This weekend, while visiting friends in Pittsburgh, we finally crossed a major item off our design bucket list and made it out to Fallingwater. Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpiece house is located just about an hour southeast of Pittsburgh, and it's more than worth the detour to see one of the most famous homes in American history.
Lots of people (including us) initially think of Fallingwater and Wright's style in general as mid-century modern, but much of his career actually took place long before the mid-century. Wright's career in architecture began around 1887 when he was hired as a draftsman at Joseph Lyman Silsbee in Chicago, and over the next few decades he grew to become one of America's most in-demand architects. He was known for his organic architecture philosophy, which wasn't fully realized until he built Fallingwater in 1935.
Fallingwater was the vacation "cabin" of the Kaufmann family from Pittsburgh, a wealthy family who owned the popular Kaufmann's department store. The home was built on top of a waterfall on Bear Run, and while the family wanted their Wright-designed cabin to face the falls for a tranquil view, Wright eventually convinced them to go with his vision of making the waterfall part of the home itself.
The home was cantilevered throughout and built with reinforced concrete to allow it to sort of float above the water — and when you walk through on the tour, it definitely gives you a feeling of vertigo at certain points. We were especially inspired by the way Wright built all of the walls on the balconies lower than traditional walls to allow for a feeling of constantly looking out at the horizon (though it was kind of crazy to think of all the codes the house would be violating if it were built today).
Inside, the house is still furnished with Wright's original built-in furniture, and even the sofas and wardrobes are cantilevered to match the rest of the house. The floors are made of stone sourced from the river below, and Wright even allowed a huge boulder that the family liked to sun themselves on protrude through the wall into the fireplace. The floor plan is open and airy, with warm, Japanese-inspired woods and colorful textiles throughout.
The original cost? $155,000. Today, the home is worth around $15.9 million, but because of all the ceiling leaks and structural issues that go along with owning a Frank Lloyd Wright home, it costs millions of dollars in upkeep each year. The harsh Pennsylvania winters have taken a toll on the home over the past century, and while the home is currently in the care of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, it won't be around forever. If you're ever in the area, give this incredible testament to American architecture a visit and immerse yourself in its magic.