The Last Original Frank Lloyd Wright Homeowners Tell Their Story

What would be Frank Llyod Wright’s 150th anniversary will be this year, and in celebration of the prolific and iconic architect’s work, we’re taking a look at people who commissioned Wright to design their homes – and then have stayed in them until this day. Wright often developed designs for patrons after having extensive conversations with them, which is why talking to these people who spoke to the master is integral to understanding his work.

For example, Roland Reisley, 92, thinks he might in some small way be able to credit Wright’s design with his longevity. “Living with a source of beauty in a comforting, enriching environment is psychologically beneficial. There’s not a day of my life when I don’t see something beautiful: the sun on a particular stone; the way the wood is mitered.” Helen and Paul Olfelt recall being concerned that Wright had put doors to the outside in their children’s’ rooms. “He gave us quite a lecture on why we shouldn’t be so controlling of children,” Helen recalls, but in the end he changed them to large windows.

Bob Walton said he was initially skeptical of Wright, but that he was impressed by how much he wanted to take the environment and landscape into account before building the Walton’s a home. “He wanted an aerial photograph, he wanted to know the flora and fauna. And he wanted to know how we were going to live.” Wright loved trying new materials to accomplish his practical-but-beautiful visions, and in a life spanning from the civil war to post-WWII, he saw a lot of new innovations. Often these came at a steep price tag; Wright was perpetually over-budget. He also could get tyrannical about his vision, but not at the expense of his client’s needs. Reisley notes, “If you said, ‘I’d like this here instead of there’ ”—questioning Wright’s judgment—“that’s what led to all the sparks. But if you described a need, he’d try to satisfy that.” His patrons loved him, and they love the houses that some of them still live in because of the character they possess and functionality they still exude, as much as 70 years after the architect’s death. After all these years, these houses are still inexcusably Wright.