A Total Work of Art

The term “Total Work of Art,” applied to the Frank House, is more than a simple superlative. Gropius, Breuer and the Franks envisioned the home’s design as skillfully integrating all the requisite disciplines — structure, materials, furnishings and landscape.

The commitment to a total work gave Breuer responsibility for designing all the furniture and furnishings in the house, from major pieces to details such as door hardware, lighting, light switches and a whole range of novel devices. It would be the single most important commission of his career for inventing new furniture.

Breuer responded with a staggering number and variety of designs. Two thirds of the designs Breuer would create during his American years, including his best work, were created for the Frank House, and exist nowhere else. Hundreds of new designs were developed, using new materials and new ways of shaping and finishing wood; some incorporating Lucite, a polymer material that had been recently developed by DuPont.

This great wealth of architecture and design, both in quality and quantity, is one of the things that sets the Frank House apart from other well known houses. Its hundreds of unique pieces of furniture, designed by Breuer for the house, intact blueprints, hundreds of letters between the Franks and Gropius and Breuer, and other archives, are unmatched in their completeness and scope.

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