last year and working through this years issues. It's been especially hard on my father who along with the added grief of the anniversary of losing his wife of 58 years almost lost a daughter too.

Today starts a new beginning though. We will never forget, but we must move on.

Tomorrow after getting out of work in the morning, Ed and I will be taking the new car and getting away for a couple of days. I'm sure that you'll get the chance to read all about it.

Sunday, my father will attend one of my nieces' wedding. And then Monday, he will be going with my oldest sister to her home in Alabama while the sister that had the brain aneurysm recovers at home here. I don't know if he's looking forward to it as much as you'd think. But we have so many things to take care of at the house and with my sister that a little vacation for him will be just the thing we all need. And since my sister volunteered to take on his care for a while. It seems like a good idea.

My sister Elaine is doing much better. Still having some issues that hopefully will work out in therapy but a far cry from what it was four weeks ago.

So while today is a sad day of remembrance for us here on the Eastern shore of Michigan, it also marks what will be a new year of recovery. We're keeping our heads up and smiling into the wind like a dog sticking his head out the car window.
Hope you don't mind the slobber on the window.