fallingwater in the snow
Built over a waterfall and designed to work within nature and not disrupt it, Fallingwater is considered one of Wright’s most iconic works. Courtesy of Fallingwater.

How would you like to eat, sleep and lounge on top of a waterfall? It may sound like a fairy tale, but for the Kaufmann family, Frank Lloyd Wright made it possible. Wright built the home for the family in 1937 in Mill Run, Pennsylvania. Today the house can be toured by the public, but don’t worry if you can’t make it all the way to Mill Run—come along to admire it virtually!

Groundbreaking Design

Just as Beethoven straddled the Classical and Romantic era with his music, Frank Lloyd Wright’s seminal house straddled architectural eras. Fallingwater was designed and built in the 1930s, towards the end of the Bauhaus movement. But the home’s sleek, linear and window-filled design all speak to a movement that was just beginning—Mid Century Modern. Further elements of the home, like its use of concrete and steel and its simple color scheme echo the Mid Mod style we know and love today.

fallingwater waterfall
The home sits cantilevered over a waterfall, allowing it flow freely underneath. Courtesy of Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.

Situated atop Bear Run Falls in the Allegheny Mountains of southwestern Pennsylvania, the extraordinary home made a splash, appearing on the cover of a 1938 issue of Time upon its completion. Built as a weekend home for the Kaufmann family, it offered the successful department store owners an extraordinary place of repose.

In 1963, Edgar Kaufmann Jr. gave the home to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy to preserve and share the home with the public. Since then, the Conservancy has taken care of the home and maintained it for future generations.

Fallingwater interior
“Fallingwater in its setting embodies a powerful ideal—that people today can learn to live in harmony with nature.”—Edgar Kaufmann Jr. Courtesy of Fallingwater.

Step Inside

The home is an expansive 5,300 sq. ft—2,445 of which are terraces. Its vast space (both indoor and outdoor) reflects not only Wright’s organic design but also the Kaufmann family’s love of entertaining. They had specified the need for several bedrooms, but Wright intentionally designed the bedrooms on the smaller side to encourage those within them to spend their waking hours out in the open spaces.

But even that much space was not enough–after the completion of the main house, Wright continued his work on the property with a separate guesthouse and servants’ quarters.

fallingwater seating area with windows
Wright’s attention to detail shines when you notice things like detailing on the windows. Courtesy of Fallingwater.

Wright continued his brilliant organic design indoors. He designed walnut furnishings and used stones from the nearby river in the fireplace hearth. The open spaces of the living rooms and dining room feature prominent windows to enjoy the view of the forest.

The glass seems to disappear into the stone walls—Wright designed recesses in the stone where the caulking and glazing is hidden from view. By creating a home that was so perfectly integrated with its surroundings, he made its residents and visitors feel like they were a part of nature too.

fallingwater in the fall
The neutral hues of the home help it blend into its surroundings. Courtesy of Fallingwater.

The home’s use of cantilevers was quite the feat too. Wright was one of the first people to use a cantilever in a residential building, and paved the way for their place in Mid Mod design.

An architectural feat and beautifully integrated with its environment, it remains a hallmark of American architecture. Learn more about the home or schedule a tour, visit fallingwater.orgAnd of course, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram Facebook and Pinterest for more Mid Century Modern inspiration!