Architect and designer Alexander Girard (1907-1993) was born in New York, the son of an Italian father and an American mother. His early education was in Florence, Italy; he later studied in London, graduating in 1929 with honors from The Architectural Association. Girard then trained at the Royal Institute of British Architects in London and at the Royal School of Architecture in Rome, before returning to the United States in 1932. His early associations with Eero Saarinen included his work as a collaborator on the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (St. Louis Gateway Arch) design team. He also served as a color consultant on the General Motors Technical Center (1948-1956) and on the Miller Cottage (1950-1952) in Ontario. In 1952, Girard became design director of the textile division of the furniture manufacturing firm of Herman Miller, which had been producing the designs of Charles and Ray Eames (who also designed furniture for the Miller House) since the late 1940s.
Girard and Miller House
Miller House den rug designs by Alexander Girard, Miller House and Garden Collection, IMA Archives.
Alexander Girard’s work imbued modern interiors with strong colors and playful patterns that brought warmth and comfort to rooms that might otherwise have seemed severe and uninviting. For the Miller House, Girard designed a wide range of interior architectural details, including a 50-foot long main storage wall and the conversation pit, as well as a seasonally changing program of textiles that enlivened the interiors. Working with Xenia Miller, he selected ornaments and antiques to personalize the house. He also designed several rugs for the house, including one composed of emblems that represent family history and associations. There are ‘Y’s for Yale (Mr. Miller's alma-mater), representations for each child, and additional symbols of meaning to the family. Some of the chair cushions designed by Girard also feature the initials of family members. His passion for folk art is also visible in the objects chosen for the interior of the house.