Prairie Style

Prairie School was a late 19th- and early 20th-century architectural style, most common to the Midwestern United States. It developed in sympathy with the ideals and artistic designs of the Arts and Crafts Movement. The Prairie style similarly embraced handcrafting and craftsman guilds as a reaction against the new assembly line. Their efforts represented a rebellion against mass production manufacturing techniques, which they believed created inferior products and dehumanized workers. The Prairie style was also an attempt to develop an indigenous North American style of architecture that departed from earlier styles of European classical architecture. The most famous proponent of this style, Frank Lloyd Wright, promoted an idea of “organic architecture”. He believed that a structure should look as if it naturally grew from the site. These homes were called prairie style after Wright’s 1901 Ladies Home Journal plan titled, “A Home in a Prairie Town.”

The Features of Prairie Style Architecture:

  • Designed to blend in with the flat, prairie landscape
  • Marked by horizontal lines
  • Architectural Features: Low-pitched roofs, broad overhanging eaves, central chimney
  • Window Features: Clerestory windows, windows grouped in horizontal bands,
  • Usually plaster with wood trim, or sided with horizontal board and batten
  • Later homes used concrete block
  • Solid construction, craftsmanship, and discipline in use of ornament
  • Integration with the landscape – thought to evoke, relate to, and blend in with the native prairie landscape
  • Many shapes: Square, L-shaped, T-shaped, Y-shaped, and even pinwheel-shaped
  • Wright believed these stripped-down houses represented the democratic ideals of the United States

The Features of Prairie Style Interior Design:

  • Open interior spaces – as opposed to the boxed-in and confining rooms of the Victorian era
  • Ceilings define areas
  • Rooms often divided by leaded glass panels
  • Furniture often built-in or specially designed
  • Central chimney dominates the space
  • Art glass windows filter and transform light while eliminating the need for curtains and drapes
  • Simple yet richly stained wood, preferably quarter-sawn oak, and earth tones