My first Frank Lloyd Wright renovation, rebuilding a rotten deck.

In late 2000, I was hired to renovate a dilapidated deck on a friend’s Frank Lloyd Wright original house here in Connecticut. “Springbough” is no ordinary house and at first sight I knew my work here was going to be both challenging and gratifying.
Presented here is a backdated post to the time when the work was completed by WoodDance Studio. This is a long story as the deck was again remodeled in 2006, but I don’t want to give away the story just yet so read now about my first job on a Frank Lloyd Wright and the beginning of a six year relationship with a very interesting home.

Each Frank Lloyd Wright home was custom designed for it’s owner and given their name. This one is the Frank S. Sanders house, situated on rolling rock-covered hills, here in Stamford, Connecticut. Built in 1952 the Sanders house sits atop on a brick foundation rising from a large rock base and features a large cantilevered balcony and deck.

The first gallery photos show the condition I found this beautiful but damaged home when I arrived there in July of 2000. I snapped pictures of the entire house, it’s features, interior spaces and landscape and then spent some time with the client to discern her desire for the deck space. The homeowner at the time did not want me to ‘fix’ the damage and ‘restore’ the deck. She wanted me to change it. It was my job to come up with a different design that would allow her to view the forested property while seated on the deck and to built an enclosed screened-in area on that portion of the famous cantilevered deck!

We came up with a design which stole elements from the interior and cut up the old deck. I found a weakened structure; rusted steel beams and a flitch plate that was no longer attached to the now completely rotted 2″ x 12″ framing.

Some temporary supports then steel work and reframing and the deck was ready to be rebuilt. After extensive research on sail cloth flooring, which is canvas cloth pressed into lead-based paint, we agreed on a fiberglass floor.
I hired a boat builder to fiberglass the new deck. Accommodations were made for an ultra smooth and sound subfloor and the glass was applied. Custom made mahogany siding and rails were manufactured in N.Y. state and shipped to the jobsite by late September 2000.

Changing the design of an FLW original is an absurd idea considering the appreciation and few lasting examples of such an inspirational Architect but we did it, for better or worse. The alterations in style were to accommodate a functionality (over form) for the client. In that sense it was in keeping with a designed-for-the-user aspect.

One change to the construction of this deck I affected positively was the milling of the mahogany siding for use on the inside faces of the deck walls. The original boards sat one on top of the other with no lap joint. They were butt joined and since each board steps up and sits in, each left an exposed shelf which collected water. Without anything to stop it, the water would run behind each board and down the inside, eventually destroying the infrastructure. I manufactured a ship-lap joint for those boards and they haven’t leaked since.

The new screened in porch, railings and beautifully colored mahogany siding lasted without signs of wear until 2006 when I was hired to demolish all of this work and rebuild the original deck!

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