Winter Reflections on Corner Windows

You know how I was saying that I love the windows in our house? Well this is why.

Frank Lloyd Wright really knew what he was doing when he placed corner windows in his homes. Each of the three bedrooms in our American System Built Home have corner windows like this and the effect is huge. Pushing the windows to the corners of the rooms brings in some of the most amazing light. And when you first walk into a room your eyes are drawn to the corner, to outdoors, to treetops and light.

One day last week I caught this sunset just as it was shining its brilliance through the windows in the front bedroom. I paused for a moment to think about all the previous owners who have probably had moments of reflection inspired by the house’s design.

I think back to the house’s first winter in 1918. I wonder whether Mr. and Mrs. Meier admired the sunlight streaming through the windows. I wonder whether they watched the snow fall and the windows frost and thought about how happy they were to have finally moved into their American System Built Home.

I think about the kids who have probably looked impatiently out the windows in hopes that it’ll be a snow day. I imagine them pushing one of the casement windows open and reaching out to catch a few flakes as they drifted toward earth. “See, Mom,” they might have said. “It’s really coming down out there! It’ll be a snow day for sure tomorrow.”

I imagine the teachers who inhabited the house for 30 years who might have had the same feeling about snow days. Perhaps they counted on snowstorms to deliver unplanned days off that would allow them to hole up in the warmth of the house. And maybe they would see the sun setting through the windows and, refreshed by a day of rest, would feel revived for the new day ahead.

This is our fourth winter in the house and I still find myself being inspired by its beauty. I hope whoever owns the Delbert Meier house one hundred years from now knows that it has been filled with love.

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets

In taking a year to rehab the kitchen in fits and starts I ended up experimenting with my approach to painting the cabinets. By the time I got to the second half of the job, I had perfected my method. And now that we’ve lived with the painted cabinets for a few months, I’m proud to say that my method worked! The painted cabinets are holding up nicely and are easy to clean. In other words, my trial and error is your guide to doing it right the first time.

When I first started the project, I used my Craftsman Nextec tool to sand the doors and drawer fronts before applying primer and paint. That was a messy and time consuming job that I thought was necessary to get good paint coverage. I soon realized I was making more work for myself than was necessary. So without further adieu, here’s the method for painting the cabinets that I finally landed on.

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Dinner at the Guy Smith House
American System Built Homes

Taking ownership of a Frank Lloyd Wright designed home means becoming the steward of a piece of architectural history. The people who are willing to undertake such a responsibility share a passion for history and architecture. (And we may all have a screw loose, too.) After buying the Delbert Meier house in 2013, we started reaching out to fellow owners of American System Built homes. Birds of a feather and all that.

Last weekend we were invited to a gathering of some of the Chicago area American System Built Home owners. The owners of the Guy Smith house hosted The Mister and myself along with the owners of the H. Howard Hyde house and the Oscar Johnson house. We had all met last summer when the Guy Smiths* celebrated their 100th anniversary with a party. This weekend’s dinner was to bring us all together again to share house stories.

The Guy Smith and H. Howard Hyde houses are located on the same street in the Beverly neighborhood on Chicago’s far south side. The Guy Smith is one of the larger ASBH models and has been lovingly restored and maintained over the years. The H. Howard Hyde house is very similar to our own home and is under new ownership. We had been inside both houses last summer during the Guy Smith’s anniversary party but it was nice to return to spend more time in the Smith house.

(The Oscar Johnson house is located in Evanston, a Chicago suburb. We’ve also had the opportunity to visit the Johnson house on a couple of occasions.)

Bringing the four owners (we’re all couples so it’s actually eight owners) together was a great idea. We’re all in different stages of ownership and conservation/renovation. The Guy Smiths have been in their house for over twenty years and have done a lot of work to maintain their home. The Howard Hydes purchased their home just last year and are in the beginning stages of exploring the history of American System Built Homes. The Oscar Johnsons, a couple with two small children, have owned their house for about ten years and rehabbing their home in fits and starts when times allows. And then there’s us – the owners of the Delbert Meier house. You probably already know our story. We’re the guys who are also taking the tortoise approach to the rehab race – slow and steady.

We all traded war stories about rehab surprises, architectural features that have been lost to time and why you should never tell a contractor that you own a Wright house. (There’s no quicker way to see the price of a project skyrocket than to let someone know that your home has some historical significance.) The owners of the Smith house had prepared packets of information that they had gathered from the Wright archives. As we supped at the Prairie-style dining table, we perused the documents and talked about our different experiences as owners of ASB homes. In going through the documents and sharing experiences, it became clear that we all view our homes as passion projects. Birds of a feather indeed.

Our hearty thanks to all the owners for gathering for the dinner. And a special thanks to the owners of the Guy Smith house for coordinating and hosting.

The Guy Smith house was recently featured in a segment on WTTW, Chicago’s PBS station. Watch the segment to learn more about that house as well as the other Wright-designed homes in Beverly.

*In the interest of privacy, I’m referring to each owner by the the name of their house. 

ASBH Features: Our 100-Year-Old Windows

For a 100-year-old-house, the original wood casement windows in our American System System Built Home are in excellent condition. This is largely due to the fact that the house has been fortunate enough to pass from caring owner to caring owner. We learned from the grocer’s daughter, for instance, that it was her father who had carefully reglazed the windows and built the interior (storm) windows and screens. And according to a longtime neighbor, the windows were a point of pride for the teacher who owned the house for many years after the grocer sold it. The neighbor told us that the teacher spent his summer breaks tending to the house and preserving the wood windows.

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A Final Tour: Saying Goodbye to the City Condo

Rogers Park Chicago Condo

On February 20, 2007, The Mister and I signed the closing documents for our first home together – a modest vintage condo on the far north side of the city. It was the Mister’s big birthday (I won’t say which but it ended in a zero) and we were confident that by purchasing property we were taking our first big step toward financial security. The housing market had been going gangbusters for the first few years of the early 2000’s and this small, rehabbed condo in an up-and-coming neighborhood was what we could comfortably afford. We reasoned that with the strong housing market we’d be able to trade up to a larger condo within a few years. Continue reading