Lately, with some significant Frank LLoyd Wright milestones, many people continue to bring up the historic property available that is part of the Wright designed Coonley Estate in the first division of Riverside.
Recently, I visited this property with some clients and thought it would be interesting to share my experience with everyone, giving the high level of curiosity surrounding it.
The current listing price on the home is $390,000 (short sale) – a far cry from the $1.3M listing price it carried for more than 3 years on the market. So seemingly a bargain – right? Not so fast. While the splendor of Wright architecture and Jens Jensen landscaping make for a special place to live, the current state of this property is a little rough.
The home definitely has curb appeal – it’s set back far from the street, and has a quintessential prairie look to it. But as you get close, one of the major issues becomes apparent – the facade. There is a significant amount of repair and resurfacing that has to be performed on the stucco of the home. A repair job of this size is likely a six-figure undertaking.
Upon entering the home through a portico-like walkway between the home and garage, you come into a small entryway with an adjacent office and staircase leading up to the living level. The home description states there is no basement, but about 90% of the first floor is essentially unfinished area for mechanicals, and if you were dropped into that space, you would think you’re in a basement because there are no windows and floor joists above you. This does give the new owner the opportunity to add a significant amount of living space, but it’s very raw in its current state.
The way you enter the home from the ground floor and then go up one level to the main living level is one of many quirky layout dysfunctions in the home. It’s certainly part of the charm of a historically significant property, but unorthodox for modern living.
Once upstairs, you can navigate through a couple long hallways. On one end, there is a master bedroom wing. It’s not modern for today’s standards, but could be converted into a very nice master suite. One of the baths in that area serves double-duty as the laundry area. It’s very odd, but again, some of that oddness brings about some charm.
The home centers around a beautifully remodeled kitchen. This area is definitely the most thought out and updated space in the home, and likely the direction the current owners were taking the entire home. The one drawback is that it’s a very closed-in space, which is a recurring theme throughout this property.
Adjoining the kitchen is a massive dining area, which then opens to a massive living area. These spaces have lots of light and windows, and can probably be utilized several different ways. What was challenging in them were repetitive ceiling soffits, most of which seemed completely unnecessary. At 6’2”, I barely cleared and found myself ducking often. But being inside both of those areas felt exactly how I expected a Frank Lloyd Wright design to feel.
On the other end of the home is a bedroom wing that has 2 bedrooms and 2 full bathrooms. The odd part is that one of the rooms has a private bath, but it also adjoins to another bath, which adjoins to another bedroom. I’m sure there is some legacy reason for this, but it’s not apparent in the current setup.
At the end of the bedroom wing hallway is a door that leads to a small closet with a window that simply contains…. a clock! That may be the most bizarre room I’ve seen in a home!
From a macro perspective, the mechanical systems in the home are in need of some major overhauls. We must have counted at least 4 different electrical panels, but there’s also visible knob and tube wiring that is definitely still in service. Some of the plumbing has been updated, while other parts look rough. There is a forced air system, presumably used for cooling, and a complex-looking boiler-system for heat – the boiler does look relatively new.
The part of this home that I had no idea on is that it’s not really a single family home – there is a demising wall on one side of the house that is shared with the neighboring home. The entire site of the four properties comprising the Coonley Estate is pretty tight, as the original intent wasn’t to have four separate residences. So you are essentially living with your neighbors, and I think it feels like that in there. Sharing a wall definitely doesn’t help.
If you’re set on owning such a significant piece of history, it is a great opportunity to acquire this Frank Lloyd Wright home, though it must be a cash deal according to the listing. The new owner will have to be prepared to quickly spend around $150k to move into the house, and probably upwards of $500k to fully renovate the property.
It’s going to take a unique buyer who has both the capital to invest, as well as the desire to undertake such a project. The challenge may be that the home is still too pricey – Riverside has not seen a home sell for over $1M since 2007. After acquisition and renovations upwards of $900k, one would definitely want their home to be worth at least $1M, and probably more than that.
But to some, I’m sure it’s more than just a value proposition to live in a home that’s also a historic landmark.
Listing: 300 Scottswood Road, Riverside [Pearson Realty Group]