It’s easy to fall in love with the Miller House. The nearly 7,000 square feet of travertine floors. The colorful textiles. The mod fireplace. If you haven’t seen the Columbus, Ind., home, you should. It’s a design, architecture, and modern living utopia.
The house—recently profiled in Architectural Digest—was commissioned in 1953 by industrialist and philanthropist J. Irwin Miller (of Cummins) and his wife Xenia. They pegged architect Eero Saarinen, designer Alexander Girard, and landscape architect Dan Kiley to build the home, which became a National Historic Landmark in 2000.
The Millers believed that world-class design was meant to be accessible and enjoyed by all, and so after Xenia’s death in 2008, the family donated the house and an endowment to the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
Over the years, they remained friends with the designers of their home, especially Girard. When traveling, Girard would curate items for the family, including some of Xenia’s 500 nativity scenes, also known as crèches.
Many of the items have never before been publicly displayed, which is why we were happy to get the call to work on the Christmas at the Miller House project. What we are calling “Crèche the Halls.”
The event is a rare opportunity to experience a remarkable piece of modern design history in a completely new context.
When you enter the Miller House, your eyes meet a large Mexican crèche, one displayed in the exact place where the Millers set up their Christmas tree. And from the infamous conversation pit—into which the five Miller children would somersault—you find yourself gazing at the 50-foot-long storage wall, whose glass shelves house books, trinkets, and now crèches from Peru, Greece, and Germany.
“Crèche the Halls” runs through Jan. 22. Tours of the Miller House—which operates in partnership with the Columbus Area Visitors Center—are 90 minutes long. Access is generally limited, so check tour times and ticket prices online before heading to Columbus. And be sure to take a peek at Instagram for more images of the modern landmark.
And while you can admire additional Saarinen architecture in Columbus, you won’t forget the criss-cross of skylights, the smooth curve of the fireplace, or the cantilevered porch of the Miller House. You’ll remember the bite marks on the Steinway, which one of the Miller sons left during a particularly frustrating practice session. And you’ll learn that the house was built for functionality, for a family of seven that laughed, relaxed, played, entertained, and—every holiday season—decorated the walls and halls.