Columbus, Indiana. Probably not a place that comes to mind when you think architecture. Yet the American Institute of Architects named Columbus as the sixth most architecturally important city in the US.
There I was, in the middle of a tour, wandering through the Miller House, the mid-century home of the former CEO of Cummins, the largest employer in Columbus, Indiana. Irwin Miller was also the philanthropist responsible for architectural design throughout Columbus, the very architectural design that landed Columbus in the sixth spot.
The Millers raised five children in this house, including one oops—a child that announced it was coming after the house was designed. The house is laid out as compartments, with a section for the children’s rooms, a section for guests, and a section for the parents. The center is a large communal area with a rectangular sofa recessed in the floor.
It didn’t seem like a house for children. But stories started to emerge. The floors were a beautiful travertine and terrazzo, preserved by having tour guests walk only on carpeted runners. Yet children being children, the floors weren’t always treated with this respect. The children roller skated on it. Gasp.
And before the house was given to the Indianapolis Museum of Art for preservation, a painting hung by the dining table, a painting that the children used to bounce balls off of. A painting of water lilies. Yes, those water lilies. By Monet. A painting that later fetched nearly $81 million at an auction. They bounced balls off of it. Double gasp.
My favorite tale about the children’s escapades involved the sunken sofa. The sofa graced the large communal room, with a plethora of pillows on the cushions. After strategically moving the pillows from the sofa cushions to the floor in the center of the rectangular sofa, the children would take a running leap from a far corner of the large communal room. Flying through the air, they landed on the soft pile of pillows. Jumping into the sofa pit must have been the perfect remedy for a house with no wooden banister to slide down.
And I wished I could take a stab at it. Of course, being Amy, I would have to add sound effects. The obligatory “wheeee” as I flew through the air. And landed on the pillows.