What’s it like inside the only house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright ever built in Houston? The latest edition of the Houston Architectural Guide describes the 1954 Usonian — designed by the master architect for local insurance executive William Thaxton — as “so perverse that it has engendered several sets of alteration intended to make it more livable.” The concrete-block structure featured parallelogram-shaped bedrooms with “claustrophobic proportions.” Among the later additions meant to correct the faults of the “willful and contrary” work of America’s master Modern architect: ionic columns and pineapple-shaped finials on the corners of the roof.
Oh, but all those little problems with the home at the end of a cul-de-sac in Bunker Hill Village have long since been fixed. Author Stephen Fox notes the Guide description was written well before the home’s most recent transformation, designed by Bob Inaba of the local architecture firm now known as Kirksey. In the early nineties the home’s new owners contracted them to wipe away earlier add-ons, then create a long, tall U-shaped annex that hugs the 1,200-sq.-ft. original structure, forming a courtyard with the swimming pool at the center:
The substantial wraparound addition allowed the home’s new owners to appreciate Wright’s creation without condemning them to live in it: The annex contains entirely separate living and dining spaces, connected by hallways with views of the original structure. And those cramped bedrooms were consolidated into a sitting room, Fox notes.
The owners saved the building — one of only 4 FLW-designed buildings in Texas — from possible demolition when they bought it in 1991 and poured “millions” into the renovation and addition. But they avoided media coverage for their work for many years. Why the recent attention?
Owner Allen Gaw, a pediatric dentist, tells the Houston Business Journal the once-cramped home is just too big for him now. The whole maybe-10,000, maybe 11,000-sq.-ft. 6-bedroom, 7-1/2-bath house-in-a-house went up for sale last month. He’s asking $3.5 million.
- 12020 Tall Oaks St. [HAR]
- Only Wright house on sales block [Houston Business Journal]
- Houston Journal; A House With a History May Not Have a Future [NYTimes]