Prairie-style interior design suggestions?
April 1, 2008 1:59 PM   Subscribe

My wife and I are building a small, prairie style home later this spring and while I'm a designer of sorts, I'm terrible with interiors. In what ways can we accentuate the home's prairie style while keeping the interior fairly contemporary?

We both love the craftsman color palette which I'm sure we'll employ, but haven't thought of much beyond that. We've got a kitchen, two large open living spaces, and multiple baths to figure out. Specific suggestions would be great.
posted by BirdD0g to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Interior architecture is what makes or breaks a Prairie home. Remember, the entire point of this style hinges on not just the home's context within the larger environment, but light and air. This is what FLW got from Greene & Greene: the free-flowing air current throughout the house - especially among open, hallway-less common rooms on the ground floor - and the use of natural light.

Skylights, strict adherence to a modular grid, sticking to right angles when possible - these are a few of the (many!) tricks to having a home really be part of the Prairie tradition.

Of course, a real architect who specializes in interiors will do far better than you or I could. But that's a start. Also, don't lean too heavily on the Craftsman palette if you can avoid it; the Prairie look goes toward lighter, paler washed out versions of those colors, with very little paint (aside from the tans, browns, pale greens and rust reds used for accents here and there) inside, with almost all color coming from the grain of the wood. Save as much as possible and invest in good, stain quality woods, things that are relatively low grain as opposed to the high-grain oaks and maple and cherry used in much Craftsman design.

Avoid hallways, concentrating instead on flow from one room to another. Use large vertical planes as economically as possible - built in storage, etc; knock out everything not necessary for privacy or structural support - the Prairie aesthetic is all about openness. Look at the furniture of Berkeley Mills and books of Frank Lloyd Wright interiors for inspiration.
posted by luriete at 2:10 PM on April 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

A big ant farm! A mural or text related to Prairie-oriented stories, like My Antonia. Reimagined wagon part art? Grass textiles?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:16 PM on April 1, 2008

Wright himself favored textiles and Japanese pottery and sculpture. I think a few dramatic pieces of pottery/sculpture that fit an area well would be nice. Prairie homes looks best if they are uncluttered.

I'm not big on Wright's furniture, but he did make some beautiful pieces from plywood, in particular a neat pinstriped laminate for flooring.

Good luck. I love prairie homes, but then again, most of us Wisconsinese do.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 2:37 PM on April 1, 2008

The page you link to mentions varying ceiling heights, and I think I recall a book on Frank Lloyd Wright mentioning this specifically. You may want a large open main room, or hall, but to avoid it seeming stark or empty, varying ceiling heights can create a feeling of distinct spaces in the same wall-bounded room. A lower ceiling height can give a feeling of intimacy or coziness (which would be important to care for in this style), while an occasional higher ceiling would make a space more formal and keep the whole from feeling claustrophobic.
posted by amtho at 3:14 PM on April 1, 2008

Also - you can combine duct work camouflage with the varying ceiling height.
posted by amtho at 3:15 PM on April 1, 2008

A few things come immediately to mind.

The more expensive one is leaded glass or stained glass whenever possible. The division of the windows really says Prairie School to me.

A few years back, we made a site about the Prairie School at the museum and one of the things that really struck me was the stencils Purcell used throughout the upstairs. You'll see them used as backgrounds throughout the self linking site ;)

I'd also agree with the lighter color palate. Living in Minneapolis, I've been in a lot of Craftsman homes, but the museum's prairie school house is so much brighter in natural light.
posted by advicepig at 3:51 PM on April 1, 2008

Have you checked out Arts & Crafts Homes and the Revival and American Bungalow magazines?
posted by xsquared-1 at 3:59 PM on April 1, 2008

But the thing is, you see, that by saying you are building a prairie-style home, you must already be defining the interiors. The interior and the exterior are inseparable. If that is not obvious, then you need to start again. (This really applies to any building but for now, since prairie-style architecture is not something one sees in the average American suburb, we can just skip past the reasoning why a "Colonial-style" house, as built today, is a complete misnomer.)

OK: high wainscoting; "break" the corners of rooms, continuity of the horizontal line (i.e. the horizon) abstract interpretation of natural elements. The name says it all. Emphasize the prairie. And get some bloody picture books. And for God's sake, you live in Madison…go visit some Wright properties and get down to Chicago! I'm not sure how one design's "sorts" but it certainly must be similar to designing other things: analyze and synthesize. But frankly, the little voice in my head says you may not be able to afford what it takes to really pull this off, unless you build your own sorts as well. And another thing…if I hear you have no included a proper wood burning fireplace I am going to come visit your home and
posted by Dick Paris at 7:04 PM on April 1, 2008

If you need little design elements to ornament things, maybe very large renderings of parts of the Terracotta Extras font could be helpful:

here you go.

I love this font.
posted by amtho at 11:20 PM on April 1, 2008

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