52 Balthazar Korab photos of The Miller House — an exceptional legacy

living-room-Miller-housToday, a piece of the amazing legacy of photographer Balthazar Korab — 52 photos from the series of photographs he took of the Miller House — designed by Eero Saarinen… decorated by Alexander Girard…. gardens by Dan Kiley …  built in 1953 in Columbus, Indiana. When Korab died last year, he contributed these photos to the Library of Congress — making them available for all of us to see. We’ve sifted through the archive of this body of Korab’s work to curate what we think are Korab’s 52 best photos of The Miller House — including some fascinating shots of the models used in Saarinen’s design process. 

eero saarinen Born in Budapest, Hungary, Korab didn’t come to the U.S. until 1955, when he was hired as a photographer by Saarinen, who had begun to experiment with using photography as part of the design process. Korab went to work in Saarinen’s office in Bloomfield, Mich.

balthazar korab photo miller house modelKorab shot photos of the model for the Miller House — amazing!

balthazar korableero saarinen kitchenAbove: You know how we find it fascinating to see the (usually) lesser photographed spaces inside architect-designed midcentury modern houses — like the bathroom and kitchen shown above. For example: Pegboard on the kitchen wall to hold a changing display. In a Saarinen house! As we like to repeat: Also fascinating how these functional spaces in high-style houses looks pretty much like the functional spaces in midcentury modest houses. In our experience studying these houses over the years, there wasn’t all that much difference between modern and modest bathrooms and kitchens in the first few decades after World War II!

balthazar korab miller houseKorab continued to shoot photos of the house and gardens over the next 40 years. This is why, we think, as you are viewing the photos, you see changes — upholstery colors, for example.

eero-saarinen-chairsnatural wall art We love the Alexander Girard decor — the all-white interior is the fresh clean palette — he then layered whimsical color and pattern. But then, there’s natural wall art, too. This house was just … genius. It’s virtually impossible to choose a favorite part. We do know: Thank goodness for Balthazar Korab!

But let’s get to it… All photos courtesy of: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Balthazar Korab Archive at the Library of Congress [reproduction number, e.g., LC-DIG-krb-00175].

Tips to view slide show: Click on first image… it will enlarge and you can also read my captions… move forward or back via arrows below the photo… you can start or stop at any image:

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Comments

  1. Rudy says

    I am KNOCKED OUT by how cool that house looks! I love that pit group! It’s actually hard for me to take in all the cool details and scale of the house. That floor is so COOL! It’s inspiring! Thank you for sharing this! Made my day!

  2. Mary Elizabeth says

    Just stunning! It’s fun to track the changes in wall art, art objects, carpets, upholstery colors, etc. I don’t think I’ve ever seen photos of a house tracked over the years like this. What a wonderful find and gift for the LC.

  3. Nancy B says

    This is wonderful!! Is it possible to enlarge the photos? I want to see all the detail in each photo!

    • pam kueber says

      Nancy – go to the link to the photos at Library of Congress if you want to see them bigger. They have VERY LARGE files in many cases.

  4. Jay says

    As someone who likes to play in the dirt, not sure which I like more, the interior layout or the exterior landscaping. I think the use of a full size architectural model was unusual; must have been a powerful aid for the homeowners to envision the actual space.

  5. Steve H says

    I love Alexander Girard. The way he combined modern graphic designs, colors and folk art pieces was nothing less than genius.

  6. Drew says

    What a beautiful way to start the day! The details are amazing, especially the clothesline in the background of one of the photos. The home was truly lived in.

  7. lynda davis says

    Just beautiful. Columbus, Indiana is such a wonderful city. Interesting how the house was tweaked a bit over the years but not really changed. Nice that the house is a museum to be enjoyed by many.

  8. ineffablespace says

    With regard to “modernist vs. modest”:

    Particularly in functional spaces like kitchens and baths, the fixtures, appliances and materials that were available to someone with a modest budget were pretty much all that was available, unless the builder was willing to go fully custom. There wasn’t a “luxury” market for countertop materials and bathtubs and ranges. If someone was interested in stone countertops, they went to a company that did commercial buildings or who fabricated headstones. If they wanted a “commercial style” or “chef’s” kitchen, they had real commercial appliances.

    It wasn’t possible to select a $12,000 glass door Subzero, or bathtub carved out of stone, or countertop made of semiprecious stones impregnated in resin “off the rack”, or from standard consumer offerings like it is today.

    Likewise, architects like Saarinen were designing houses for the luxury market that differed primarily in size and level of finish from modest houses of the era. But the “idea” of the house, and the overall design of the house is something that was supposed to be accessible to anyone interested in modern design. The difference is that a more expensive build could be built with truer modernist details (more minimalist, and more expensive, because they required a higher level of precision), and the more expensive build may have had real stone floors, like this one, and fine veneers, rather than vinyl floors or plywood paneling.

    But vinyl floors, and laminate and such materials, were the material of choice because of maintenance, and they weren’t considered “budget” materials. Vinyl floors were a favorite of Billy Baldwin and Dorothy Draper. I collect Architectural Digests from certain periods and I am blown away at how modest most of the houses featured were.

    • says

      Very well said and explained.

      Having a progression of photos over the years is really awesome. This inspired me to pull some of my house (I have old photos because it was my grandparents’) and post the progressions showing how the design changed over the years too.

      A really awesome house architecturally as well – I particularly like the ceilings where light around the perimeter is used to help define each space.

    • pam kueber says

      Yes, I have written about this often. Whether architect-design mid-century modern masterpieces … or mid-century modern middle class … the functional spaces were amazingly similar. The major manufacturers supplying bathroom fixtures, for example, were used in both: Crane, American Standard and Kohler top among them (although I have no idea who was the market leader.) Tile came from the same manufacturers. In kitchens, laminate countertops and vinyl floors were de rigeur — the epitome of modern — modern miracles. There were some upscale appliances, like built-in Revco fridges and St. Charles Kitchen cabinets… but you are as likely to see vintage Caloric in a high-falutin’ mid mod as a vernacular tract house modest.

  9. ineffablespace says

    I think, though, that built-ins like Revco and Sub-Zero may have been chosen more as a matter of design sensibility in the mid-20th-century, and less as a status-symbol, like they often are today.

  10. Chad Heimlich says

    Korab was trained as an architect and joined Saarinen’s firm as a design associate. He was, in fact, responsible for designing the fireplace at the Miller House. Apparently, it was a very frustrating process, as evidenced by the 9 different fireplace configuration models we see in one of the photos. He later said that is was this project that convinced him to pursue a career as a photographer, rather than an architect!

  11. Brenda Martin says

    Love it! But I wanted to see the kitchen, pool, front entrance better, and any other bathroom!!
    Remember the Beatles movie ‘HELP!’? Each Beatle had their own sunken bed area with matching colorful phone. Remember?

    • Mary Elizabeth says

      Gee, Brenda, I don’t remember that detail from the movie. But the great thing about aging in the digital age is that we can buy/rent that DVD and rewatch that which we have forgotten.

  12. Joe Felice says

    WOW! Mid-century haute décor at its best! Is that round thing actually a fireplace? Sunken living rooms are associated more with the ’70s, but it was informative to see they had their beginnings in the ’50s. Why no kitchen pics?

  13. Pam Fidler says

    I love this so much! It’s such a happy modern house with the colors! I was wondering who is the artist of the large arched top painting in the living room near the pit!

  14. Karin says

    Wow! This house is definitely my favorite house ever featured on RR.
    It is timeless, elegant and playful. Magic.

  15. Kim says

    I lived the first 27 years of my life in Columbus and grew up wondering about the house hidden behind the tall hedges on Washington Street – the house where I was told Mr. Miller lived. Not until a trip home last summer was the mystery solved and a lifelong dream realized. Both the city and the house are a must for any mid century architecture lover.

  16. says

    My mom is from Columbus and I spent several years of my childhood there. My grandmother and Mrs. Miller were actually friends and my grandmother use to have lunch at this home occasionally. My husband and I are about a week away from closing on our first home which is a lovely 1957 custom home that we are totally in love with and it has been fun looking over your site to get some design ideas. Our taste usually runs a bit older and more turn of the century and so we were quite surprised to fall so in love with our lovely midcentury gem!

  17. says

    The house is amazing. I was able to visit the house one year before it was open to the public. Interesting note about the conversation pit, there was a set of pillows for every season of the year. While sitting in the conversation pit you could see the underside of the grand piano, so they had it painted red.

    Here are some more pics if anyone is interested:

    http://plastolux.com/interior-miller-modern-eero-girard-kiley.html

    http://plastolux.com/may-10-2011-j-irwin-miller-house-opens-to-the-public.html

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