Back in October, we toured Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. Wright was a true genius, and developed the Prairie style over many years. The Robie House is the epitome of that style. This post continues our series on identifying house styles, so let’s take a look at how to identify Prairie style homes.

The red brick, white stone banding, and wide cantilevered roofs in this photo, are the prime characteristics of Prairie Style homes.

Built in 1910 for the Frederick Robie family, the house sits prominently on a corner lot near the Gothic styled University of Chicago campus. It’s hard to imagine that the house was originally in a rather rural area.

The home is currently being restored, and many spaces were in various stages of renovation. Even with protective coverings on the floors, missing wall sconces, and skipping rooms, it was still an amazing tour.

We learned on the tour that the Robie family did not live in the home for very long. To have this amazing architectural gem, and enjoy it for such a short time is so sad! Even worse, at two different times, the house was threatened with demolition. Thankfully, someone had some common sense and we still have this wonderful home.

Prairie Style Homes Origin

“A building should appear to grow easily from its site and be shaped to harmonize with its surroundings if Nature is manifest there.” ~ Frank Lloyd Wright

The Robie House in Chicago, with red brick walls, white limestone trim, and cantilevered eaves is the perfect example of Prairie Style homes.

The Prairie style began in Chicago in the early 20th century. Wright began experimenting with the elements that would eventually define this style as early as 1894. Frank Lloyd Wright is the most popular architect of this school of design, but there was an entire group that specialized in the style. These talented architects were often called the Chicago Group, and later the Prairie School.

Prairie style is an American architectural style, that was created for the flat landscape of the Midwest prairies. Rather than a house that looked like it was plopped down on a site, a Prairie style home appears to have grown organically from the site, as if nature designed it.

Prairie style homes do not have a lot of superfluous decoration. The ornamentation that they do have, is based on the Arts & Crafts movement and the design theories of the architect Louis Sullivan. The forms of nature – leaves, trees, flowers – come from the Arts & Crafts style, while flat planes and abstracted patterns are from Sullivan.

Where are Prairie Style Homes located?

Homes designed in the Prairie style are predominately located in the Midwest, specifically Illinois and Wisconsin, and were built between 1895 and 1920.

Photo of Prairie style home with red brick and white limestone banding

Prairie Style Homes Characteristics

Entrances to Prairie Style homes are often hidden like this one, that is made of red brick and white limestone.

Building Massing

The massing of a Prairie style house is probably the most recognizable feature. Overall, the home is primarily low and horizontal, as opposed to the Victorian style that was very vertical. Prior to this, a house SAT on it’s site. A Prairie style home appears to emerge from the ground and is an integral part of the site.

These homes rely on strong elements of block-like massings. Almost, as if  they were designed with a kid’s building blocks. Large masses of masonry are balanced with cantilevered floors or roofs, and extremely large roof overhangs to create a dynamic exterior.

Prairie style home with red brick, cream stucco, and black eaves.

Homes usually have a relatively open floor plan with a central chimney that becomes a design mass on the exterior.

Red brick, white stone banding, and dark eaves on a Prairie Style home.

Roofs of Prairie style houses are either flat or a hipped with a very low slope. Roof overhangs, or eaves, are massive and contribute to the horizontal emphasis.

Low sloped red roofs and brick garden wall of the Robie House.

Wright designed a three bay garage for Robie, which is pretty impressive for 1910. The servants’ bedrooms occupy the space above the garage.

Garage of the Robie House - dark brown doors, red brick, limestone banding, and low roof.These homes emphasize the connection between indoors and outdoors. Plenty of windows bring the outdoors in. Outdoor living spaces, like this raised patio, encourage spending time outdoors. The greenish squares on the floor are skylights into lower level spaces, one of which is the wine cellar.

Concrete balcony of a Prairie Style home, with red brick, limestone wall caps, dark window trim, and cream stucco ceiling.

This area is shaped like a ship’s prow. It provides a wonderful window seat on the inside, and since it is lined with windows, it adds so much light to the interior.
Covered balcony on a Prairie Style home. Red brick, white limestone banding, cream stucco soffit and black window trim.


Prairie style houses use natural materials, such as wood, stone, and brick, along with stucco on the exteriors. Wright used oversized Roman brick, in order to emphasize the horizontal lines of the home.

Close-up of Prairie Style home exterior: red brick, white limestone banding, and stained glass windows.

Prairie style houses are filled with light. There are often more windows than wall space, which creates wonderfully bright rooms. Windows are placed in bands with limestone sills and headers. In addition to providing light, they provide an almost continuous view to the outside.

Prairie style home interior with stained glass window band in the Robie House.

The window seat surrounded by stained glass windows.

Garage front of Prairie style home with red brick, limestone banding, and dark brown carriage doors.

Wright used continuous limestone bands over the doors and windows, rather than a typical lintel that is a little wider than the opening. These linear elements accentuate the horizontal feeling of the home. Above the garage doors, the limestone band creates a continuous flower box outside the servants’ bedrooms.

Long rectangular exterior skylight in cream stucco ceiling at the Robie House.

This exterior skylight allows light to reach under the wide eaves and into the living room widows.


Prairie home interiors are very similar to Arts & Crafts or Mission style interiors. Oak is the predominate wood for both flooring and trim. The trim is usually very simple and often just a 1×4.

Prairie Style home interior with stained glass window wall, oak floors and cream colored walls and ceiling.

The Master Bedroom is a large, open space that is quite different from most of the other rooms in the house. The entire outside wall is windows, and has built in drawers below the windows.

These homes will often have a singular motif or symbol that is used throughout the house. The glass doors of the oak bookcases have the same pattern as the stained glass windows and the exterior garden gate.

Prairie stye oak book cases with glass fronts.

Close-up of Prairie style stained glass window

Wrought iron gate with Prairie style pattern in a brick wall.

Fireplaces have a predominant position in the Prairie style home. In the Robie House, not only is the fireplace located in the center of the large living room, it includes an inglenook.

Prairie style home interior with oak ceiling beams, cream ceiling, windows along one wall and a central brick fireplace.

The wall of windows in the living room are a perfect example of the connection between indoors and outdoors.

Dark wood light cover in a Prairie style design

These wooden ceiling light covers continue the circle and square pattern that is used in the light sconces and the exterior planters.

Interior of Prairie style home - oak ceiling beams, cream walls, and a wall of windows.

Photo of large Prairie style urn with plants and flowers.

Next time you’re in Chicago, make time to visit the Robie House and experience a Prairie style home.

Check out our other posts in this series:

Explore Prairie Style and Frank Lloyd Wright further with these books:
Frank Lloyd Wright: The Houses
Alan Weintraub: Frank Lloyd Wright : Natural Design, Organic Architecture: Lessons for Building Green from an American Original (Hardcover); 2012 Edition A Field Guide to American Houses (Revised): The Definitive Guide to Identifying and Understanding America's Domestic Architecture






Don’t forget to pin this for later!
Photo collage of Robie House, a Prairie style home

Similar Posts