Get Inspired by A Frank Lloyd Wright Icon
The local Price House serves as inspiration for bright, modern interiors.
By Rebecca L. Rhoades | Photography by Austin Baker
Legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright never intended for the interior color scheme of Harold and Mary Lou Price’s Paradise Valley home to be an eye-catching shade of cyan. Like many of his other projects, which were rendered in earthen shades of reds, golds, browns and greens, this residence was originally meant be bathed in the reddish-orange hue of the pyracantha berry.
One day, while visiting the construction site, Wright discovered one of his wife’s turquoise rings in his coat pocket. “He was soon observed holding the ring at arm’s length while surveying the property and the surrounding landscape. He insisted that everyone come and see for themselves how this turquoise color brought out a certain bluish tint in the gray concrete blocks and further tied together the natural blue-greens of the desert flora with the newly sculpted and crafted forms,” says Price House historian Sperry Hutchinson.
Built in 1954 as a winter retreat for the Price family of Bartlesville, Oklahoma—who just two years earlier had commissioned the architect to create the now-famous Price Tower in their hometown—it is the largest Wright-designed dwelling in Arizona. Mary Lou Price explicitly asked for a “large enough house so that all the grandchildren can come and stay with me, where they can play in the sun, yet be protected from the desert.” With seven bedrooms and seven bathrooms, the abode features 4,500 square feet of indoor space; outdoor living rooms bring the total square footage under roof to 5,500.
Located on 8.8 acres just off of Tatum Boulevard, the enigmatic home—its expansive red brick driveway is one of the only glimpses afforded to passers-by—is divided into two low-slung, single-story wings, separated by a central atrium with a fountain, fireplace and large, open skylight. The jewel-toned main living space, which includes the kitchen and dining area, demonstrates the beauty that can be created with standard, rather inexpensive materials, such as concrete block, composite acoustic tiles, brass and Philippine mahogany. “Nearly uninterrupted clerestory windows wash the ceiling in indirect, space-unifying light,” says Hutchinson. “Here, comfort and beauty are truly equal.” Custom furnishings and lighting designed by Wright to fit the room underline his philosophy that all of the parts are related to the whole.
“The house represents the culmination of a genius architect looking back at his life’s work and, at 86 years-old, being given the chance to create an essentially money-is-no-object retrospective in his chosen home state of Arizona,” says Hutchinson. “It is an incomparable work of unification and one of which Wright himself was tremendously proud.”
Following Harold’s death in 1962, Mary Lou sold the property to U-Haul founder L.S. Shoen in 1964, giving rise to its new moniker, the “U-Haul House.” To this day, the company maintains it as a private residence, and it is occasionally opened for corporate and charity events, wedding receptions, and public tours. In 2013, the nonprofit Price House Foundation was formed to conserve and protect this landmark abode.