Fallingwater was famous from the start. Even before construction officially finished in 1939, it was on the cover of Time magazine, captivating Americans with its modern look and inspired location atop a waterfall in southwestern Pennsylvania. The iconic house is perhaps the best example of architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s philosophy of designing structures that exist in harmony with nature. It’s not, however, his best example of containing costs — the total came to $155,000, well above the $20,000 to $40,000 budget (this at a time when a three-bedroom home in Pittsburgh went for about $5,500).
It was commissioned by the Kaufmann family, known for their eponymous department store, who wanted a place in the mountains to spend time. It’s the small details here that are most impressive — a floor waxed to look like water has rushed over it, windows that seem to bring the outdoors inside, and subtle design choices that push guests to outside decks. Interestingly, Fallingwater has only two colors — light ochre on the concrete, inspired by the shade you’d find on the back of a rhododendron leaf, and Cherokee red on the metal and ironwork, said to be Wright’s favorite color.
Visitors today can see the house as it looked when the Kaufmanns lived there. The standard Guided House Tour lasts approximately an hour and includes a look at all the major rooms in the house, plus the guest house and staff quarters. There are no photos allowed of the interiors during the tour, but signs helpfully point you to the spot on the grounds from which you can take a signature shot of the house, framed by the surrounding foliage. A variety of specialty tours are also available, including an In-Depth Tour, Family Tour, Sunday Brunch Tour, and Landscape Tour. Reservations are essential for all visits.