A look back at an early claass HAUS favorite- Eero Saarinen's Miller Cottage.
Most architecture geeks know all about the iconic Eero Saarinen-designed house for J. Irwin Miller in Columbus, Indiana. But Saarinen also designed a Canadian summer cottage for Miller and his wife Xenia, and honestly, I didn’t know much about the project until I stumbled across this set of photographs by famed photographer Balthazar Korab.
Located on the shores of Lake Rousseau in the Muskoka region of Ontario, Canada, the Miller house reflects Eero Saarinen's interest in a more regionalized modernism. Designed between 1950 and 1952, the small lake house, a link of geometric cubes arranged in a horseshoe, blends unexpectedly with the dramatic natural forms of the surrounding landscape. Growing directly out of the long rocky peninsula, the house interprets the family's needs by utilizing a warm, natural palette, local materials, and the traditional Muskoka cottage aesthetic.
Dotted with mature trees and rocky outcrops, the site's distinctive topography directs the cottage's unique arrangement of space. Saarinen organized the home's design according to the patterns of nature with living areas taking advantage of expansive lake views and the daily arc of the sun. Continuing the natural palette of the exterior, the Alexander Girard-designed interior spaces blend muted wood panels with bright splashes of red, orange, and yellow. Girard's aesthetic appealed to Xenia Miller (who played an active role in the overall design process), and together the two created distinctive and playful rooms that highlighted Saarinen's modern interpretation of the regional vernacular. A seamless rhythm of indoor and outdoor spaces and natural materials, the Miller cottage relates to its surroundings, intimately connecting function to nature.
A fresh (and maybe even radical) translation of local architecture, the Miller cottage abandons the rigid modern module for a more expressive arrangement of space sensitive to the surrounding environment. An exercise in problem solving (rather than adherence to the mandates of Modernism), the cottage is perfectly suited to its client and site and is the rare example of Saarinen's experimentation within a residential setting.
So go ahead. Enjoy the rest of these stunning images, and try, just try, to make it through this Monday in one piece.
Photographs are courtesy of the Korab Collection at the Library of Congress.
A version of this post was originally published on March 20, 2017.
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