The Miller House

A Modernist masterpiece in Indiana

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Above: The terrace and main living area of the Miller House located in Columbus, Indiana and designed by Eero Saarinen in 1953. Photo: Balthazar Korab

American industrialist J. Irwin Miller and his wife Xenia Simons Miller brought Modernism to Indiana with their stunning home the Miller House. After convincing Eliel Saarinen to design a building in Columbus ten years earlier, the Miller’s commissioned Eliel’s son Eero to design a home for them in Columbus, Indiana. The result is an exemplary example of the International Style of Modernism and a wonderful showcase of the works of leading 20th century designers including, not only Eero Saarinen, but textile designer Alexander Girard, and landscape architect Dan Kiley. The Miller’s lived in the house undisturbed and, unlike much of the Modern architecture built during the period, they eschewed any press coverage of their home.

Click on image for full view

miller house columbus indiana eero saarinen mid century modern modernism

Architectural model of the Miller house. The cutout figure is of Eero Saarinen himself. Photo: Balthazar Korab

miller house columbus indiana eero saarinen mid century modern modernism

Floor plan of the Miller House located in Columbus Indiana and designed by Eero Saarinen in 1953.

miller house columbus indiana eero saarinen mid century modern modernism

The Miller House garden plan designed by Dan Kiley.

miller house columbus indiana eero saarinen mid century modern modernism

Fabric and colors by Alexander Girard on this swatch board with floor plan of the Miller House. Located in Columbus Indiana and designed by Eero Saarinen in 1953.

However, the Millers were fully aware of the architectural significance of the home. The property received a National Historic Landmark designation in 2000 and was the first building to do so while one of its designers, landscape architect Dan Kiley, was still alive and while the original owners were still living there. When J. Irwin Miller passed away in 2004, Xenia Miller (who died in 2008) had arranged, with the National Trust, that after her passing the house would be turned over to the care and maintenance of the Indiana Museum of Art. After the home received two years work the IMA opened the home to a public eager to get a glimpse of a masterpiece so long hidden.

Exterior photos of the Miller House, Columbus, Indiana. Click on image for full view

Despite the Miller house being a modern icon it was designed first and foremost to be a family home. The gardens, considered Dan Kiley’s finest design, are open and intended to be enjoyed and not just admired from a distance. This, coupled with Alexander Girard filling the home with wonderful, playful colors, textures, and forms, the house is an ordered but imminently livable space. The Millers had four children when they commissioned this home and when Saarinen began the work Mrs. Miller was pregnant with their fifth. The house had to function primarily as a family home and does so while comfortably wearing the mantle of a modernist masterpiece.

For information on tours of the Miller House please click here.

The Miller House, located in Columbus, Indiana and designed by Eero Saarinen in 1953. Click on image for full view

miller house columbus indiana eero saarinen mid century modern modernism

The Miller House located in Columbus Indiana and designed by Eero Saarinen in 1953. Photo: Balthazar Korab

miller house columbus indiana eero saarinen mid century modern modernism

J. Irwin Miller and his wife Xenia Simons Miller

 

Video about the Miller House and Garden

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=onCH5foRkHo

 

Check out these great books about Eero Saarinen, Balthazar Korab and Alexander Girard!