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Creating a Prairie Style Interior

A series of decorating articles that will appear throughout the year. Visit back often to see the latest topic.

Coming soon these topics:

Decorating Introduction | Colors | Furniture (Draft 2) | Rugs/Textiles (Draft 1) | Lighting | Windows | Accessories | Resource & Budgets | Books to help

So you want to capture that “Prairie style” look in your home. You are attracted to the clean simple lines of the furniture, the banding of rich wood trim work on the walls and ceilings, the warm tones of the textiles and rugs, the charming interplay of colored glass and clear glass in geometric abstracts in the art glass windows. You feel a connection with the wood floors and earth colored tiles and concrete floors. But how do you achieve the look in your home?

After years of helping clients design Prairie School, Craftsman, Mission, Usonian (Mid-Century Modern rugs) for homeowners of original Walter Burley Griffin, Purcell & Elmslie (& many others), and additional research about interior designers who worked with those architects – like George Mann Niedecken, Harry Rubins, Gustav Weber, etc. I have some information to help you achieve a Prairie style interior for you home or room.

Note - The most famous Prairie School architect of the period can not be mentioned by name because his surviving foundation owns the Trademark rights to his name. I choose to comply with their Trademark rights and can not use his name on my commercial website.

These are decorating articles – not a research paper…
Let me state an important issue right up front. This will not be an essay with historical accuracy on the original interiors of the Prairie School style homes. Far from it. I am going to discuss colors, furniture style, lighting, rugs/textiles and finding resources for different budget levels. I state this only to deter the scholarly folks from bashing me for not being historically correct. I will, however, discuss some of the people involved with the original homes and what you can use to give your home a “Prairie-style look”.

This information is geared for the California Craftsman Bungalow owner who wants to decorate their living room with a Prairie School influence. Or the owner of the Chicago or Iowa or other Midwestern Four-Square or small Prairie style house, who wishes to carry a Prairie style interior theme throughout the house. Perhaps you are a homeowner who has a brand new Prairie style home and are ready to decorate your white walls and bare rooms with a touch of Craftsman style interiors. Lastly, maybe you are a business owner with a professional office in a Prairie style building and want to create a Prairie style office interior.

A Little History…
Having said this is not a dissertation, I think a little history is needed to set the stage. Louis Sullivan, an architect in the late 1800's inspired a group of young architects in the Midwest to create a new architecture for America. He implored them not to copy the past – Victorian, Greek Classic, French Provincial, etc. They were to look at the site and create a building to blend with the site.

Band of windows in original Prairie School designed homeThey looked to nature and saw the plains of the Midwest and created homes that were low and broad-based. Interiors differed greatly from the Victorian homes that were rooms off of hallways. They eliminated hallways and let rooms open and flow to each other room. They did not have just a window punched into a wall, they took several windows and placed them next to each other creating a band of windows that let light in and gave a greater feeling of openess. The windows themselves became framed pictures of the nature outdoors.

Band of windows in original Tallmadge & Watson designed homeLouis Sullivan lectured often and had many young architects who came to know each other and work together in Chicago. Many architects designed smaller versions of the Prairie School style of home design. Each home was to be individual and organic to its site on the land. That is why many people feel that there is no true “style”. However, the themes and color schemes of nature can be adopted to achieve a look that many people today associate with a “Prairie-style”.

Decorating Introduction | Colors | Furniture (Draft 2) | Rugs/Textiles (Draft 1) | Lighting | Windows | Accessories | Resource & Budgets | Books to help


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