Here in Brisbane there’s no denying that spring is well and truly upon us. The sky is almost unfeasibly blue, creating the kind of days that make me think 'Meh, you can keep New York, coz it ain't got this'. The sun is still invitingly warm, rather than blistering, and there is a general air of, well, perkiness about the place.
There’s an urge at home to throw open the windows and let in the fresh air, or to get out and do things in the garden.
To give you that little extra push in the right direction, and really get your design juices flowing, today we’re got a super-charged dose of architecture, garden design and integrated art.
So without any further ado, welcome to the Avery Coonley House, by two absolute design heavyweights: the building by Frank Lloyd Wright, and the garden by Jens Jensen.
The house dates from 1908, when it was built on a 4-hectare site in Riverside, outside Chicago.
The estate contained an e-nor-mous main house, an equally impressive bedroom wing, a separate gardener’s cottage and a coach house and stables building. All were designed in Wright’s signature Prairie style, with long, low buildings hunkered down under horizontal roofs, walls reaching out to enclose courtyards and garden spaces, and beautiful details and moments of delight throughout.
Sadly the Coonley House fell on hard times, and in the 1950s was bought by a developer whose plans for demolition were thwarted in the nick of time.
Following this the property was divided into four separate residences. One was in the coach house:
The second house occupied the gardener's cottage; the third, the main house/living wing:
And the fourth one was in the bedroom wing, which was separated from the main house.
Fast-forward another half a century to 2001, when the main house had the extreme good fortune to be bought by Dean and Ella Mae Eastman. Following a stellar career in physics, largely spent at IBM, and then academia, Dean Eastman threw himself (and a not insignificant amount of his hard-earned cash) into a painstaking restoration of the Coonley House.
I had the pleasure of visiting the Coonley House a few years ago, and I have to admit it was one of those experiences that you can’t fully take in at the time. We were asked not to photograph inside the house, but if you want to nosy inside, enjoying the restored murals, windows and much more, then check out this short real estate video made at the time the Eastmans were selling up. (They moved right next door, into the coach house!)
Health Warning: if you suffer easily from house envy or architecture envy, it might be best to avoid. I can't watch it without wanting to move in straight away!
But even without peeking inside, I reckon there’s more than enough in the exterior and gardens of the Coonley House to keep you intrigued, delighted and inspired. Enjoy!
So there you have it: a pocket tour of the wonderful Coonley House. What did you think?
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Enjoy dipping your toe into spring, and catch you soon for another inspirational landscape.