Saarinen Home: Living and Working with Cranbrook's First Family of Design

Friday, May 5, 2017, through Sunday, July 30, 2017

In celebration of the centennial of Finnish independence, the Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research reinvigorated and expanded tours of the landmark structure. The three-month installation expanded on the life and work of the remarkable Saarinen family, presenting drawings, letters, and family photographs from the Cranbrook Archives and bringing together treasures designed for use in their home, and for projects around the country.

Saarinen HOME

While continuing to present the house as a total work of art, new stories, sounds, and objects enriched the space and added insight as to how the family lived, entertained, and worked in their home. Visitors saw silver, glass, and ceramics selected or designed by the Saarinens for Cranbrook sparkling on the dining room table, studied Loja’s intricate weaving on test pieces she made on her hand loom in the library, sat in a reproduction womb chair—even inspected the steamer trunks they used to travel back and forth to Europe.

Saarinen House’s Studio, where the family worked and discussed projects, was transformed into a showcase of work produced by the entire family between their arrival at Cranbrook in 1925 to Eliel’s death in 1950. Sketches, plans, presentation drawings of their furniture and buildings, as well as period books, articles, and catalogues by or about the family, were arranged on drafting tables in the Studio for guests to explore. Weavings by Studio Loja Saarinen, ceramics and illustrations by daughter-in-law Lilly Swann Saarinen, dresses and tableware by Pipsan Saarinen Swanson, and furniture by Eliel, Eero, and J. Robert Swanson were also on display.

The exhibition was curated by Kevin Adkisson, Collections Fellow for the Center for Collections and Research.

photo credits

Adkisson, Kevin. Table display in Saarinen House. 2017. Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research, Bloomfield Hills.
Adkisson, Kevin. Dining room table display in Saarinen House. 2017. Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research, Bloomfield Hills.