In 2016, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Sherman Booth House in Glencoe, Illinois, celebrated its centennial, and Sonia Bloch had lived in the house for half that time.
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Since its completion more than a century ago, the home has had only three owners: the Booth family, Northwestern University, and Sonia and Ted Bloch, who bought it in 1967. According to Sonia, the house had been intended for use as a conference center for Northwestern, but the university wound up putting it on the market. “It was completely vacant when we saw it. It had ragged carpets, and none of the light fixtures worked,” she says. “To some people, it was ugly, but to me, it was gorgeous.” The Blochs got to work restoring the house to its original glory.
Here is a first-floor plan so that you can keep track of how the rooms flow together as we go through the house.
There is a natural flow through the spaces; the library area is open to this great room (marked “living room” on the plan), which also looks out toward the porch and the property beyond.
Sonia also learned more about the design from one of Sherman and Elizabeth Booth’s sons. At one point, she found out that Sherman Booth Jr. was living close to where she was staying in Florida, so she looked him up and paid him a visit. “Sherman Jr. told me that his mother didn’t want people to see her kitchen when it wasn’t looking absolutely perfect,” she says. “He told me that is why she had Wright place the windows so high, to block the view to inside.”
“Style-wise, scholars talk about the height of the house and this roof deck with the fireplace because it was so unusual for Wright,” Sonia says. “Wright’s intention was for the roof deck to be a sculpture garden where you could look out over the ravine, but we just used it as a deck.”
The master bedroom shows us two more Wright-designed lantern fixtures and windows that wrap a corner of the house. The careful attention Wright paid to corners is something Sonia learned from this house that has always stuck with her. “When I go out into the world and see all of the unattractive corners and spaces, it makes me think about how perfect everything here is,” she says.
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