It's the architectural equivalent of finding a long-lost sibling. In Sammamish, Washington, the Ray Brandes House, a Usonian-style Frank Lloyd Wright home named after the local developer who built it, is one of the area's more recognized modern homes, a singular work of architecture. Or, at least, most people thought the building on 212th Avenue SE was unique.
Turns out a neighboring home just around the corner, the Barbara and James Taylor Home, set back on a wooded lot at 21430 SE 24th Street and hidden in plain sight for decades, was actually built by a Wright apprentice as an homage to the original. After being discovered recently by a local company, LimeLite Development, it's been exhaustively restored and just went on the market for $879,000 earlier this week.
"It's gives us hope when something that wonderful can be saved," says Marsha Shyer, the owner of the Brandes house and a board member of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy. "We didn't know the story of the home, which sat abandoned. Once we saw the home, and realized the connection, it was obvious it was something that needed to be preserved."
It was a surprise to many that the homes shared more than a similar location and style; they also share a builder. Ray Brandes commissioned the home from Wright as a fitting residence for someone involved in the building trade—the homebuilder's office was located just off the carport—and oversaw construction in 1952. It's in great condition today, one of the better preserved Usonian designs thanks in large part to his skill and care.
The "new" discovery was designed in 1965 by Milton Stricker, an apprentice who helped Wright when he was working on the Brandes home. Stricker didn't spend much time under Wright's wing, but was passionate about his work and his desire to learn from the elder architect. He drove to Taliesin West in pursuit of an apprenticeship in 1951, and when his car broke down hundreds of miles short of his destination, he hitchhiked the rest of the way. When he arrived, Wright said there wasn't room for him, so Stricker just hung around and pleaded until he was given a chance to study.
Stricker, who opened a practice in Washington state in 1962 and would make his own impact on the architecture of the Pacific Northwest, designed the James Taylor Home after Wright's death. While it's not a direct replica, it's a close match, boasting an L-shaped Usonian layout with low roofs, masonry walls, and an open floor plan. The owners even hired Ray Brandes to build it, who used the same locally sourced, pink-tinged concrete blocks (tinted due to high iron content) found in his own home for the facade.
According to Larry Woodin, a local architect, former President, and current Executive Committee Member of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, the James Taylor Home isn't a clone, but is "very strongly inspired," maybe best described as an homage. Built with a smaller budget and less-expensive wood, the Taylor home still exudes much of the style of the original home.
"It's like many of Wright's Usonian plans, and the configuration is similar to the work Wright did at the time," he says.
At the time it was built, the relationship between the homes was well known, and tours were even offered that ushered the curious between both buildings. But over time, the Taylor home faded and fell apart, suffering serious water damage and eventually falling off the radar of the architectural community. After James Taylor passed away and his wife Barbara moved to eldercare, the home sat abandoned, covered in overgrowth and disappearing from street view. By the time the Taylor children sold it to LimeLite Development, nobody involved in the deal realized its provenance. Many neighbors didn't even know there was a house on the lot before renovations began.
Will Heaton, founder of LimeLite Development, a company that specializes in renovations, decided to tour the dilapidated home before it was gutted. A big fan of midcentury architecture who frequently updated period homes, Heaton began to realize they had something special. LimeLite quickly pivoted from a standard rehab job into a historical renovation, and began digging into the history of the home.
"We'd never seen a midcentury house as cool as this one," says Todd Karam, a coordinator at LimeLite. "It was really well done, with a quality of detailing we'd never seen before."
After contacting the Washington State Department of Historic Preservation in Olympia and looking through county records, Karam confirmed the Stricker-Wright connection. The firm decided to stay true to the original blueprint and use period-specific finishings, such as cedar siding, red concrete floors, and mosaic tile (the only major changes, updating cabinetry and installing stainless steel appliances in the kitchen, are nods to modern comfort). Now fully refurbished and on the market, the 3-bed, 2-bath, 1,820 square-foot home offers a unique proposition to potential buyers, a Wright-inspired home located down the block from its inspiration.
"It's so great to have architecture like this right around the corner," says Shyer.
· 21430 SE 24th St, Sammamish 98075 [Matrix]
· Frank Lloyd Wright's Final Home For Sale, Asks $3.6M [Curbed]
· What It's Like to Live in a Frank Lloyd Wright Home [Curbed]
· Frank Lloyd Wright archive [Curbed]