Inside the Darwin Martin House

Darwin Martin House reception room

Reception room

A few months ago I gushed about my adoration for architecture when I recapped my trip to the Darwin Martin House, one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie School masterpieces. So when the Martin House staff kindly invited me to return in February, I replied immediately with an enthusiastic yes.

Darwin Martin House entryway and conservatory

At left: Entryway, with a view straight down the pergola to the conservatory. At right: Nike of Samothrace in conservatory.

Darwin Martin House library

Inside the library

During this visit, my third to the complex, I joined the Photography + Tour, a rare opportunity to shoot the interior of the Martin House. The docent-guided photography tour, offered once a month, is 75 minutes long and limited to ten people, a more intimate experience than the typical one-hour tour.

Darwin Martin House

At left: Glass art on ceiling in living room. At right: One of many built-in cabinets, which also provides access to, and hides, mechanical and heating units.

Darwin Martin House conservatory


Even though I was wandering around looking through my camera lens, admittedly more so than paying close attention to the docent, the tour was engaging and informative. The docent was knowledgeable and did a wonderful job, as all have. Again on this trip, like the last, I picked up on characteristics of the house that went unnoticed during my first two visits. There are endless minute details and design pieces throughout the house. And that view looking down the pergola into the conservatory? It never gets old.

Darwin Martin House pergola

View down pergola, which opens up to the conservatory

In my opinion, one of the only downsides of the photography tour is that you can’t use a tripod. Much of the house is dimly lit, a slight photographic struggle. That set me back at first, but I bumped up my ISO, shrugged it off, and moved along.

Darwin Martin House Steinway piano

Inside the wooden Steinway piano in the living room

Darwin Martin House

View outside to veranda from living room

As spring awakens and the gardens blossom, the sensational views and serene ambience at the Martin House complex will only intensify.  And did you know that you can visit the complex and walk around without scheduling a tour? I didn’t either. I learned during this trip that the public is encouraged to roam outside on the grounds, maybe sit on a bench and draw, read, write, or take photos—basically to use the complex like a park. Now that I know that, I’ll certainly take advantage of the outdoor space; I imagine myself ambling around with a hot cup of coffee when I need a little jolt of inspiration. And, I’ll be back soon to tour the house again so I can catch a glimpse of the glass mosaic fireplace, scheduled to be installed this spring.

Examples of the exquisite art glass found throughout the house

Art glass panels enclose the pier cluster units, concealing the radiators and controlling the flow of heat.

Darwin Martin House pergola

Pergola to front entrance

Then, this summer, as the 20-year restoration at the Martin House nears completion, Frank Lloyd Wright fans across the country will come together to celebrate his 150th birthday. Locally, the Darwin Martin House will host a week of events in collaboration with Graycliff, the Martins’ summer home on Lake Erie. The culmination of the national celebration is an exhibition at MoMA, Frank Lloyd Wright: Unpacking the Archive, which opens in June.

Darwin Martin House kitchen

View from the kitchen

Darwin Martin House lamp

Stained glass lamp in the library

Reception room and row of Tree of Life windows

In the meantime, the next Photography + Tour is going down tomorrow, Saturday, March 11th at 10am. Grab your tickets here! If you already have plans this weekend, you can catch the tour the second Saturday of each month.

Darwin Martin House furniture

At left: Original chair. At right: Frank Lloyd Wright bought artwork on travels to Japan and told the Martins where to hang them in the house.

Darwin Martin House dining room

Dining room with original furniture and built-in cabinets designed by Frank Lloyd Wright

Darwin Martin House window

Original Tree of Life window. At certain times of day, the sun reflects the pattern onto the floor and ceiling of the room.

The Darwin Martin House complex is really an incredible place that we’re lucky to have in Buffalo. Photos don’t do it justice—you’ve got to go experience it for yourself if you haven’t been. And if you have, check it out again. You never know what you might see that you missed before.