written by:
photos by:
May 2, 2011
Originally published in The Photo Issue
as
20th-Century Fox

Eero Saarinen’s legendary Miller House opened to the public in May 2011 for the first time. Leslie Williamson gives us an intimate tour of this Columbus, Indiana, treasure.
 

Miller House in Columbus, Indiana

The pathway from the pool to the house is paved with the same slate that clads the exterior walls.

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Miller House main living room

In the main living room, the pillows in the sunken seating area changed colors with the seasons: reds for the winter and lighter pastels for the warmer months.

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Miller House living room with Eames Compact couch

The custom-made sofa in the open-plan living area, with its brass back detail, was originally going to be an Eames Compact couch. But when its exposed back was deemed visually objectionable, Girard modified the piece to suit the room.

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Miller House dining room with Venini chandelier

The dining room centers around a custom Saarinen-designed marble-and-terrazzo table ringed by Tulip chairs. Overhead is a Venini chandelier.

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Miller House kitchen with a turquoise blue mosaic tile wall

A mosaic tile wall softens the laboratory-like effect of the glossy kitchen cabinets.

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Miller House living area with cylindrical fireplace

In the winter, the cylindrical fireplace in the central living area was always ready for a fire. In spring and summer, the base was filled with plants.

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Miller House dressing room with custom stool in Girard’s Mogul 081 fabric

Xenia’s dressing room was much larger than Irwin’s and had a custom stool covered in Girard’s Mogul 081 fabric. A few pieces of Xenia’s extensive blue opaline glass collection sit on her dressing table.

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Curtains designed by Alexander Girard

Alexander Girard continued to work with the Millers on their house for more than 15 years, adapting the interiors of the house as the family’s needs changed.

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Almost every window in the house was covered in a Girard-designed fabric.

Almost every window in the house was covered in a Girard-designed fabric.

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The Miller girls’ bedrooms each had a different color variation on the Quatrefoil pattern.

The Miller girls’ bedrooms each had a different color variation on the Quatrefoil pattern.

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Pattern instructions for needlepoint for Xenia

pattern instructions for needlepoint for Xenia

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Tulip chairs in the Miller House

needlepoint seating pads on the Tulip chairs

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Miller House in Columbus, Indiana gate

Girard’s touch is visible in almost every detail in the house.

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Miller House original textile master plan

His original textile master plan for the house was recently unearthed in the property’s barn.

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Alexander Girard TV room rug design

Girard even integrated the floor plan of the house into the TV room rug design.

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Miller House office room

The playroom later became Xenia’s office.

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Miller House front entrance with glass screens

The front entrance of the Miller House is flanked by a series of glass screens, designed by either Dan Kiley or Girard.

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Miller House in Columbus, Indiana

The pathway from the pool to the house is paved with the same slate that clads the exterior walls.

Project 
J. Irwin Miller Residence
Architect 

In 1952, the industrialist J. Irwin Miller and his wife, Xenia, commissioned a remarkable modernist triumvirate to create their home in Columbus, Indiana: Eero Saarinen designed the building, Alexander Girard masterminded the interiors, and Dan Kiley handled the landscape architecture. Luckily, the Miller heirs knew they had grown up in a gem, and when their parents passed away, they generously donated the house, along with many of its original furnishings, to the Indianapolis Museum of Art. I have visited my fair share of iconic modern homes, but the moment I walked in, this one felt unique.

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