Maynard Buehler House, 1948
Frank Lloyd Wright designed this house for inventor and firearms manufacturer Maynard Buehler and his wife, Katie in 1948 in Orinda, California. Buehler was known for machining the highest-quality mounts, bases, and rings for rifle scopes and needed a workshop and office.
The Buehler House is one of Wright's Usonian designs, laid out in an "L" shape with heated, Cherokee Red-colored concrete floors. The hexagonal living room has a shed roof, with a gold leaf inset that reflects light into the space.
It's larger than most Usonian homes at 4,350 square feet, with three bedrooms, three baths, kitchen, den, dining room, and a home office/machine shop designed for Mr. Buehler's work. The utilitarian, concrete block exterior as seen from the street looks much more modest than that.
The typically Usonian design centers on the kitchen and living spaces and the house is laid out in an L-shaped configuration. Wright also designed furniture for the house, including a dining table with chairs whose backs don't rise above the tabletop, so they don't block the view of the garden. The table itself is made of triangular modules that can be rearranged to expand it.
A distinctive feature is the carport, which is cantilevered to the extreme. To achieve that, builders put a prop two inches too high under the corner while building it. When it was finished, they removed the prop and let it resettle to the proper level.
The property covers three acres — purchased one acre at a time. It also includes a guesthouse, greenhouse, and Japanese tea pavilion, surrounded by gardens created by Henry Matsutani, designer of Golden Gate Park's Japanese Gardens.
More About the Buehler House and More of California's Wright Sites
In 1994, a malfunctioning space heater started a fire that caused smoke damage in the bedrooms and hallway. The rest of the house suffered water damage, and only the workshop escaped. It was rebuilt under the supervision of Walter Olds, who supervised the original construction.
The house was listed for sale in 2011 at $5 million but finally sold for $3.5 million in 2013. The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013.
What You Need to Know
The Buehler House is located at 6 Great Oaks Circle in Orinda, California.
The house is a private residence and not open for tours. You can get glimpses of it from the street, but the wooded location is always in the shade which makes it harder to see and photograph. To make matters worse, the house faces away from the street, with a blank wooden wall facing the street.
More of the Wright Sites
The Buehler House is one of eight Wright designs in the San Francisco area, including two of his most important works.
Wright's Usonian houses were designed for middle-income families, they featured indoor-outdoor connections and were often built in an "L" shape: Hanna House (which is based on an octagon), Sydney Bazett House, Randall Fawcett House, Sturges House, Arthur Mathews House, and the Kundert Medical Clinic in San Luis Obispo (which is based on a Usonian House design).
Wright's work isn't all in the San Francisco area. He also designed nine structures in the Los Angeles area. You'll also find several houses, a church, and a medical clinic in some of the most unexpected places.
More to See Nearby
The nearby Orinda Movie Theater retains its elegant 1940s lobby and main theater and has an outstanding neon-lit marquee.