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List Price: $849,000
The Property: Oak Park is the laboratory where Frank Lloyd Wright moved from the 19th-century architecture everyone else was practicing into something brand new he was inventing—and you can see him crossing that bridge at the George Furbeck house, which he built in 1897. It’s one of two houses built for the Furbeck brothers. This one has a pair of turrets where the old Queen Anne and the nascent Prairie co-exist. There’s the verticality and the conical caps of a Queen Anne Victorian and hints of the Prairie artistry to come in the turned brick and ornamental woodwork.
The tops of the two turrets were originally complemented by a third conical cap, on a porch off the front. That porch and a forecourt that Wright designed were eventually turned into an interior room, so that the progression through the house now starts with a very large front room—not original to the design of the house but adding 357 square feet of living space.
At the far end of the room is where Wright’s artistry starts, at the original main entrance marked by four angular pillars flanked by art glass widows. This is clearly the intended beginning of the voyage into the sequence of layered spaces inside. The first layer is a small alcove, the next the front hall, between the two turrets. One contains the staircase, and the other is a beautiful little study with built-in bookcases and art glass on the windows and doors.
The next layer is the largest octagon, the living room of the house. On one side of the room is a built-in settee, and on the other is a Roman brick fireplace. A pattern in the brick picks up a pattern in the cabinet doors. Flanking the fireplace are wood light screens like those in other parts of the house, and here they serve a very interesting purpose: behind the fireplace and the light screens is a hallway for servants, and beyond that, more art glass. So daylight light comes in through the layers of glass and wood, even though servants don’t come in.
The dining room is a more standard rectilinear room but filled with fine details: the wood all around the walls and ceiling, built-ins along one wall, and art glass windows and a fireplace whose shapes mirror one another.
On the upper two floors are five bedrooms (four on the second and one perched at the rear of the third, and three baths: two on the second floor, one on the third). At present there’s no master bath, although the front bedroom has a bath that it now shares with another bedroom; a buyer could opt to colonize that smaller bedroom to create a master suite including bath. It’s also possible to put the master at the back of the house, in a large bedroom that has a fireplace and a view into the yard.
But whatever the buyer does to this important old house, it ought to be done Wright. Heyo!
Price Points: The house, owned by Audrey Kouvel and her late husband, James, since the late 1960s, first went on the market in 2010, asking $1.1 million, with a different agent. Kouvel has since moved out and spent, according to her present listing agents, $150,000 on work that the house needed, including the installation of air conditioning, re-plastering of most walls, and re-painting in fresh Wright-friendly colors. Even with that investment, the house came back on the market this spring asking $849,000—or 77 percent of the 2010 asking price. That may provide a buyer financial leeway to redo the dated kitchen and baths.