Ralph's Blog

A world-famous architect, a tragic love affair, and a house thrice built

Posted on Sat, Sep 27, 2014 @ 08:09 AM

Frank Lloyd Wright - Taliesin

How’s this for a Hollywood plot?

In the early 1900s, a world-famous American architect has a scandalous, headline-grabbing affair. He’s in love with his mistress and wants a life with her, but his wife won’t grant him a divorce. So he moves to another state, where he builds a house for himself, his new love (who’s also still married), and her two children.

Not long after moving into the home, while he’s traveling on business, a crazed servant killed the woman, her children, and four other employees. Then the servant sets fire to the house, which almost completely burned. The architect is devastated.

It sure sounds like something right out of the movies to me.

But what I’m describing really happened—right here in Wisconsin. The famous architect was Frank Lloyd Wright, the Wisconsin-born genius whom many consider the greatest architect of all time.  The house that burned, which Wright named “Taliesin,” was located just south of Spring Green. 

The “movie” doesn’t stop in 1914, with the burning of that house. A few years later, Wright built again in the same spot. Then, in 1925, “Taliesin II” also burned!

This time, no crimes were involved—the fire was possibly caused by an electric surge during a lightning storm. Still, that’s pretty dramatic; a director could have a lot of fun with that scene.

Wright didn’t give up. He loved the location too much. In 1928, he began building Taliesin III, which still stands. Now open to the public, it’s a perfect example of Wright’s innovative modernist style.

Two things stand out to me about Wright’s work, and both can be seen at Taliesin. One is that Wright focused on designing buildings that were in tune with nature. The other is that he designed buildings that fit the way people live and work.

Frank Lloyd WrightAs someone who loves hardwood floors as much as I do, I also love this quote from Wright: “Wood is universally beautiful to man. It is the most intimate of all materials.” I second that!

Based on that comment, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the best things about Wright’s designs are also characteristic of hardwood floors.

For example, like a house Wright designed, hardwood floors integrate wonderfully with natural surroundings. We often help homeowners select hardwood flooring that reflects and accentuates the natural beauty outside their home, whether it’s on the water, in the mountains, or anywhere else.

Hardwood floors also fulfill Wright’s goal of creating buildings that fit people’s lifestyles. Because of the wide variety of hardwood species available for floors—each with differing hardness, texture, color, etc.—homeowners can easily choose the perfect species for how a particular floor will be used.

Earlier I said the story of Wright’s life and the Taliesin tragedy sounds like a movie. I’m not the only one who thinks that—there is reportedly a major motion picture in the works. I can’t wait—I know the story is going to be thrilling.

But I think I’m even more excited about seeing footage of Wright’s work gorgeously displayed on the big screen. I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of beautiful wood shots!

For the full story of the tragedy, here’s a good account. You can also easily tour the Taliesin house.


Photo courtesy of Royal Broil, ngader. Available under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License.


Tags: stories, Wisconsin

Young Children and Hardwood Floors – A Match Made in Heaven

Posted on Wed, Sep 24, 2014 @ 11:09 AM

When you have a busy family, the choices you make for your home are really important, especially when you have young children.  They grow up so fast and your time is best spent with them, so your home should be easy to take care of .

Anyone who’s ever raised small children knows they are capable of all kinds of unintentional damage. While they’re playing—just being kids—they make mistakes and can sometimes have a little spill here or leave a little scratch there. It’s all part of growing up.


But nothing about hardwood floors makes them more susceptible to damage than any other type of flooring. On the contrary, wood floors are one of the most durable forms of flooring you can find, and they are very easy to keep looking great, even with small children. And once the children are grown, there won’t be any need to replace your floors, just have them sanded back down to bare wood and refinished to have them look brand new!

With a few easy tips, you can relax and enjoy your children and your new wood floors.

Clean Up Spills

One of the great things about wood floors is that they aren’t easily damaged by liquid or food spills as long as the spill is cleaned up in a reasonably short time. Kids inevitably spill things, so this ease of cleaning is a definite plus for families with small children, particularly when compared with carpeting, which can quickly be permanently damaged by spills.

Use Rugs

Judiciously placed throw rugs on wood floors are not only a great, simple way to help prevent your kids from nicking and scratching your floors, the rugs can be creatively used to achieve the interior design look you’re after. 

Pick the Right Floors

Most families can pretty well anticipate how their children will use their floors. When choosing your flooring, it pays to keep this use in mind.

If the flooring you’re thinking about is going in a kitchen or family room where your kids will constantly be playing, you may want to consider flooring that’s particularly good at hiding scratches, dents, etc. 

Fortunately, there are so many options in selecting wood floors—species, texture, sheen, grain, color, board size, —that it’s rarely a problem for homeowners to find flooring that hides wear well but also suits their tastes.

Your Lifestyle Should Always Be Considered

While all of the above points are pertinent for homeowners with small children, they are actually true for anyone considering installing new floors in their home. Diligently cleaning up spills, using rugs, and choosing the right flooring for your lifestyle are good strategies, regardless of whether you have children. 

Tags: caring for your hardwood floors, picking the right floor for your lifestyle

Tips for Moving Furniture On Hardwood Floors

Posted on Thu, Sep 18, 2014 @ 09:09 AM

New hardwood floors are a beautiful sight before the furniture’s been moved in. In fact, a customer once told me they hadn't moved their furniture back in yet because they just loved looking at the new wood in their living room, and it had been over a week since we had finished them. 

With nothing at all covering them up, the character of the wood and the craftsmanship of the installers is a sight to behold.

Don’t worry. That beauty doesn’t go away once you move into the room. In fact, one of the reasons hardwood floors are so popular is that they enhance the beauty of furniture—and furniture does the same for floors.


But first you’ve got to get the furnishings in there.

If you don’t take some precautions, your new floors might not stay that way for long. Fortunately, it’s not difficult to protect new wood floors when moving in furniture (or large appliances). Here are a few simple tips:

Carry furniture in and set it in place without sliding it across the flooring.  Even if you’re weary from moving, resist the urge to set furniture down and then slide it into place. Just a few inches of sliding can damage the floor.

 When decorating, don’t slide furniture. There’s a good chance you’ll want to move furniture around to get the room just as you want it. Don’t just slide the pieces across the floor! If furniture needs to be moved, pick it up again (as long as it’s not too heavy, of course; in which case see below.

 When using a dolly to move items, make sure it is a soft-wheeled dolly.  In addition to scuffing, hard dolly wheels can create ruts in the flooring.

 Use the “blanket/hardboard” method with very heavy furniture or appliances.  Some items—such as refrigerators, range stoves, and pianos—are so heavy that they’re difficult to push on a soft-wheeled dolly. In those cases, you can use a hard-wheeled dolly, as long as you take steps to protect the floor.

Cover the floor with blankets where you’ll be rolling the dolly. Then you’ll need two pieces of some type of smooth hardboard, both wide enough for the dolly to roll across. The boards need to be really hard—cardboard won't work for this.

Set the boards one after the other, roll across the first onto the second, and then move the first into place after the second. Keep doing that until you’ve got the item in place. Take your time and don't rush this process. 

Err on the side of caution.  Better safe than sorry, as the saying goes. If you worried that the way you’re thinking about moving something might damage your floors, why take the risk? A few moments of precaution are a small price to pay to be sure.

Talk with the hardwood floor company that did your floors about their moving recommendations.  I can’t speak for all hardwood floor companies, but I know that at Ralph’s, the very last thing we want is for one of our customers to damage their floor moving stuff around.  We’ll gladly offer specific advice about what you can do to protect your floors when moving furniture and appliances. Upon request, we will even provide our customers with a couple of pieces of hardboard for those really heavy pieces!

Tags: caring for your hardwood floors

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