Amberg House Grand Rapids, Michigan

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Peter Beers*
Written By Peter Beers*

The Amberg house has a tenuous connection to Frank Lloyd Wright.  Wright actually received the commission to design the Amberg house from the parents of Sophie May (wife of Meyer May) in 1909.  Later that year he left for Europe with Mamah Cheney and didn’t return for 2 years.  All of his commissions and work were left to the architects that were working in his office at the time… most notably Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahoney. 

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Amberg House from the corner.

The Ambergs wanted a prairie house along the design of the Meyer May house that had been built just down the street.  From what the tour guide at the Meyer May house said, this kind of architecture was not really Walter Burley Griffin’s forte.  As a result, it is thought that Marion Mahoney was the one who designed the Amberg house. 

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Fish-eye view of the Amberg House

Another interesting side note is that Wright was not particularly good about paying the people working in his architectural office.  When he ran off to Europe, he hadn’t paid many of the people who worked with him.  I learned from a docent at the Stockman House in Mason City, Iowa that he eventually paid Walter Burley Griffin in Japanese wood block prints.  Though these were quite valuable at the time, Griffin was upset that he hadn’t been paid in normal currency as had been promised.  In a fit of frustration, he furnished most of the homes he built in Mason City (many of which were originally Wright commissions) with all of the prints that Wright had given him… essentially giving them away to the new owners of his homes.  These prints have been collected and acquired by the foundation that oversees the Stockman house.  They are on display and in storage at the Stockman House in Mason City, Iowa. 

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Amberg House from Sidewalk

The Amberg house is now owned by two of the docents that work at the Meyer May house.  They’ve entertained fellow docents at their home many times.  

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Amberg House front windows.

The home is a beautiful prairie design regardless of who is responsible for its design. 

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Written by Peter Beers*

CEO & Lead Interior Designer

Brad Smith is an experienced interior designer and the founder of With a Master's degree in Interior Design from Pratt Institute and a passion for creating safe and healthy living spaces, Brad shares his expert insights and innovative design ideas with our readers. His work is driven by the belief that home is where every story begins.