Design devotees are likely to recognize the Miller House for the iconic conversation pit that Saarinen designed for the living room: a communal seating area that is recessed into the marble floor, lined with plush white banquettes, and richly colored textiles that changed palettes with the seasons. It’s a vivid, era-defining image that has transcended into pop consciousness. But it is just one part of a capacious, 6,838-square-foot structure on an expansive 13-acre property.
The team behind the Miller House’s design involved several key talents beyond Saarinen himself. Pritzker Prize-winning architect Kevin Roche, then a principal associate in Saarinen’s office, played a pivotal role; landscape architect Dan Kiley designed the expansive and neatly geometric gardens, which feature an elongated allée of honey locust trees and interpret the home’s gridded floor plan to its outdoor environs. Alexander Girard, an interior designer with a penchant for folk art, appointed the interiors and worked as a color consultant, even creating a “textile master plan” for the residence.
“Girard’s elements are really the thing that has affected me the most,” reflects Schiller. “The textiles, the eye for color, the combination of warm and cold—the ability for a piece of architecture to at once be present or recede, and take on the warmth of the materials.” Girard developed a long-standing working relationship with the Millers for over 15 years, adjusting and evolving the interior through the seasons and along with the family’s lifestyle.
It should be noted that Saarinen, who passed in 1961, had already produced many of his iconic works when the Millers commissioned him to design their home in 1953. He designed the 630-foot-tall, Gateway Arch monument in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1947 (though it was not completed until 1965), as well as the Womb Chair for Knoll, which remains in production today. Along with the Pedestal armchair and table (commonly called the Tulip Collection) he later designed in 1956, and the TWA terminal at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport, completed in 1962, the curvilinear, jet-age contours of these signature projects embodied the organic yet neo-futurist aesthetic for which he became known.