Usonian House Style: Timeless Classic Or Architectural Fad?

"The style that won't die" is how The Washington Post has referred to the mid-century modern craze. From sleek, chrome Barcelona chairs to turquoise Smeg refrigerators, everything popular in the middle years of the 20th century is coming back again. Mid-century architecture, especially the work of the legendary Frank Lloyd Wright, is no exception. Back in vogue recently is a style developed by Wright, known as Usonian architecture. 

Usonian architecture seems to have a lot of qualities that make it ideal for the 21st century homeowner. It features airy floor plans (hello, open concept!) with lots of doors and windows to outdoor space (COVID-era friendly!) The low, modest profile of a Usonian home appeals to minimalists and eco-warriors alike. But, is the Usonian style really a timeless classic, or is it just another fad? Keep reading to learn more about the Usonian style and its legacy.

Prefabricated Usonian homes are popular, affordable options

How would a modern-day Usonian home actually function? This style is very much a product of the time in which it was developed. For Frank Lloyd Wright, the father of Usonianism, this architecture evolved as the natural progression of a much older design style. While architects had been interested in building smaller, more open homes for many decades, it was during the Great Depression of the 1930s that Wright saw the potential for this economical and affordable style come to fruition. Wright often extended his design into the interior of the home, adding stylish modern furniture which was also functional and useful.

Today, architectural firms like Lindal Cedar Homes based in Seattle, Washington are reimagining the Usonian style using modern building concepts. Lindal's Wright-inspired homes include modern additions like private master suites separated from the rest of the home. The prefabricated structure of Lindal's homes allows the dreamer on-a-budget to build their own stylish and functional Usonian home for a reasonable price. Other prefab companies like Acorn Deck House Company (Massachusetts), GO Logic (Maine), and Katana House (Florida) integrate modern amenities into Usonian-minded designs: from tiny home-style plans to energy-efficient materials and hurricane-resistant builds. The style lends itself to many contemporary applications.

Usonian homes in the twenty-first century

Usonianism as a philosophy is about living small and building houses in which people can function efficiently while being connected to nature. It is a philosophy which resonates with contemporary ideals. But, is it practical to build and live in your own Usonian home? It depends on your budget and where you live. Building a new home, rather than buying an existing structure and refurbishing it, is becoming a more expensive option as the cost of building materials continues to increase. Some companies offering prefabricated builds promise to deliver a Usonian-inspired home at a reasonable cost, but a true Usonian home from the Wright era would likely have been produced in a very different manner — using materials which have since become unaffordable or impractical for many homeowners, like masonry and brick. 

If you are concerned with authenticity, consider purchasing a ranch-style home from the 1940s or 1950s and renovating it with Usonian touches. Add more portals to outdoor spaces, a patio which utilizes natural materials like stone and wood, or a skylight to bring in natural sunlight. You may satisfy both your wallet and your penchant for period-accurate touches. Whether you are willing to take on the challenge of beginning a new build or you're just looking to add Usonian touches to an existing home, the style features many elements which modern homeowners will find pleasing, comforting, and satisfying.