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Kirkpatrick House

Photo by Ryan Gage

Nestled away on a forested cul-de-sac in the Winchell Neighborhood, the James and Sarah Kirkpatrick House was designed by the celebrated American architect George Nelson, and one of his company’s associates, Gordon Chadwick. Known primarily as an interior and industrial designer of iconic furniture pieces for the Zeeland, Michigan-based company Herman Miller, Nelson’s academic studies were rooted in the study of architecture, graduating from Yale in 1928. Nelson’s renowned work is as connected to mid-century modernism as his notable contemporaries, Eero Saarinen, Charles and Ray Eames, Harry Bertoia, and Isamu Noguchi.

“Nelson, along with his associate Gordon Chadwick, would execute a highly personalized design–a home tailored to the members and lifestyle of the Kirkpatrick family. This itself is not remarkable–it could be said of any architectural commission. What makes the Kirkpatrick House so special–then and now–are the universal qualities that transcend the specifics.”–Sam Grawe (from the Herman Miller website)

Designed between 1954-1956, and finished in 1958, the two-story, rectangular home was purchased by award-winning musician Jack White in 2016 after years of restoration by previous owners David and Darci Corner. The original owners, James and Sarah Kirkpatrick knew of Nelson and his work through Sarah’s college roommate, Nelson’s wife Frances. James worked for the Sutherland Paper Company, and Sarah was vice president of the Art Center (Kalamazoo Institute of Arts). The construction was overseen by local contractor John Meninga. The landscaping around the 2.4-acre lot was conceived by Karl Linn. The home’s warm and lively interior was also designed by Nelson and Chadwick, including the wall colors, the furniture pieces and the emphasis on modular storage systems as room dividers and de-cluttering solutions.

Article written by Ryan Gage, Kalamazoo Public Library staff, January 2022

Sources
Articles

“Rock Musician Buys House in Kalamazoo as Retreat”

Kalamazoo Gazette, 9 March 2017, page A3, column 1

“Famous Designer Talks Wednesday”

Kalamazoo Gazette, 25 November 1956

Books

George Nelson, Michael Webb (749 N426)

Herman Miller: A Way of Living, edited by Amy Auscherman (H 749.092 H5516H)

Michigan Modern: Design That Shaped America, edited by Amy L. Arnold and Brian D. Conway

(H 745.09774 M6246)

Local History Room Files

Subject File: Houses-Kalamazoo-Sheffield, 2104

Online

Herman Miller

West Michigan Modern

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