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.
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.
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 Miller House and Garden features a custom-made sofa in the open-plan living area designed by Saarinen with textiles by Girard. The home was widely published and is in part credited for the popularity of conversation pits in the 1950s and 1960s.
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.
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.
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.
The Miller girls’ bedrooms each had a different color variation on the Quatrefoil pattern.
pattern instructions for needlepoint for Xenia
needlepoint seating pads on the Tulip chairs
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.
Girard even integrated the floor plan of the house into the TV room rug design.
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.