Parked like a red brick aircraft-carrier ...in Buffalo, New York, stands the most opulent private house that Frank Lloyd Wright ever built. Its 400 windows sparkle with intricate art-glass panels, the mortar between its bricks gleams with gold, while its rooms are lined with eight miles of wooden panelling and thousands of hand-glazed mosaic tiles. It was “the most perfect thing of its kind in the world”, Wright said, with characteristic modesty, “a domestic symphony” that was the ultimate“opus” of his Prairie house style.
“It was extravagant beyond all reason,” is how Mary Roberts puts it. As the director of the Martin House Restoration Corporation, which has spent the last two decades and $50m doing up the building after years of neglect, she knows quite how much excess Wright lavished on the commission. “Just one of these windows costs $28,000 to reproduce,” she says, wrenching open one of the panes, inlaid with Wright’s trademark tree of life design.
Completed in 1905, it was a fitting monument to one of the most successful businessmen in the city, Darwin D Martin, an executive of the Larkin Soap Company, which pioneered mail-order sales and built one of the most revolutionary office buildings of all time, also designed by Wright.
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