The MILLER HOUSE AND GARDEN
Miller House is one of the most important mid-century modern residences in the country, often mentioned alongside Fallingwater, The Glass House, and The Farnsworth House as America’s best examples of residential modernism. This hallmark of modern design showcases the talents of architect Eero Saarinen, designer Alexander Girard, and landscape architect Dan Kiley.
- Ticket price: $25 per person
- Duration: 90 minutes
- The guided tour experience begins and ends at the Columbus Area Visitors Center (506 5th Street Columbus, Indiana) and includes a brief introductory video and transportation to and from Miller House.
- The Miller House tour is oriented to adults and children over 10. Children under 10, including toddlers and infants, are not permitted on this tour. All guests must purchase a ticket, regardless of age.
- To protect the carpeting and flooring at Miller House, you will be asked to remove your shoes and tour the house in socks or wear shoe covers, which will be provided.
See tour times and buy tickets
About Eero Saarinen...
Eero Saarinen was a Finnish-American architect. His works in Columbus are Irwin Union Bank (now Irwin Conference Center), North Christian Church, and Miller House. The son of architect Eliel Saarinen, he studied with his father and came to prominence in 1948 with his competition-winning design for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (The St. Louis Arch). He also designed interiors and furniture in the same simple, curving style as his exteriors.
From the Taschen book Saarinen, by Pierluigi Serraino:
- Program, rather than scale, was the focus of Saarinen’s consciousness as a designer…his goal in designing domestic architecture remained unchanged even in later years: simplicity of the plan and interior. The Miller House…embodies just such an approach with astonishing clarity.
- To complement the stark quality of Saarinen’s walls, interior designer Alexander Girard added a folk overtone to the naked surfaces. The roof overhang extends beyond the glass line to shelter a five-foot swath of open space all the way around the house. Landscape architect Dan Kiley, Eero Saarinen’s long-time collaborator, designed a natural chessboard for the site, in which the project occupies one of the squares.
About Dan Kiley...
The Miller House Garden is “considered to be (Kiley’s) residential masterpiece and an iconic Modernist garden,” and “the museum has established itself as an excellent steward of the site, setting a high standard for the curatorial treatment and management of Modernist landscape architecture. Their example is worthy of study, praise, and emulation by other stewards,” according to the Cultural Landscape Foundation.
Kiley and his Harvard contemporaries rejected the tenets of Beaux Arts design that then formed the core of the landscape architecture curriculum and went on to publish their own manifesto of modernism. To them, the field’s established catalogue of historical references and hierarchical spatial concepts reflected social conditions and intellectual assumptions that simply were no longer valid in twentieth-century America. Accordingly, Kiley’s garden—like Saarinen’s house—relies on a clear and strong geometric order, but without conventional symmetry, reliance on fixed points of reference, or paths of circulation that constrain the viewer’s experience. It is largely concerned with shaping spaces, composing relationships of solids and voids, and manipulating the interplay of volumes, rather than with creating specific garden views or with orchestrating complex floral combinations or bloom sequences.
The landscape’s grandest feature is an allée of honey locust trees that defines an axis along the west side of the house, extending almost to the limits of the property. With finely textured buff-colored crushed stone beneath the entire allée, the dark honey locusts stand out in sharp contrast, their lacy foliage gently filtering the sunlight. Subsequent to the allée’s construction, it received a sculptural terminus at each end: a bas relief by Jacques Lipschitz at the south and a reclining female figure by Henry Moore at the north; both were later sold at auction as part of the estate settlement.
Read more about Dan Kiley’s architectural landscape legacy
About Alexander Girard...
“Eero Saarinen turned the interior design details over to Alexander Girard, who enlivened the rigorous architecture with brightly colored rugs, pillows, and wall hangings. “He made the house a home,” says Kevin Roche. “His sense of color was remarkable.” Behind the cylindrical fireplace in the living room, Girard designed storage cabinets for the Millers’ collection of antiques and art from all over the world. For seating, he sunk a fifteen-foot-square conversation pit into the floor. “The kids had overnight pajama parties in there,” recalls Irwin Miller.”- from Classic Modern: Midcentury Modern at Home By Deborah Dietsch
“Most of Girard’s 3D work doesn’t exist any more. That’s the downside of working on interiors, restaurants, exhibitions. That’s one reason why it is so important that the Miller House be open to the public, as a top-quality example of what he could do for space.” – Alexandra Lange, from Design Observer
Alexander Girard’s work imbued modern interiors with strong colors and playful patterns that brought warmth and comfort to rooms that might otherwise have seemed severe and uninviting. For the Miller House, Girard designed a wide range of interior architectural details, including a 50-foot long main storage wall and the conversation pit, as well as a seasonally changing program of textiles that enlivened the interiors. Working with Xenia Miller, he selected ornaments and antiques to personalize the house. He also designed several rugs for the house, including one composed of emblems that represent family history and associations. There are ‘Y’s for Yale (Mr. Miller’s alma-mater), representations for each child, and additional symbols of meaning to the family. Some of the chair cushions designed by Girard also feature the initials of family members. His passion for folk art is also visible in the objects chosen for the interior of the house. – from Indianapolis Museum of Art website
Go to the Alexander Girard page >
Learn about private. group, and special interest tours.
COMMENTS FROM TOUR GUESTS
The Miller house is exquisite. We have visited Wright’s Wingspread and Fallingwater and Mies’ Farnsworth house. The Miller house as an example of residential architecture and landscape design surpasses them all. (Tripadvisor, Sep 2021)
Do not miss if you like architecture This is a comprehensive tour of an amazing work of modern architecture. The guide was extremely knowledgeable, and the house and gardens are packed with interest. (posted Oct 2020)
St. Louis guest - Unbelievable, and SO memorable!!!
Seattle guest - a Columbus architectural gem...
Pittsburgh guest - A must-see when in Columbus...
Unbelievable residence. A must-see when in Columbus. Everything was truly unique. I am at a loss for words to describe how interesting the architecture was as well as the history behind the Miller Family. (posted Sep 2019)
Houston guest - this alone made the trip to Columbus worthwhile...
IN THE MEDIA
The stone- and glass-walled house (contains) meticulously preserved interiors by Alexander Girard, who sank the world’s first conversation pit into its living room. (New York Style)
I have visited my fair share of iconic modern homes, but the moment I walked in, this one felt unique. (Dwell)
Read more national media coverage
IN OTHER PUBLICATIONS
From Iconic Houses...
The house has more in common with Saarinen’s 1949 Case Study House #9, designed with Charles Eames, than the more flamboyant sculpted forms of his TWA Terminal and other key buildings.
…with its formal simplicity, spatial richness and powerful relationship with the landscape, it remains one of Saarinen’s most influential projects. Recently acquired by the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the house will likely remain the best known and best preserved of the architect’s few domestic commissions.
From Eero Saarinen - Shaping the Future...
The ultimate triumph of the design of Saarinen’s Miller House…rests in its integration with the artworks contained inside and with the art of the garden created outside. Space and light flow freely, unifying a collection of disparate objects, and uniting interior with landscape in a manner reminiscent of the Imperial Villa of Katsura in Kyoto. The end result fashions what would otherwise be cool, elegant materials into a warm and comfortable domestic environment.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE…
- Learn more about J. Irwin and Xenia Miller
- Explore the Miller House virtual tour
- Read about Miller House and Garden in the national media
- Find out about Eero Saarinen’s bank in Columbus
- Learn about the work of Alexander Girard in Columbus
- Learn about the aluminum group chair, by Charles and Ray Eames, which was created for the Miller House
- Watch the trailer for the PBS American Masters feature on Eero Saarinen (2:22)
- See what bloggers say about Miller House (many photos)
- See photos from Modern in Denver magazine
- Visit J. Irwin Miller’s childhood home and the Irwin Gardens
- Learn about the landscape architects of Columbus
- Learn more about the Columbus architecture story
- Read Deborah Berke’s perspective in The Wall Street Journal
- Dig deep into the Miller House archives
- Check out the Miller House and Garden Pinterest board
- Book an architecture tour