Recent lottery winners who can’t live without an architecturally significant desert home are in luck: The very last residence designed by Frank Lloyd Wright has gone on the market.
Priced at $3.6 million, the Norman Lykes house is based on sketches by the great architect, who died in April of 1959 before finishing this particular design. Completed by Wright apprentice John Rattenbury, with whom Wright conferred about the structure, the sketches became real seven years later, when Lykes built it on the site Wright had chosen himself near 36th Street and Lincoln.
The 2800-square-foot, three-bedroom, three-bath home is based on the geometric circular designs Wright favored late in life and employed in both the Guggenheim and the David and Gladys Wright House. Its futuristic look is built around a series of concentric circles that resemble an elaborate set of kaleidoscopic gears.
The price includes the magnificent, Wright-designed furniture, which apes the circular theme of the building itself, which references the curves and forms of the nearby Palm Canyon mountains, visible from each of the home’s bedrooms.
Almost 30 years after its completion, the house was renovated by Rattenbury, who made significant changes to the house in 1994 for its then-new owner. Rattenbury enlarged the master bedroom, combined two other bedrooms into a single guest suite, and converted a workshop into a home theater.
Any second now, local preservationists and Frank Lloyd Wright fans will likely begin monitoring the sale of the house and, once it’s sold, weighing in on what will become of it.
“If it’s not designated on one historic registry or another, the new owners can do whatever they want with it,” local realtor and preservationist Sherry Rampy reminds us. “And even if it is designated, they can still do what they want to the inside of the house.”
The Lykes house is not currently listed among other Wright buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, although its real estate listing claims it’s registered with the Wright Conservatory. That means that the gorgeous wood-paneled walls, the signature built-in bookcases, cupboards, and cabinets, the curved clerestory windows and rounded fireplace could all be yanked out in favor of something more linear.
Preservationists will likely go looking for a Wright fanatic who might buy the house and maintain its integrity, although Rampy thinks finding such a buyer might be a long shot. “When the David and Gladys Wright house was first available, no one jumped on that,” she points out. “It’s a beautiful house with a great pedigree, but most buyers at that time who had $2 million dollars were building McMansions instead of buying important homes. The buyer for a house like this one belongs to a very small market.”
That’s why neither the price of the Lykes home nor its eventual sale will change anything in the local real estate market, Rampy says. “When you’re talking about price points, the sale of an historic home like this doesn’t change the property value of a home in Encanto Palmcroft, for example,” she explains.
The other thing that’s likely not to change is the brouhaha typically surrounding the sale and ownership of any Frank Lloyd Wright building. The Norman Lykes home story is almost certainly just beginning.