Back in 1950, Isadore and Lucille Zimmerman wanted a smaller, simpler house. They ended up with a classic.
Today, the home in Manchester, New Hampshire, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, is considered a museum of its own. The only Wright house open to the public in New England is the focus of special tours this summer in honor of the 150th anniversary of Wright's birth on June 8.
The one-story, 1,600-square-foot Zimmerman House was built in 1951 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. Wright, who designed the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, also was known for houses like the Zimmerman, called Usonians — smaller homes built for everyday, modest living. He designed about 60 of them.
The long, red-brick Zimmerman House has no attic or basement. It does have Wright-designed, built-in seating areas, cabinets and shelves, a carport and other efficient use of space. It also is in a setting framed by trees, a garden and other natural features.
The home is owned and maintained by the Currier Museum of Art. It's offering a "Celebrating 150 Years of Frank Lloyd Wright" tour at the house on June 11 and July 23, and a "Frank Lloyd Wright as Composer" tour on July 9 and Aug. 13, in addition to garden and twilight tours. General public tours are offered three times a day from Thursdays through Mondays.
The Zimmermans, a doctor and nurse, loved the house, writing to Wright that "utility is so married to the beauty, so that the two have become one."
James Garvin, the retired state architectural historian of New Hampshire, sees the house as a personal creation by Wright for and with the Zimmermans, the embodiment of their love of music; the provision of shelves and vantage points for the display of their sculpture and Scheier pottery; and storage for their books and other possessions.
"Uniting everything in the house is the interconnectedness of the living spaces with the wonderful grounds to the south and west," he said in an email. "The sense of privacy and oneness with nature is remarkable in a relatively small building on a relatively small urban lot."
Lucille Zimmerman initially contacted Wright, who was taking commissions on houses. She said she wanted a "small, spacious and simple house that would require the least possible housekeeping, and allow for privacy and outdoor living," said Megan McIntyre, tourism volunteer manager at the Currier.
There's a series of small, concrete square-designed windows in the front of the house, which has a sloping terra cotta roof. Its narrow entryway opens up into the large "Garden Room," with a cypress ceiling and a central fireplace, and a Cherokee red-tiled concrete poured floor. Much of the furnishings are in earth tones. The back of the house is made up of floor-to-ceiling wood- framed glass doors and windows that look right onto the backyard.
"You get this sense of bringing the outside inside in that room," McIntyre said.
The counter in the galley kitchen is made of red Formica, which goes with the floor. There's a music alcove that's big enough to hold a baby grand piano and a four-sided music stand Wright designed, with stools. The master bedroom, one of the few rooms with doors, has built-in storage areas. It reminds some people of being in a ship, McIntyre said, but she likens it to the tiny house movement of today.
"Wright was very much before his time in this idea that everything would have a place," and that storage itself could be beautiful, she said. "He was very anti-clutter."