If you were to approach the Zimmerman House in Manchester, NH from behind, through the leafy screen of landscaping that hugs the hill into which it is nestled, this is what you’d see: a sleek, low-slung brick and cedar house sandwiched between grass and green.

The only New England residence designed by Frank Lloyd Wright which is open to the public, the Zimmerman House is owned and maintained by Manchester’s Currier Museum of Art, which offers daily reservation-only tours of the house and grounds. As in the Museum proper, photography is disallowed inside the Zimmerman House…but our guide encouraged us to burn our camera batteries outside.

From the front, the Zimmerman House looks unremarkable at first glance, a ranch-style house amongst New England Victorians and Capes. With its small, concrete-block windows, the front of the Zimmerman House looks (to my eye) almost like a garage, an impression that was corroborated when our tour headed down the street to drive by (and ogle) the privately owned Kalil House, a Wright-designed residence build entirely of concrete blocks. If the front of the Zimmerman House looks a bit like a garage, the front of the Kalil House looks a lot like a bunker.

Although I’m not sure anything would change my first impression of the Kalil House, things at the Zimmerman started to look up when we went inside and then out back to admire from both perspectives the window-rich rear facade.

It was only after I’d seen the Zimmerman House’s backside that I warmed up to the place, recognizing and admiring its long-hanging, cantilevered eaves as being quintessential Wright.

Build into a sloping lawn, the Zimmerman House is low-slung, nearly sunk into earth. Viewed from inside the living room, the ground is appropriately at ground level; from the rear guest room, though, the ground outside is eye-level. As we stood under the front eaves waiting to enter the Zimmerman House, our guide explained that Frank Lloyd Wright was a short man who typically designed houses with his own height in mind. Since Isidore Zimmerman was taller than Wright, the Zimmerman House has higher eaves and ceilings than a typical Wright-designed residence…but I still got the distinct impression of entering an ultra-funky, long and lean hobbit-hole: a house that hugs the ground.

To my eye, the outside of the Zimmerman House is all about its eaves, jutting and hanging in odd-angled, cantilevered glory.

Wright’s Usonian houses do not feature garages; instead, the Zimmerman has an impractically shallow carport that would have sheltered the hoods of the Zimmermans’ black and white Thunderbirds. Whatever the Zimmerman carport lacks in terms of automotive utility, it compensates with its lean and sleek style, its long, low-pitched roof topping a narrow opening that allowed some intriguing peekaboo pictures.

Here, from the backyard, you can see through the carport our Museum shuttle parked out front…

And here from inside the carport (now used as a reception area where we all donned disposable hospital booties before entering the premises), you can see the back yard at eye level…

And here, in my favorite carport peekaboo, you can see the brick wall of the rear guest room and one of Wright’s famous beveled-glass corner windows. Look ma: no window frame!

I’m not sure I would like to live in the Zimmerman House: even as a short, single person, I think I’d feel cramped and crowded there. But the Zimmermans themselves loved the house that Frank built, living there for 36 years (and opening their doors to architecturally minded strangers) before bequeathing it to the Currier. Walking through a house still stocked with its previous owners’ knickknacks, clothing, and belongings is a bit like visiting a haunted house: you get a feel for the Zimmermans’ taste as much as you get an appreciation for Wright’s designing eye. Although I didn’t hear any ghostly whispers emanating from any of those long and low eaves, it did feel a bit like I was eavesdropping.