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Prairie Style Furniture

In the late 19th century, a young man named Frank Lloyd Wright rebelled against ornate Victorian architecture and furnishings, and chose to build himself a home that reminded him of the prairies where he had worked in his summer holidays as a teenager. Although at this point he was not a trained architect, this home was so successful that it brought him not only a career as an architect, but also the distinction of being the innovator of the "Prairie School" in architecture and furniture design.

Ellis Cabinet
Ellis Cabinet.

Prairie Style Home Designs

Prairie style home designs feature long, low lines, imitating the horizontal lines of the prairie. Overhangs are much in use, highlighting the horizontal planes and giving an impression of affinity with the earth. Prairie style home plans aim to avoid the 'boxed in' Victorian house styles. Following the open plan wherever possible, different living areas are separated by furniture rather than walls, creating a feeling of space and family togetherness.

Prairie Wheat Chair, Oak
Prairie Wheat Chair, Oak.

Prairie Architecture & Furniture

Rejecting ornate Victorian furnishings, Wright designed his own furniture to fit in with his style of architecture. He chose to follow the Arts and Crafts movement's commitment to quality materials, simple lines and good craftsmanship. Similar to the Mission furniture made popular by Gustav Stickley, Wright's furniture featured geometric shapes with a somewhat mediaeval influence, made from solid American hardwoods. The horizontal lines and overhangs typical of Prairie style architecture were reflected in Prairie style furniture. As with Mission style furniture, little decoration or ornamentation was used. The furniture was simple and practical, relying on the quality of the wood and finish for beauty. The Arts and Crafts ethic of functionality, comfort, good craftsmanship and good materials appealed to Wright, and influenced his designs. Working together with George Mann Niedecken, a Milwaukee painter and interior designer, Wright popularized the Prairie style furniture with its simple lines, superior wood and incorporation of stained glass and art glass.

Prairie Mirror
Prairie Mirror.

Prairie Style Houses

Often referred to as Prairie Mission Furniture, Art and Craft Furniture Prairie Style, or Prairie School Furniture, Wright's furniture designs influenced many furniture manufacturers of the early 20th century. When designing a Prairie style house, Wright would design Prairie style furniture specifically for that particular house, fitting in with the architecture and landscaping to produce a harmonious whole. To appreciate this, let us take a tour through an imaginary but typical Prairie style home.

Entry Doors & Fireplace

The first impression of the house is of a low, sweeping, spacious style, built to complement the landscape around it. Pillars frame a Prairie style entry door of solid wood with a heavy brass knocker. Passing through this, we find a spacious open plan living area, divided roughly into different living spaces by furniture and occasional low walls. French doors and plenty of windows feature art glass designs. The focal point of the room is the fireplace, with brick, tile or perhaps stone surround, ornamented with a Prairie style mantel clock in wood and glass.

Dining Room

Prairie Console Table
Prairie Console Table.

The dining room furniture has heavy wooden legs, and is of a rectangular or perhaps circular design, with slatted sides and backs to the chairs. Living room furniture is built for comfort, with low horizontal lines. Solid wood bookcases with art glass patterns match the window patterns, and are used as room dividers. Much use is made of lighting. Prairie style lamps follow the prevailing theme of wood and art glass, with horizontal lines and overhangs.

Bedroom

Moving to the bedroom, we find a bedstead with heavy wooden panels, placed beside a simply designed night stand with drawers. A plain but beautiful Prairie Style oak chest of drawers provides plenty of storage space. Above it is a Prairie style wall mirror with a heavy wooden frame and leaded glass. The kitchen features lots of light and space, practical horizontal lines giving plenty of workspace, and again a combination of wood and glass.

An American Tradition

Overall, the theme is light, spaciousness, practicality and natural colors. The Prairie style home is an all-American innovation, reflecting the wide open spaces of America. To quote Frank Lloyd Wright himself: "We of the Middle West are living on the prairie. The prairie has a beauty of its own, and we should recognize and accentuate this natural beauty, its quiet level".

Prairie Table Lamp With Tiffany Shade
Prairie Table Lamp With Tiffany Shade.

The Prairie school of architecture and furniture design has greatly influenced all subsequent designs, in that practicality, comfort and spaciousness appear to have permanently replaced the box-like, ornate, fussy designs of previous eras.









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