Before & After: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Rarely Seen Fredrick House Is Deftly Restored
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Before & After: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Rarely Seen Fredrick House Is Deftly Restored

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By Melissa Dalton / Published by Dwell
Chicago–based Eifler & Associates Architects leads a painstaking renovation of the rarely published home located in Barrington Hills, Illinois—overseeing everything from a sagging roof to a Wright-designed dining room table.

To say that the relationship between Frank Lloyd Wright and interior designer Louis B. Fredrick was contentious is an understatement. Fredrick first commissioned Wright to design a home for his 10-acre plot in Barrington Hills, Illinois, in 1954. Wright offered two house plans, both of which were rejected. (The first was a concrete block design that the Fredricks passed on because "the word concrete block scares the daylights out of us.")

After: A commanding carport greets visitors at the entry point to the house.

After: A commanding carport greets visitors at the entry point to the house.

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By March of 1956, the strain between the men was such that Wright sent Fredrick a caustic telegram: "There can be but one Louis Fredrick. He has impressed me with the idea that he needed an architect. We know better now. He does not know what he wants nor what he does not want. He has cost us more pains in time and money therefore than he can ever repay. If ever he gets into a house he will be the architect and God help both him and the house."

After: The front door is tucked into the brick facade—a material choice made by Fredrick. Per the architects: "Walls are constructed of Norman brick manufactured by the Claycraft Company, who also provided bricks for Eero Saarinen’s house in Cranbrook, Michigan."

After: The front door is tucked into the brick facade—a material choice made by Fredrick. Per the architects: "Walls are constructed of Norman brick manufactured by the Claycraft Company, who also provided bricks for Eero Saarinen’s house in Cranbrook, Michigan."

Yet the two parties did eventually agree on a design in the fall of that year, when Wright submitted a third set of plans to Fredrick’s approval, and the home was completed by 1957. The plan is a long and lean single story with a partial basement, measuring in at a total of 2,650 square feet. Two windowed corridors radiate from the centralized cluster of living spaces. One corridor terminates in a playroom, while the other provides access to three bedrooms, including a master suite.

After: The south view of the home shows how "Wright characteristically located the house to be slightly below the highest point of the hill," says the firm, which has renovated many Wright residences.

After: The south view of the home shows how "Wright characteristically located the house to be slightly below the highest point of the hill," says the firm, which has renovated many Wright residences.

What Fredrick did not presumably know was that Wright’s offering was "a slightly revised version of a home designed for George Dlesk in Manistee, Michigan," says Chicago–based Eifler & Associates Architects. The firm recently wrapped a meticulous renovation of the Fredrick House for the newest owners, who purchased it in 2016. (The Fredrick family lived there until Louis’ death in 2002, after which it changed hands only twice.)

The recent top-to-bottom renovation restored all of the home’s defining elements, from the roof shingles to the tint in the concrete floor, with any modifications kept in line with the original design. Despite its contentious beginnings, it’s that spirit of accord that pervades the house now, as the homeowner/architectural team even fabricated furniture pieces custom-designed by Wright for the project, but which had never before been built.

Before: The Exterior and Terrace

A rear view shows the home's condition after having sat unused for 12 years, before the current owners purchased it in 2016.

A rear view shows the home's condition after having sat unused for 12 years, before the current owners purchased it in 2016.

A close-up view of the terrace.

A close-up view of the terrace.

A detail shot of the brick condition for the terrace wall.

A detail shot of the brick condition for the terrace wall.

After: The Exterior and Terrace

The renovation introduced additional steel beams to reinforce the "sagging cantilevered roof." The team also added insulation, rebuilt the chimney/parapet, and supplemented roof shingles with ones that were consistent with the originals.

The renovation introduced additional steel beams to reinforce the "sagging cantilevered roof." The team also added insulation, rebuilt the chimney/parapet, and supplemented roof shingles with ones that were consistent with the originals.

At the terrace, the team replaced or rebuilt brick and concrete as needed. They also stripped and resealed exterior wood elements and incorporated new native landscaping throughout. 

At the terrace, the team replaced or rebuilt brick and concrete as needed. They also stripped and resealed exterior wood elements and incorporated new native landscaping throughout. 

Before: The Kitchen

Having only had two owners in addition to the Fredricks, the interiors were verily intact.

Having only had two owners in addition to the Fredricks, the interiors were verily intact.

After: The Kitchen, Living, and Dining Area

Major interior moves include restoring the tinted concrete flooring throughout, as well as the abundance of Philippine mahogany in the ceiling, walls, and cabinetry. The team also built custom furnishings designed by Wright, such as the dining room table, here surrounded by Nakashima chairs.

Major interior moves include restoring the tinted concrete flooring throughout, as well as the abundance of Philippine mahogany in the ceiling, walls, and cabinetry. The team also built custom furnishings designed by Wright, such as the dining room table, here surrounded by Nakashima chairs.

The team cleaned and restored all of the interior brickwork and replaced faulty insulated glass. 

The team cleaned and restored all of the interior brickwork and replaced faulty insulated glass. 

Shop the Look
Complete Works Of Frank Lloyd Wright
Complete Works Of Frank Lloyd Wright
Made in cooperation with the Frank Lloyd Wright Archives in Taliesin, Arizona, this collection leaves no stone unturned in examining and paying tribute to Wright’s life and work.
Frank Lloyd Wright Foo Lions
Frank Lloyd Wright Foo Lions
Foo Lions (also known as Fu Dogs) traditionally guarded the entry to Buddhist temples in China and Japan, warding off evil and protecting the sacred precincts, and Wright may well have intended this male and female pair as guardians when he placed them at the entry of Taliesin.
Frank Lloyd Wright Tree of Life Mini Lightbox
Frank Lloyd Wright Tree of Life Mini Lightbox
The Frank Lloyd Wright Tree of Life Mini Lightbox Accent Lamp design is ideal for someone looking for a smaller accent lamp. The design is adapted from one of the series of "Tree of Life" windows in the Darwin D. Martin House. Cherry wood veneer with hand made Lotka paper shade material.
Other custom Wright furnishings designed for the home and built for the first time include the upholstered ottomans and two coffee tables.

Other custom Wright furnishings designed for the home and built for the first time include the upholstered ottomans and two coffee tables.

In the kitchen, the team refinished the original cabinets, supplemented them as needed, and introduced a new stainless steel countertop. New appliances provide modern functionality.

In the kitchen, the team refinished the original cabinets, supplemented them as needed, and introduced a new stainless steel countertop. New appliances provide modern functionality.

Before: The Master Bedroom

The team lightly reorganized the master bedroom to improve access to the adjoining bath and enlarge its size.

The team lightly reorganized the master bedroom to improve access to the adjoining bath and enlarge its size.

After: The Master Bedroom

"Unlike other homes designed by Wright, the top of the gable is raked inward to allow for more natural light at the top of the room," says the firm.

"Unlike other homes designed by Wright, the top of the gable is raked inward to allow for more natural light at the top of the room," says the firm.

Before: The Master Bathroom

Worn fixtures and finishes needed to be updated.

Worn fixtures and finishes needed to be updated.

After: The Master Bathroom

An elegant floating stone sink fits in with the home’s vernacular.

An elegant floating stone sink fits in with the home’s vernacular.

Before: The Study

The team reinstalled the corner mitered window glass.

The team reinstalled the corner mitered window glass.

After: The Study

A new built-in bench is now tucked into the corner.

A new built-in bench is now tucked into the corner.

The floor plan

The floor plan

Related Reading: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Celebrated Robie House Reopens to the Public8 Frank Lloyd Wright Buildings Vying For UNESCO World Heritage Status 

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Eifler and Associates Architects

Builder: Restoration Arts, Johnathan Leck

Landscape Design: Mariani Landscape

Interior Design: Virginia Eby of Eifler and Associates Architects

Cabinetry Design: Distinctive Woodwork, Inc

Fillmore Association, Wood Conservation, Jim Madson

Deer Creek Construction Management, Bill Lackovic