2311 N Indian Canyon Dr
Palm Springs, CA 92262, USA

  • Architectural Style: Mid-Century Modern
  • Bathroom: N/A
  • Year Built: 1937
  • National Register of Historic Places: Yes
  • Square Feet: 1,100 sqft
  • National Register of Historic Places Date: Mar 27, 2020
  • Neighborhood: N/A
  • National Register of Historic Places Area of Significance: Architecture
  • Bedrooms: N/A
  • Architectural Style: Mid-Century Modern
  • Year Built: 1937
  • Square Feet: 1,100 sqft
  • Bedrooms: N/A
  • Bathroom: N/A
  • Neighborhood: N/A
  • National Register of Historic Places: Yes
  • National Register of Historic Places Date: Mar 27, 2020
  • National Register of Historic Places Area of Significance: Architecture
Neighborhood Resources:

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Jun 01, 2020

  • Dave D

Amazing Grace

GRACE MILLER HOUSE by Catherine Meyler When a person hires an architect to design them a house, obviously the end result is a residence that is customized to the specific owner or owners. Richard Neutra was an architect who particularly encouraged customization, often to a degree that some may have thought short-sighted, for it certainly could narrow the field of potential future owners. I remember being awed by the lengths to which Mr. Neutra went in order for his clients to be utterly comfortable in their home, as every habit and whim had been addressed. The original owner of my home, Mrs. Grace Lewis Miller enjoyed lengthy correspondence with Neutra, her architect. In all they exchanged over 50 letters between August 1936 and February 1937, discussing in great detail her daily routine and habits so that her new home would indeed be her house. That Neutra listened so carefully to his clients’ requirements and suggestions, and treated them with enormous respect is certainly reflected in the end result. The little house and desert exercise studio designed for Grace Lewis Miller in 1936 represented everything she wanted. The home was to fulfill a specific, dual role. Firstly, it was a winter home for her and secondly it was an exercise studio where she could teach clients Mensendieck Functional Exercises, something she had discovered whilst on a cruise in Sweden and subsequently learned to teach. The house was small - her budget was only $5000 but her requirements were basic. Mrs. Miller chose Neutra because they shared an inherent belief that a properly designed house provides the occupant with both mental and physical health benefits. For an architect who had never built anything in the desert it was perfectly thought out, with a divisible living space and an exercise studio with its own private entrance. A panel of north facing textured glass windows provided natural light and privacy. The wide overhangs that extended out over all the south- and west-facing windows provided much-needed shade from the sun, and a plethora of windows and doors offered plenty of cross-ventilation. All in all, it was a perfect utilitarian space and measured just over eleven hundred square feet. Mrs. Miller derived much joy from it. It fit her perfectly. In later years, however, the home wasn’t considered such a success. When I bought it, in September 2000, it was impossible to fathom exactly who this little structure would appeal to. Indeed, the house was in such terrible shape that no bank would even lend on it as it was technically uninhabitable. For several weeks after I bought it, every weekend when I would come down to do some bonding, locals had always broken in and used the small guest bedroom as a crack den. Can you imagine—a Neutra crack den? When I decided to buy the house it was for the one quality that all real estate agents warn against—emotional. Yes the house was trashed but a) it was on a huge piece of land (which greatly appealed to me having grown up on a large farm in England); b) it was essentially a small house so how much could it take to restore? and c) most important of all, it had a perfect pedigree. Obviously I had no idea what I was doing, but at least I could realize my dream of owning a Neutra house. To own a piece of mid-century modern architecture seemed like a luxury that belonged only to the rich and/or famous—certainly not the likes of me. In the early stages I suffered from terrible buyer’s remorse. I began to wonder if I had made a huge, expensive and horrible mistake. Then the word got out and the phone began to ring. People from the architectural community all said the same thing: I hear you bought the Miller House, what are your plans? You know that’s a really important house, I hope you’re going to do the right thing. Those words began to haunt me… I was absolutely terrified. Why was it such an important house? Clarity arrived in the form of Stephen Leet, who was working on a book about the house, using Mrs. Miller’s personal archives. She was something of a pack rat and had saved every single scrap of paper, swatch correspondence etc that pertained to the house. Stephen pointed out similarities between Mrs. Miller and I. We were about the same age, me upon buying the house as she had been upon commissioning it. Our last names only differed by 2 letters, she paid for the house with an inheritance, so did I. We were both single women; she had once wanted to study fashion, so had I. Eventually I felt sufficiently comfortable to ask him the dreaded question: why was the house so important? Important enough for it to be only the 2nd Neutra house, Windshield being the first, to have its own monograph? He calmly explained that this was not only Neutra’s first desert house, it was (excepting the Schindler Popenoe Cabin, long since demolished) the first desert modern house. It represented a time before Neutra was really famous and for such a small property, it was ingeniously designed. And It was the only house that really epitomized and reflected Neutra’s respect of Asian architecture. Then came the lengthy restoration. As the house went through its transitions, I began to lose my fear and trusted that everything would turn out as it should. I approached every decision with confidence and clarity. I continued to read all I could about the house and its original owner. Friends invited me to stay at their own spectacular residences in the desert whenever I needed to and I began to understand more about the climate and Palm Springs life. I was completely hooked. Julius Shulman supplied me with a set of photographs he had taken of the house between 1936 and 1942 and these proved to be invaluable. As I poked around the shell of the house and studied the photographs I became utterly intrigued with it. I also began to notice the personal touches. For instance, Mrs. Miller’s fashionable clothing was housed in a very precise, built-in wardrobe—I could see the holes left in the wood from her hat stands, and her shoe collection was separated and ventilated from the exterior to prevent any nasty smells adhering to the clothes. I finally received my Certificate of Occupancy on the 17th October 2001 and proudly moved in. Lacking further funds, other than putting an epoxy coat on the black concrete floor, I devised an excuse for doing no further work for a year—that I would live in the house for at least 12 months in order to get to know it better and study the differences in light and climate. It served me well. Even though the house is no longer surrounded by untouched desert land, the peace and solitude originally intended, prevails. A friend once came to spend a week at Christmas and arrived harried and stressed from a frantic workload. On the 3rd day of his stay he awoke and announced that living in this house was akin to being on valium. Someone else asked if I had purposely not bought any gadgets—television, microwave etc - and I realized that it was not a conscious decision at all. Living simply just evolved as if there were no other way. To me there isn’t another way. The house is now the nearest it’s been in years to the way it was originally designed. In 1937 it fit Grace Miller perfectly, and now it fits me. I was reminded recently that before I was born, my parents differed in their choice of names if their imminent offspring were a girl. My Welsh father favored Charlotte or Catherine. My Irish mother favored Grania—Gaelic for Grace. Even though my father’s choice prevailed, this is indeed the house of Grace.

Amazing Grace

GRACE MILLER HOUSE by Catherine Meyler When a person hires an architect to design them a house, obviously the end result is a residence that is customized to the specific owner or owners. Richard Neutra was an architect who particularly encouraged customization, often to a degree that some may have thought short-sighted, for it certainly could narrow the field of potential future owners. I remember being awed by the lengths to which Mr. Neutra went in order for his clients to be utterly comfortable in their home, as every habit and whim had been addressed. The original owner of my home, Mrs. Grace Lewis Miller enjoyed lengthy correspondence with Neutra, her architect. In all they exchanged over 50 letters between August 1936 and February 1937, discussing in great detail her daily routine and habits so that her new home would indeed be her house. That Neutra listened so carefully to his clients’ requirements and suggestions, and treated them with enormous respect is certainly reflected in the end result. The little house and desert exercise studio designed for Grace Lewis Miller in 1936 represented everything she wanted. The home was to fulfill a specific, dual role. Firstly, it was a winter home for her and secondly it was an exercise studio where she could teach clients Mensendieck Functional Exercises, something she had discovered whilst on a cruise in Sweden and subsequently learned to teach. The house was small - her budget was only $5000 but her requirements were basic. Mrs. Miller chose Neutra because they shared an inherent belief that a properly designed house provides the occupant with both mental and physical health benefits. For an architect who had never built anything in the desert it was perfectly thought out, with a divisible living space and an exercise studio with its own private entrance. A panel of north facing textured glass windows provided natural light and privacy. The wide overhangs that extended out over all the south- and west-facing windows provided much-needed shade from the sun, and a plethora of windows and doors offered plenty of cross-ventilation. All in all, it was a perfect utilitarian space and measured just over eleven hundred square feet. Mrs. Miller derived much joy from it. It fit her perfectly. In later years, however, the home wasn’t considered such a success. When I bought it, in September 2000, it was impossible to fathom exactly who this little structure would appeal to. Indeed, the house was in such terrible shape that no bank would even lend on it as it was technically uninhabitable. For several weeks after I bought it, every weekend when I would come down to do some bonding, locals had always broken in and used the small guest bedroom as a crack den. Can you imagine—a Neutra crack den? When I decided to buy the house it was for the one quality that all real estate agents warn against—emotional. Yes the house was trashed but a) it was on a huge piece of land (which greatly appealed to me having grown up on a large farm in England); b) it was essentially a small house so how much could it take to restore? and c) most important of all, it had a perfect pedigree. Obviously I had no idea what I was doing, but at least I could realize my dream of owning a Neutra house. To own a piece of mid-century modern architecture seemed like a luxury that belonged only to the rich and/or famous—certainly not the likes of me. In the early stages I suffered from terrible buyer’s remorse. I began to wonder if I had made a huge, expensive and horrible mistake. Then the word got out and the phone began to ring. People from the architectural community all said the same thing: I hear you bought the Miller House, what are your plans? You know that’s a really important house, I hope you’re going to do the right thing. Those words began to haunt me… I was absolutely terrified. Why was it such an important house? Clarity arrived in the form of Stephen Leet, who was working on a book about the house, using Mrs. Miller’s personal archives. She was something of a pack rat and had saved every single scrap of paper, swatch correspondence etc that pertained to the house. Stephen pointed out similarities between Mrs. Miller and I. We were about the same age, me upon buying the house as she had been upon commissioning it. Our last names only differed by 2 letters, she paid for the house with an inheritance, so did I. We were both single women; she had once wanted to study fashion, so had I. Eventually I felt sufficiently comfortable to ask him the dreaded question: why was the house so important? Important enough for it to be only the 2nd Neutra house, Windshield being the first, to have its own monograph? He calmly explained that this was not only Neutra’s first desert house, it was (excepting the Schindler Popenoe Cabin, long since demolished) the first desert modern house. It represented a time before Neutra was really famous and for such a small property, it was ingeniously designed. And It was the only house that really epitomized and reflected Neutra’s respect of Asian architecture. Then came the lengthy restoration. As the house went through its transitions, I began to lose my fear and trusted that everything would turn out as it should. I approached every decision with confidence and clarity. I continued to read all I could about the house and its original owner. Friends invited me to stay at their own spectacular residences in the desert whenever I needed to and I began to understand more about the climate and Palm Springs life. I was completely hooked. Julius Shulman supplied me with a set of photographs he had taken of the house between 1936 and 1942 and these proved to be invaluable. As I poked around the shell of the house and studied the photographs I became utterly intrigued with it. I also began to notice the personal touches. For instance, Mrs. Miller’s fashionable clothing was housed in a very precise, built-in wardrobe—I could see the holes left in the wood from her hat stands, and her shoe collection was separated and ventilated from the exterior to prevent any nasty smells adhering to the clothes. I finally received my Certificate of Occupancy on the 17th October 2001 and proudly moved in. Lacking further funds, other than putting an epoxy coat on the black concrete floor, I devised an excuse for doing no further work for a year—that I would live in the house for at least 12 months in order to get to know it better and study the differences in light and climate. It served me well. Even though the house is no longer surrounded by untouched desert land, the peace and solitude originally intended, prevails. A friend once came to spend a week at Christmas and arrived harried and stressed from a frantic workload. On the 3rd day of his stay he awoke and announced that living in this house was akin to being on valium. Someone else asked if I had purposely not bought any gadgets—television, microwave etc - and I realized that it was not a conscious decision at all. Living simply just evolved as if there were no other way. To me there isn’t another way. The house is now the nearest it’s been in years to the way it was originally designed. In 1937 it fit Grace Miller perfectly, and now it fits me. I was reminded recently that before I was born, my parents differed in their choice of names if their imminent offspring were a girl. My Welsh father favored Charlotte or Catherine. My Irish mother favored Grania—Gaelic for Grace. Even though my father’s choice prevailed, this is indeed the house of Grace.

Feb 21, 2020

  • Dave D

The Grace Miller House, Palm Springs

Excerpt from The Grace Miller House, Palm Springs on the Claasshaus blog One of only three homes designed by Richard Neutra around Palm Springs (the other two- the Kaufmann House and the now-demolished Maslon Residence), the Grace Miller House remains one of the architect's most deliberate and utilitarian residential spaces. Completed in 1937, just as the architect had gained international fame for his work in and around Los Angeles, the house was an experiment in customization, a design dedicated to modernism's programmatic possibilities. His earliest commission in the California desert, the Miller House may seem unremarkable in size, but its design, a small machine for living wholly devoted to Miller's daily routine, reflects the unique relationship between architect and client and the complex process of constructing a modern home. In the winter of 1936, just two months after the death of her husband, St. Louis historian and socialite Grace Lewis Miller left the Midwest for California. A practitioner of the Mensendieck System of Functional Exercise, a posture improving technique developed during the 1920s, Miller wanted a winter home in the experimental enclave of Palm Springs, a place she hoped would welcome her holistic practice. After arriving in the desert town, Miller hired Neutra, who shared her belief in the mental and physical benefits of well-designed architecture, to build a small home and studio. With a budget of just $5,000, the pair set out to create a modern pavilion thoughtfully tailored to Miller’s lifestyle. Originally located on a quiet two-and-a-half-acre piece of property, the 1,100-square-foot minimalist house is defined by its unusual program and sparse landscape. A glass box with stucco walls, screened porches, and framed views of the empty desert (now obstructed by development), the home is a successful combination of Neutra's machine aesthetic and Miller's progressive ideology. On the interior, an open floor plan influenced by Japanese tea houses (the architect visited Japan in 1930) offered flexible space for both living and training. The airy environment promoted mental and physical health while providing plenty of natural light and privacy to its occupant. Neutra designed the house to respond to the hot climate with a panel of north-facing windows for light and ventilation and wide overhangs on the south and west for much needed shade. Built-in furniture was created to conserve space, while porches blur the line between the domicile and the desert. Artful and serene, the home reflects Miller's radical routine, a detailed architectural response to one woman's philosophical and physical needs. Though the Miller House might not be the most formally innovative Neutra design, it does offer rare insight into a somewhat unusual architect/client relationship. Sharing an affinity for a minimal aesthetic and the belief that architecture plays a role in improving the human condition, Neutra and Miller worked together to construct a desert home with a truly modern psyche. Lengthy correspondence between the two demonstrates a design process steeped in mutual respect, idealism, and the complex cultural conditions of the era. In the design for the home, Neutra weaved his own theoretical modernism with Miller's progressive attitude, creating a highly personal work of art- and a seminal moment in the history of desert modernism.

The Grace Miller House, Palm Springs

Excerpt from The Grace Miller House, Palm Springs on the Claasshaus blog One of only three homes designed by Richard Neutra around Palm Springs (the other two- the Kaufmann House and the now-demolished Maslon Residence), the Grace Miller House remains one of the architect's most deliberate and utilitarian residential spaces. Completed in 1937, just as the architect had gained international fame for his work in and around Los Angeles, the house was an experiment in customization, a design dedicated to modernism's programmatic possibilities. His earliest commission in the California desert, the Miller House may seem unremarkable in size, but its design, a small machine for living wholly devoted to Miller's daily routine, reflects the unique relationship between architect and client and the complex process of constructing a modern home. In the winter of 1936, just two months after the death of her husband, St. Louis historian and socialite Grace Lewis Miller left the Midwest for California. A practitioner of the Mensendieck System of Functional Exercise, a posture improving technique developed during the 1920s, Miller wanted a winter home in the experimental enclave of Palm Springs, a place she hoped would welcome her holistic practice. After arriving in the desert town, Miller hired Neutra, who shared her belief in the mental and physical benefits of well-designed architecture, to build a small home and studio. With a budget of just $5,000, the pair set out to create a modern pavilion thoughtfully tailored to Miller’s lifestyle. Originally located on a quiet two-and-a-half-acre piece of property, the 1,100-square-foot minimalist house is defined by its unusual program and sparse landscape. A glass box with stucco walls, screened porches, and framed views of the empty desert (now obstructed by development), the home is a successful combination of Neutra's machine aesthetic and Miller's progressive ideology. On the interior, an open floor plan influenced by Japanese tea houses (the architect visited Japan in 1930) offered flexible space for both living and training. The airy environment promoted mental and physical health while providing plenty of natural light and privacy to its occupant. Neutra designed the house to respond to the hot climate with a panel of north-facing windows for light and ventilation and wide overhangs on the south and west for much needed shade. Built-in furniture was created to conserve space, while porches blur the line between the domicile and the desert. Artful and serene, the home reflects Miller's radical routine, a detailed architectural response to one woman's philosophical and physical needs. Though the Miller House might not be the most formally innovative Neutra design, it does offer rare insight into a somewhat unusual architect/client relationship. Sharing an affinity for a minimal aesthetic and the belief that architecture plays a role in improving the human condition, Neutra and Miller worked together to construct a desert home with a truly modern psyche. Lengthy correspondence between the two demonstrates a design process steeped in mutual respect, idealism, and the complex cultural conditions of the era. In the design for the home, Neutra weaved his own theoretical modernism with Miller's progressive attitude, creating a highly personal work of art- and a seminal moment in the history of desert modernism.

Mar 01, 2019

  • Dave D

Photos from the Grace Miller House

Photos from the owner of the Grace Miller House - Catherine Meyler on their vacation rental website

Photos from the Grace Miller House

Photos from the owner of the Grace Miller House - Catherine Meyler on their vacation rental website

1937

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