A Prairie Plant Holiday

December 20, 2013 § 1 Comment

Christmas indoorsA sign in the visitor center of the Dana-Thomas House explains the intention of the 2013 holiday decorations in the house.  It reads:

The decorating theme in the Dana-Thomas House Historic Site this holiday season reflects the preference by Frank Lloyd Wright for the use of natural dried materials as decoration in the homes he designed…[Mr. Wright] sought to integrate natural elements in the home by bringing the outdoors inside through the use of large expanses of windows and in the use of exterior building materials within the house.  Mr. Wright also used decorative elements derived from nature as design motifs.  In the Dana-Thomas House the main design theme is the native prairie sumac plant.  He further suggested that his clients use native plants and grasses for additional decoration, varying with the season.

To achieve this homage to Frank Lloyd Wright, spectacular arrangements designed by the members of the Springfield Civic Garden Club are displayed throughout the house.  The dried prairie plants and flowers used by the floral designers complement the subtle autumnal colors of the house and, in some cases, mirror the architectural lines.  The result is an elegantly muted celebration of the holiday.

On the other hand, according to newspaper accounts Susan chose more vibrant plants and flowers to decorate her home.  I describe in an earlier post the holly, California peppers, and red and white carnations she used for the 1908 Christmas season (click here if you missed it).  The red and white carnations were also prominent in this description of the first holiday celebration in the house:carnations

The hall and parlor were filled with groups of red and white carnations and maiden hair ferns.  The loggia off the hall made a very attractive spot with its palms and ferns…In the dining room red and white were used again as single color tones, all else being of the dark oak shades.

Illinois State Register, December 30, 1904

Perhaps Frank Lloyd Wright did encourage his clients to decorate with dried native plants and grasses as the sign says.  If so, this is just one more example of Susan’s independent spirit.  She accepted and enjoyed Frank Lloyd Wright’s style to a point, but she made the house he designed into her home on her terms.   

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