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The Wright stuff

Posted October 01, 2014 in Community Featured, Johnston
Jane and Ken Paulsen live in a brick home designed by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Photo by Ashley Rullestad.

Jane and Ken Paulsen live in a brick home designed by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Photo by Ashley Rullestad.

Jane Paulsen and her husband, Ken, live in a unique home in Johnston — one designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, often referred to as one of the greatest American architects of all time. In fact, Jane has lived at 6880 N.W. Beaver Drive most of her life.

When her parents moved to Des Moines from Wisconsin, they lived in Beaverdale. After having three kids in four years, they decided they needed more room, but they couldn’t find a home they loved. Jane’s father was interested in Frank Lloyd Wright architecture. The family even traveled to Taliesen, his headquarters in Wisconsin. Her father asked Wright to design a home for them, and he agreed.

“At the time they had the house built, Wright was getting older, so he was never on site,” Paulsen says. “Their contractor conferred with him over the design and had some of his design people come on site. The first drawing they got back was cement block, and they rejected it. Then they didn’t hear anything for about a year and a half and were worried. Then they got back a brick designed house and loved it, and the rest is history.”

The home was completed in 1958, and it is a Usonian home, which is a term used by Wright to refer to his vision for the landscape of the United States. Wright proposed the use of the adjective Usonian in place of American to describe the particular New World character of the American landscape as distinct and free of previous architectural conventions.

The home has four bedrooms, though Paulsen says the bedrooms are small compared to modern standards. There is a large living room, because Wright believed that families should have a central gathering place. The home also features many windows and skylights. It’s a variation of the New York exhibition home and the type of home that Wright designed for his middle-class clients.

At this point, a few updates have been made to the home, but mostly it is as it was in 1958. Paulsen says they are very conscious not to do too many modern updates.

“The only thing that has changed is originally it didn’t have a family room,” she says. “That was added on, as well as some terrace steps. Our dilemma with modern conveniences is ‘How much can we do?’ We’re conferring with a  Taliesen-trained architect who lives in Johnston to get his advice on these. We want to keep the feel and character of it as close to original as we can.”

Would you like your home featured in this column in an upcoming issue of Johnston Living? If so, email Darren Tromblay at

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