The History Behind Prairie Style Design

As you flip through the Klockit catalog or browse online you might have noticed various “Prairie” inspired designs, including: a pop-up sofa table, an end table, a wine rack, and a blanket chest – just to name a few.


You may be wondering, “Why such a vested interest in a particular style of design?” To answer that question, we must first delve into a bit of history to understand what Prairie style design is, and why it is important to a mid-western clock company.

Roots of the Prairie Style Design

The prairie school of architecture was primarily a mid-western U.S. movement, which occurred in the late 19th and early 20th century. Of course, it wasn’t referred to “Prairie” at that time – the term was later coined by H. Allen Brooks, one of the first architectural historians to write about this specific style of design.

The “Prairie Movement” stems from the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th century and can best be described as “dominant horizontality”, architecture which echoes the wide, flat, vast treeless expanses of the mid-western United States.

Influence of Frank Lloyd Wright

One of the most prominent figures of Prairie Design was Frank Lloyd Wright, a native of Klockit’s home state of Wisconsin. Wright is noted for designing a number of prairie style homes and business in the Illinois and Wisconsin area, to include The S.C. Johnson Wax Building, The Robi House, The Seth Peterson Cottage, The Winslow house, The Moore House, Wright’s Studio, and the Monona Terrace.

Wright promoted the idea of “organic architecture”, where a structure was specifically designed to look as if it had grown from its site naturally. This was further enhanced by open floor plans and use of indigenous materials to promote the feel of living with the land, rather than on it.

Klockit’s home of Lake Geneva was one of few locations chosen to display Wright’s distinctive architectural talents with The Lake Geneva Hotel (built in 1911). The hotel closed, partially burned, and was eventually razed in the early 1970’s to make way for the Geneva Towers – so it is unfortunate that it no longer stands today. All that remains are old photographs and the leaded “tulip windows” (one of many details designed by Wright himself) which shaped the overall theme for the Geneva Hotel.


Fortunately there are still a few Wright homes throughout the local area, as well as homes and buildings, which were designed by Wright’s protégés. The Lake Geneva Library is such a building, designed by Wright’s pupil James Dresser, which maintained the vision of Prairie Style architecture in Wright’s unique tradition.

Klockit’s Prairie Series: A Humble Tribute

With such a heavy Prairie-design influence tied to our local community, it seemed only natural (no pun intended) that Klockit should work to introduce a line of furniture that emulates the Prairie design tradition. Our Prairie series of woodworking plans are designed to stray away from mechanical and metal mass produced contraptions that operate in current day pieces.

Functionality, instead, is primarily based on natural materials, in keeping with Prairie Movement ideals. This is most prevalent with designs such as the slide top blanket chest and pop-up sofa table, where metal is substituted with wood for the various lift/slide mechanisms.

In short, Klockit’s Prairie series of woodworking plans is a continuing aspiration that pays humble tribute to a style of architecture and design, as well as to the pioneers of the Prairie style movement.

Look for our next installment of the Prairie Plan series, the Prairie Occasional Table, in late fall of 2013!!

occasional tableWritten By: Chris Akright

Chris is responsible for the kit, plan, and finishing technical support, which he has provided to Klockit customers for over 14 years. Chris also contributes new product designs, composes written/illustrated assembly manuals, and works to develop new kit and plan products for the Klockit catalog. Chris’s experience is the culmination of years of training under his mentor, and Klockit Designer, John Cooper.

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