Why I couldn’t live in a place designed by Frank Lloyd Wright: The Zimmerman House

Frank Lloyd Wright is one of the world’s most famous architects. In fact, I would be hard pressed to name another one off the top of my head. You may recognise this house he designed:

Frank Lloyd Wright, Double-Barrelled Travel

That’s Fallingwater, and I have long held a desire to live there. Imagine that. All those clean lines, modern materials and natural elements. It’s like a James Bond villain’s lair, or James Bond’s country retreat. When I saw a picture of this as a child I made a very ambitious vow that I would live in a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright one day.

But now that I’ve been in one, I’m not so sure.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s design philosophy was very simple. Buildings should blend with nature. Think sharp angles, wood and stone and plenty of windows to let in the light.

One of the fullest expressions of that view can be seen at the Zimmerman House in the city of Manchester, New Hampshire – a US state we just spent two weeks exploring.

Frank Lloyd Wright, Double-Barrelled Travel

Visiting the Zimmerman House

The Zimmermans were a married couple, Isodore and Lucille, who lived in Manchester and developed a deep passion for the outdoors.

They loved nature so much that when the time came for them to build a home they hired Frank Lloyd Wright to design and build their dwelling according to their needs and his philosophy.

It cost them a fortune (about $1.5 million in today’s money) but they lived there for many years and when they died their estate was donated to the Currier Museum of Art which hosts tours of the home.

We boarded the tour bus with 20 or so other architecture enthusiasts (such a thing exists!) and our guide explained that Frank Lloyd Wright designed everything at the home we were on our way to see. The foundations, the heating system, the roof, the walls, the tables and chairs, kitchen, bathroom, even the mailbox!

Frank Lloyd Wright, Double-Barrelled Travel

A Frank Lloyd Wright designed mailbox is a must have

The Zimmermans had to consult with Frank Lloyd Wright about which of their possessions they were allowed to take inside. He explained they were living in a work of art not a home. Mrs Zimmerman had to throw most of her stuff (including her heirloom china) away or put it in storage.

Imagine that!

Inside the Zimmerman house

From the front yard the Zimmerman Home is very uninviting. The low slung roof and bank of tiny windows make it seem more like a prison than a home, shutting you out and keeping them in. That is exactly the idea. The house is meant to be ultra private and blend in as much as possible with the woods that shelter it.

Frank Lloyd Wright, Double-Barrelled Travel Zimmerman House

The windows at the front seem to say ‘go away!’

The Zimmerman House was built for two people and I felt cramped in every room. The building is essentially one long room broken up into several areas, sort of like an upmarket mobile home.

The lounge is a wood and stone affair with picture frame windows that seem to let the garden indoors.

The effect is magical and really makes you feel like you are outside, exactly what the Zimmermans wanted.

Frank Lloyd Wright, Double-Barrelled Travel Zimmerman House

Photo courtesy of The Currier Museum of Art

But the kitchen is like being in a submarine.

Frank Lloyd Wright apparently didn’t care much for cooking and you can really tell.

The kitchen is there because it has to be, and has no big windows or airy space. The bedrooms are cramped and the bathroom is for contortionists.

But I loved it nevertheless. As a visitor.

Every surface seems to flow into the next. There are no doors and everything is designed so your eye never hits a hard edge. The windows let in so much natural light and the textures of all the surfaces make everything feel warm, cosy and above all private.

Frank Lloyd Wright, Double-Barrelled Travel Zimmerman House

The roof is very cool – low slung but very strong

The view of the house from the back garden is breathtaking. The back windows are huge compared to those at the front and you get a real sense of what Frank Lloyd Wright was trying to achieve.

The home is a refuge from the world that allows its occupants to commune with nature.

Very cool, but I just don’t think I could live there. Could you?

I love the design but I need a few more creature comforts. Maybe I could commission a Frank Lloyd Wright disciple to design me a similar home one day. Just bigger. With a pool. A shed would be good too. And a writing hut. Maybe a games room, and a jacuzzi and a walk in wardrobe for Carmen, and a…

Frank Lloyd Wright, Double-Barrelled Travel

Our tour of the Zimmerman House was a lot of fun and our guide was very informative

What you need to know:

How much – Book online or at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, New Hampshire. $20 for adults, $19 for seniors and a sliding scale for students, teenagers and children. You can only visit the house on a guided tour and tickets must be purchased in advance.

Getting there – The tour bus departs from the Currier Museum at 150 Ash Street, Manchester, and will drive you there and back. No other visits are allowed other than with the tour.

When to go – The Zimmerman House is open seasonally, from early April through early January.

We were given two complimentary tickets to the Zimmerman House. As always, our views are our own. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take photos of the inside of the house.

Zimmerman House Double-Barrelled Travel

The back door of the Zimmerman house

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About the author

Dave is the co-founder of Double-Barrelled Travel and has been nomadic since May 2013. When he's not busily working on a novel, he can be found exploring a war museum, sailing a yacht (unfortunately not his own), or hiking up a mountain.

4 comments on “Why I couldn’t live in a place designed by Frank Lloyd Wright: The Zimmerman House”

  1. Pete Reply

    I couldn’t live in a house he designed, because I would feel like I live in a museum or a castle. So cold and stony. I always remember his Ennis House, the one that was featured in Blade Runner. It really does look like a Mayan/Aztec Temple. It is special in its own way, but I couldn’t live in that.

    • Carmen Allan-Petale Reply

      Yeah, his houses are very museum like. The owners at the Zimmerman house even called Frank every time they wanted to buy a new object for their home, to make sure he approved! That Ennis House is just creepy, I don’t think I’d like to live there either but I think I’d like to visit 🙂

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