Recently I had the chance to visit the Miller House and Gardens in Columbus, IN. Commissioned by J. Irwin Miller in 1953, the home and gardens are a masterpiece of midcentury modern architecture. Designed by 3 leading designers of the day- architect Eero Saarinen, interior designer Alexander Girard, and landscape architect Dan Kiley- the home features an outstanding example of the integration between architecture and landscape. However, it was the function of the home that struck me the most.
Irwin and Xenia Miller, along with their five children, resided in the home full time following its completion. That’s correct, the FAMILY lived there. The Miller’s had the joy of raising 5 children in the house. When thinking about Mid-Century Modern homes, this is not something that most typically consider. Much of the tour actually discussed how the home was designed to create living spaces for the parents, children, and guests, as well as how the family lived within the space. (For example, the children often roller skated across the white terrazzo floor, and the colorful pillows designed by Girard made for a soft landing when diving into the sunken conversation pit.) While our tour guide detailed the excellent qualities of the architecture, textiles, and landscape, he made sure we understood that this was first and foremost a home, in which the Millers resided until 2008.
This is something that we should always consider. Buildings and spaces only reach their full potential when we allow for interaction with the user. Designers often fixate on resistance of wear (i.e. keeping things looking as good as new), and while longevity of a space or materials is important, we have to allow a user to personalize or take ownership of their space. We need to give them opportunities to stretch their own creativity. These opportunities allow architectural spaces to become what they are meant to be, spaces for memories, interactions, and relationships.
If you’d like to see more photographs of the interior of the home, go to the following link