Meyer S. May House

Date: 1908
Address: 450 Madison Avenue SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503    
City: Grand Rapids, Michigan
Accessibility: Public
Category: Residential
Links: http://meyermayhouse.steelcase.com/house

The Meyer S. May house, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, stands as one of Wright’s most elegant Prairie residences. Comprised of block-like masses, piers, and parapets that echo the rectilinear units found in its masonry finish. The structure is delineated by pronounced copings and water tables, and punctuated by bands of leaded glass windows. The house’s fenestration creates a dazzling effect on the interior. In the living room, for instance, clerestory windows reach to the ceiling and abut skylights under the roof. A similar program of stylized arrow patterns is carried across these two planes of windows and onto the rug, turning the ceiling into an extension of the wall and ground covering, and serving as a physical manifestation of Wright’s desire to “Let walls, ceilings, floors, not become not only party to each other but part of each other, reacting upon and within one another.”

Wright’s frequent collaborator, and former Studio employee, George Mann Niedecken, supervised and coordinated the interior of the May house. The windows, rugs and other textile finishes, built-ins, grilles, and brass fixtures of the residence exhibit a harmonious continuity that reflect Niedecken’s sophisticated understanding of Wright’s design philosophy. The house is characterized by an overriding luminescence that is the result not only of its abundant fenestration, but also the application of rich materials. The brickwork around the living room fireplace features mortar speckled with golden glass that offers a luxurious contrast to the plaster and brick of Wright’s typical interiors. The dining table, modeled on Wright’s own design for the dining room of his Oak Park Home, includes four piers that support electrified lamps with glass shades ornamented with patterns that echo the abstractions found in the windows and rugs of the house.

The Meyer house was purchased by Steelcase in 1985 and has since been masterfully restored. It is now open to the public.


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