An 85-Year-Old ‘Tiny House’ in the Style of Frank Lloyd Wright

published Mar 28, 2016
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(Image credit: Adam Green via Curbed)

We often talk about tiny houses and small space living as if they’re a new thing, but the truth is that little houses have been around for years (and were, in fact, once the norm for a majority of Americans). Case in point: this 85-year-old home, built by one of his disciples in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright, whose compact 552 square foot floorplan provides plenty of inspiration for the small houses of today.

William Wesley Peters was Frank Lloyd Wright’s first apprentice, and worked closely with him during the later part of his life. But from 1933 to 1935, the famous architect and his protege had a bit of a falling-out over Peters’ relationship with Wright’s adopted daughter, Svetlana, and Peters started a practice on his own. It was then that he designed the two-bedroom, 552 square foot Peters-Margedant house, which style-wise bore a close resemblance to Wright’s own work.

The elements that recall Wright’s work — the deep eaves, the unusually angled floorplan, the close connection with the outdoors — also ensure that this is not your average little house. The Evansville Press praised it as “combining the advantages of an apartment for convenience, and ease and economy of maintenance, with the seclusion, freedom, and spaciousness of a separate home.”

Preservationists speculate that Peters built the house on spec, as a way of showcasing his style and architectural know-how. The home’s eventual occupant was Peters’ cousin James Margedant, who lived in the house for 11 years, along with his wife, their four children, and their dog. That’s right — six people in a two-bedroom home. I’m sure there were some bunk beds involved.

(Image credit: Adam Green via Curbed)
(Image credit: Adam Green via Curbed)

Peters’ design actually pre-dated Wright’s Usonian homes, a series of modest, one-story residences he built starting in 1936, with the intent of creating beautifully designed homes that would be affordable to the common man. Although the Usonians are quite beautiful, they never quite hit the mark on affordability, perhaps in part due to Wright’s famously exacting detailing. But it’s quite possible that, thanks to its small size and modest materials, the Peters-Margedant house was a truly budget home.

The paved courtyard and surrounding wall from the original design have since been removed, but the little house survives, and preservationists are working to save this little bit of architectural history, with plans to move it onto the campus of the University of Evansville, where it can be restored and opened to the public.

Read more about the home, and see more photos (including the original architectural drawings!) at Curbed.