Imagine you are the home architect, landscape architect or interior designer asked to create the home and gardens of J. Irwin Miller, the tour de force behind the funding and design direction of Columbus, Indiana’s modern architectural movement (read our previous blogs here – one, two and three). You are given this caveat: it must be all done in the Modernist aesthetic, and by the way, you have an unlimited budget.
Enter three titans of leading 20th-century style: Eero Saarinen, Alexander Girard, and Dan Kiley. The result is the Miller House, an excellent example of American modernism integrating a home with its landscaping.
Completed in 1957, the house itself was built on a grid design: an open floor plan with a flat roof and stone and glass walls. Just over 6800 square feet, it is one of the few home residences that Eero Saarinen designed.
The exterior rooms each had their specific functions, but they all led to the center of the flooring grid: the common space where everyone could gather for entertaining or relaxing. Most notably in this space is a conversation pit which is recessed below the main floor level.
Designer Alexander Girard used strong colors and playful patterns to play against the steel, concrete and glass of the interior’s surfaces.
The Miller house is managed by the Indianapolis Museum of Art and they have done a magnificent job of keeping the Millers’ actual furnishings and accessories on display.
Outside, the landscape architecture of Dan Kiley still resembles its original plan of symmetry and geometry of plantings. It truly extends the look of the house out onto the vast property.
While we could not walk to the Miller House for the tour, we were able to catch a bus ride to the home from the Columbus Visitors Center. It is located in the heart of all the other Columbus buildings we visited. The Miller House is a paid, guided tour and well worth the time.