When Frank Lloyd Wright began his career, architecture and interior design were in a frenzy of ginger-breadiness. By the time Wright died in 1956 at the age of 89, much of modern architecture was bereft of any decoration which could not be bent to the will of structural steel and pre-cast concrete.
Wright's own work reflects the same transition from fancy to plain, from the purely ornamental to the useful that we associate with "modernism." Nonetheless, his rebellion against the gewgaws of the 19th century was firmly grounded in the principles of late Victorian reform thinkers like John Ruskin and William Morris, who deplored the dehumanization of mass-produced decorative objects and sought to reinstitute craftsmanship in the architecture and design of their day.
In The Decorative Designs of Frank Lloyd Wright , David A. Hanks has meticulously set down Wright's theories of the beautiful as well as the details of their execution. Wright planned structures which ranged from small "Usonian" homes for middle-class families to large office buildings, and for his buildings he designed nearly all the necessities of human life from lighting to tableware. In Wright's esthetic, everything was meant to coalesce in an organic fashion, and so the designed not only his clients' homes but also the furnishings and accessories (sometimes even clothes) to go with them.
Hanks has included over 200 photographs of Wright's houses, the original schemes for their furnishings, and color plates of many of his spectacular rug, leaded glass and china designs. He has provided through and detailed accounts of how various homes were constructed, how their furniture was designed and by whom the pieces were made.
One comes away from Hanks' book not only with a deeper understanding of Wright's esthetic but also with an appreciation of the artisans who brought the master's designs to life and, above all, of those clients who were brave enough, and unconventional enough to say to one of the century's most unorthodox and imaginative designers-"Create a setting for my life." (Dutton, paperback, $9.95; cloth $16.95)