Miller House in Columbus, Indiana by Eero Saarinen

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.

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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The pathway from the pool to the house is paved with the same slate that clads the exterior walls. Photo  of Miller House in Columbus, Indiana by Eero Saarinen modern home

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

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. Photo 2 of Miller House in Columbus, Indiana by Eero Saarinen modern home

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.

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. Photo 3 of Miller House in Columbus, Indiana by Eero Saarinen modern home

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.

The dining room centers around a custom Saarinen-designed marble-and-terrazzo table ringed by Tulip chairs. Overhead is a Venini chandelier. Photo 4 of Miller House in Columbus, Indiana by Eero Saarinen modern home

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

A mosaic tile wall softens the laboratory-like effect of the glossy kitchen cabinets. Photo 5 of Miller House in Columbus, Indiana by Eero Saarinen modern home

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

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. Photo 6 of Miller House in Columbus, Indiana by Eero Saarinen modern home

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.

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. Photo 7 of Miller House in Columbus, Indiana by Eero Saarinen modern home

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.

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. Photo 8 of Miller House in Columbus, Indiana by Eero Saarinen modern home

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.

Almost every window in the house was covered in a Girard-designed fabric. Photo 9 of Miller House in Columbus, Indiana by Eero Saarinen modern home

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

The Miller girls’ bedrooms each had a different color variation on the Quatrefoil pattern. Photo 10 of Miller House in Columbus, Indiana by Eero Saarinen modern home

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

Photo 11 of Miller House in Columbus, Indiana by Eero Saarinen modern home
pattern instructions for needlepoint for Xenia Photo 12 of Miller House in Columbus, Indiana by Eero Saarinen modern home

pattern instructions for needlepoint for Xenia

needlepoint seating pads on the Tulip chairs Photo 13 of Miller House in Columbus, Indiana by Eero Saarinen modern home

needlepoint seating pads on the Tulip chairs

Photo 14 of Miller House in Columbus, Indiana by Eero Saarinen modern home
Girard’s touch is visible in almost every detail in the house. Photo 15 of Miller House in Columbus, Indiana by Eero Saarinen modern home

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

His original textile master plan for the house was recently unearthed in the property’s barn. Photo 16 of Miller House in Columbus, Indiana by Eero Saarinen modern home

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

Girard even integrated the floor plan of the house into the TV room rug design. Photo 17 of Miller House in Columbus, Indiana by Eero Saarinen modern home

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

The playroom later became Xenia’s office. Photo 18 of Miller House in Columbus, Indiana by Eero Saarinen modern home

The playroom later became Xenia’s office.

The front entrance of the Miller House is flanked by a series of glass screens, designed by either Dan Kiley or Girard. Photo 19 of Miller House in Columbus, Indiana by Eero Saarinen modern home

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