Growing up in suburban Chicago, I was no stranger to Frank Lloyd Wright. A few towns over in nearby Oak Park, Illinois, homes the architect designed were plentiful. Over the years, I’ve visited a fair number of his buildings, but none of them are as impressive and inspiring as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Laurent House in Rockford, Illinois.
The Laurent House is a beautiful example of a Usonian home. But it’s also the only home that the famed architect ever designed for someone with a disability. While the architectural changes may seem subtle to some, to wheelchair-bound Kenneth Laurent Frank Lloyd Wright’s inclusive design made all the difference.
Equally as impressive is the fact that the Laurents lived in the home for 60 years. In fact, they were the only family to ever inhabit the space. In 2012, The Laurent House Foundation purchased the home to ensure it would be taken care of in the future. After two years of preparations, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Laurent House opened to the public in 2014.
About the Laurent Family
Kenneth and Phyllis Laurent commissioned the home in 1948 and moved in upon its completion in 1952. The home’s original color scheme is typical of Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs, prominently featuring oranges, greens, and Cherokee reds throughout the space. To help make the home’s storage more accessible to Mr. Laurent, virtually all of the hinges in the home are well-disguised piano hinges that were both aesthetically pleasing and easy to operate.
“This house lets me forget my disability and instead focus on my capabilities,” Kenneth Laurent said. “That is the gift Mr. Wright gave me.” The architect was equally passionate about the project and often referred to the home as “my little gem.” In fact, he even included the home in a book showcasing the 35 most significant buildings of his impressive career.
In the late 1950s, the Laurents adopted a son and daughter, and needed to expand their home. The couple once again commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright for the project and plans were started for the addition. However, Wright passed away before the plans were completed and never saw the Laurent’s home as it currently stands.
As we toured the space, I loved seeing the personal touches that made his iconic house a home. From the children’s heights marked on the door frame in the kitchen to items the family used on a daily basis, it’s easy to picture the Laurents in their home.
The family was also extremely dedicated to preserving their Frank Lloyd Wright home as the architect originally envisioned it. All of the furniture in the home, except for two chairs and the piano, was designed by Wright or his associates. The Laurents also purchased many of his Wright’s other products like dishes and custom designed fabrics to decorate their home.
If you visit the Laurent House
If you’re an architecture buff or just looking for a unique afternoon in Rockford, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Laurent House is a one-of-a-kind experience.
While the Laurent House offers tours, visitors must make reservations to experience the interior of the home. The foundation that manages the property offers a variety of tour packages beginning at $20 per person. Tours are available April through October; however, the Laurent House does occasionally have special holiday themed tours. You can learn more about booking a tour on the foundation’s website.
Due to limited parking and the residential area, tours meet at the nearby Midway Village Museum.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Laurent House, 4646 Spring Brook Road in Rockford, Illinois
Have you visited any buildings designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright? What did you think of the experience?