Have you ever gazed at the walls of your home and wondered what lives they’ve beheld? We have. In nearly every home we’ve shared over our twenty-year relationship, we’ve pondered aloud about the lives that existed within the space. And then we bought an old house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, one of his American System-Built Homes, an early 20th century pre-fab project, and our curiosity got the best of us. As it turns out, these walls can talk. And we’ve been listening.
When we bought our American System Built-Home in 2013, we entered into a relationship not only with the house but its former inhabitants as well. At the time, there was scant information about Frank Lloyd Wright and Arthur Richards’ early-20th century ready-made housing plan. To learn about American System Built-Homes, we went to official sources – like the Avery Library, where all 900+ original ASB drawings are cataloged. But to learn about our house, a Model M202 known as the Delbert and Grace Meier House, we turned to local experts – the people who used to call it home. Collecting former homeowner stories and learning the history of Wright’s ready-built home scheme may have eventually led to our upcoming book, but we didn’t start out with such grand ambitions.
We initially set out to simply satisfy our own curiosity. How did this American System-Built Home end up being constructed in small town Iowa? Who were the people who made this house a home over its 100+ year history? How has the house changed over that period? We had questions and, as we often do, we went in search of answers. We didn’t have a book in mind when we started out. But we did assume that the more information we collected, the better we could represent our house to fans of Wright’s architecture who frequently contact us (or visit) for information.
The people we met and the information we gathered tell a wonderful story – not just about the house but its inhabitants. This video tour provides a brief overview of the history of the Delbert and Grace Meier House, its owners and the changes that have occurred over its long history. It includes photos of the house and its owners dating back to the 1920s along with the modern snapshots that reveal the progress we’ve been in our time as stewards.
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…
We spend so much time thinking about and working on This American House that it’s easy to forget how much work we put into our city apartment. Fortunately, little things like a house call on Curbed are there to remind us that that work was not in vain.
We opened up the apartment to Nick Fochtman, a super talented interiors photographer, about a month ago and then played the waiting game until the post went live on Curbed. Nick did an amazing job in making the apartment seem much larger than it actually is. On the day of the photo shoot I left him alone in the apartment to do his work. I took a walk around the neighborhood for about an hour and then returned to find him just finishing up. I had no idea how the apartment would look through his lens. That it looks so incredibly stylish and spacious is quite a delight!
I think the title of the post – How One Couple Rode Out the Recession and Transformed Their Rogers Park Home – perfectly encapsulates the point I was trying to make in my answers to the Q&A. While it has been very tempting over the years to follow the lead of many of our neighbors and let our apartment go into foreclosure, we’re ultimately very happy that we’ve stuck it out. The value of the apartment is still nowhere near what we paid for it in 2007 but we’re still proud to call it home. I’m proud of all the projects I’ve completed that have come together to make the apartment feel comfortable yet handsome. And, most importantly, had we let the apartment go into foreclosure we wouldn’t have been able to get a mortgage for This American House.
One funny thing about this house call is that just one month later the apartment looks totally different. About a week after we had Nick over for the photo shoot I got the itch to redecorate. Such is life with me – our homes are in a constant state of evolution. I’ve rearranged some furniture and started working on a project that is going to transform the mantel into something a little more useful. Stay tuned for more details on those projects soon.
Meanwhile, take a tour of our apartment on Curbed and let us know what you think!
It seems impossible that we’ve already owned the Dream House for four months and yet the math all adds up. We closed on the house in mid-November, it’s now mid-March – that is indeed four months! In our day-to-day lives it feels like we haven’t made much progress at all. But then every now and then we’re able to step back and really see how the house is coming together. And you know what? It IS coming together!
Mr Blandings and I spent our Thanksgiving weekend walking around the dream house, cleaning, working on projects, knocking back Bloody Marys and pinching ourselves to prove that it’s not just a dream. If you had been near the house you might have heard, “We bought a house!” being exclaimed every hour or so.
Now Mr. Blandings has gone back to the city for his day job and I’m staying behind at the dream house to work on projects. After spending the weekend together in the house, it feels empty and lonely without Mr. Blandings. One of the intentions behind the dream house was to give us a place to devote to us. We did plenty of that this weekend, which explains the vacuum of good tiding in the wake of the mister’s departure.
This seems like a perfect time to give you a tour of the dream house. I want to show you all what we’re working with and it will remind me of all possibilities (and work) that lie ahead of us.