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Usonian Architecture: Form and Functionality with a Reduced Footprint

Gordon House front

Usonian is an acronym for United States of North America and was coined by Frank Lloyd Wright. Using elements of the prairie style he helped to popularize, these houses were a reaction to the economic collapse America experienced during the Great Depression. The simple design is reinforced by its construction methods and inexpensive materials. If you are not familiar with this design type, after seeing it you are able to understand its place in American architecture. There is a direct line from the prairie style of the early 20th century to the ranch style homes of the 1950s.  These are some of the basic architectural features you find in Usonian style houses.



View off the Great Room.


The first thing you notice is the use of a car port instead of a garage. It is one of the many innovations developed specifically for Usonian homes. The rest of the exterior is plain, employing a flat roof with a cantilevered overhang that reinforces the clean horizontal lines of the house. They were often L-shaped with a garden placed in the space created by the perpendicular wings. Board-and-batten siding is another common feature, along with walls of windows.



Rear bedroom windows - Weltzheimer Johnson House by Architect Frank Lloyd Wright - Oberlin Ohio


You see two types of windows in Usonian design, clerestory and walls of windows. The clerestory windows were used to provide natural light. They were installed along the inside roof line by utilizing a transom to seperate the window from the wall. The walls of windows provide a blurring of indoor and outdoor space.  Usually in the rear of the house, along one side of the L-shape, you are able to view the garden from the comfort of your living room.



Samara (John E Christian House) Lounge


With no attic or basement, the open floor plan provided for a cozy, but spacious interior. The kitchen is centralized, if you are cooking you are able to see the living room or back yard. The Usonian style has three distinct areas, a living room, several small bedrooms and a kitchen-dining space. Some examples also feature modular or built-in furnishings and all are decorated in warm colors and textiles.



Dana House plans Springfield, IL

Many of the techniques used in the construction of Usonian homes were revolutionary at the time. You can see some of these ideas still employed in modern construction's attempts to build sustainable housing. All materials were natural like brick, wood and concrete. Since they had no basement and were only one story structures, a concrete slab was used as the foundation. Piping was laid before the concrete was poured and it provides radiant steam heat for the home. The walls were constructed by using concrete blocks, steel rods and grout covered with a waterproof membrane. This membrane was then covered by a board and batten wall. 

Usonian homes were designed to be for middle-class folks. You found form and functionality in a reduced footprint, so you could build on a small or uneven lot without much trouble. The expansive design of the prairie style is pared down to some basic elements and then enhanced by innovative construction techniques. Not as widespread as its predecessor, or as widely known as the ranch style it inspired, these homes are works of art and much as a place to live.

Kevin W Hogan- Realtor- Member of Paul Gillespie and Asscociates at Exit Preferred Realty- is a Real Estate Staging Expert, Customer First and OwnAmerica Investor Certified Agent and a USDA Loan Property and FHA 203K Loan Expert specializing in communities in and around the  Carroll County area such as Eldersburg, Sykesville, Mt. Airy, Woodbine and Hampstead
Through a combination of Advanced Social Media Marketing and old fashioned personalized service, he affords his clients with the highest level of service and is there for each step of the sale of your house. Call Kevin Hogan at 443-536-9966 or if you are

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Looking for a new home? Check back here often to see our Featured Listings, or use my Dream Home Finder form and I'll conduct a personalized search for you. I have also provided a brief FAQ for first time buyers. Carroll County is one of the fastest growing areas in Maryland, close to both Washington DC and Baltimore, while retaining the slower pace of a semi-rural community. I also specialize in distressed properties like foreclosures and short sales, in addition to new construction and general resales.

If you're planning to sell your home in the next few months, nothing is more important than knowing a fair asking price. Through a combination of advanced search technology, strategic listing placement and old fashion personailized service, I use the most effective techniques to get you top dollar in a reasonable amount of time. I would love to help you with a FREE Staging Evaluation that can help you get the most money for your house.

As a paralegal, Customer First agent and FHA 203k Loan specialist, I deal extensively with property sales stemming from divorce, foreclosures and other legal actions, representing my clients in the purchase and sale of single-family residences and income property within Carroll County Maryland's southern area, including Eldersburg, Sykesville, Woodbine, New Windsor and Mt Airy.

I hope you enjoy your visit and contact me for any of your Carroll County real estate needs.

Kevin Hogan

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