Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater: Everything to Know About the Masterpiece

The house’s material palette is simple and largely unadorned, aside from two paint colors: ochre on the concrete elements and Cherokee red—the architect’s signature earthen hue—on the steel sash windows and doors.

A view of the home interiors shows Wright’s signature concept of compression and openness, where small spaces lead to large open plan ones.

Photo: Chicago History Museum/Getty Images

Interior design

Frank Lloyd Wright was known for designing a residence holistically, including built-in furnishings, lighting fixtures, and millwork, as well as sourcing and arranging furniture for his clients. He executed projects with a vision not only for aesthetic and function, but for family living as defined by the architecture itself. Fallingwater was no exception. The architect designed almost 170 custom wood furnishings for the house in a style that blended harmoniously with the architecture.

The interior layout focuses of Wright’s signature concept of compression and openness, where small spaces lead to large open plan ones. On the first floor of the Fallingwater house, visitors move through the intimately sized entry to a continuous dining and living room. As always, nature is close by. A hatch in the floor opens to reveal an exterior suspended staircase that leads down to the Bear Run stream.

Renovations to Fallingwater

The structural success of Fallingwater’s cantilevers relies on their use of concrete reinforced with steel. During construction, Wright insisted that his design would perform, but on-site builders were less convinced and added more structural steel to the concrete slabs without the architect’s knowledge.

After living in the vacation home for 26 years, the Kaufmann family gave its custody to region’s Western Pennsylvania Conservancy in 1963. The organization turned the house into a public museum and oversees its design preservation and all required maintenance to ensure the landmark will last for generations to come. In 2002, Fallingwater’s famous cantilevers underwent a major structural restoration to prevent their collapse.

Roughly 135,000 visitors make the trip to visit the historic site each year.

Photo: Getty Images

What’s so special about Fallingwater?

“[Fallingwater] has served well as a house, yet has always been more than that,” Edgar Kaufmann Jr. once said, “a work of art beyond any ordinary measure of excellence.” Surrounded by 1,543 acres of natural land, the architecture is integrated with the spirit of its awe-inspiring environment. While its form is distinct and standout, Fallingwater was designed for a family to live in and among nature. Not only did the Kaufmanns commission the correct architect to achieve their specific ideal of country living, but Frank Lloyd Wright found the perfect clients to design a home that is the pinnacle of his explorations in the connection between land and building. Fallingwater is a 20th-century masterpiece in organic architecture—one that was created nearly four decades before the design world began to consider its impact on the planet.

Who owns Fallingwater now?

The Kaufmann family owned Fallingwater until 1963 when they entrusted it to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, a nonprofit organization headquartered in Pittsburgh that preserves land and natural resources across the region.

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