Max and Esther De Pree House

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1954

The Eames Office designed this house in Zeeland, Michigan for Max De Pree, his wife Esther, and their two children.

Max was son of D. J. De Pree. He and his brother Hugh succeeded their father as CEO of Herman Miller, Inc., the modern furniture company that Charles and Ray worked with and that the Eames Office still trusts and collaborates with today.

A Michigan Modern article describes Max’s recollection of working with the husband-and-wife team. He explained that their conversation about the design started with Charles and Ray asking about how the family lived. “‘We never discussed a fee,’ Max remembers, ‘and Charles, on his few visits to the site, spent most of his time playing Jacks with our daughter Jody.’”

The Eameses designed the house entirely of timber. The front façade is a modular grid while the back has a long, second-story balcony that looks onto a garden and wooded area leading to a stream.

The office designed the house in the same spirit of economical construction as the Kwikset House; however, one of its design constraints was that Max wanted it built entirely by local craftsmen, many of whom had emigrated from Holland. These artisans gave special and skillful attention to the wood-constructed details of the structure.

The De Prees owned and occupied the house until 1975, when it was sold to Bob Rynbrandt, a Herman Miller employee. Rynbrandt and his family lived there until 2010, at which point Herman Miller, Inc. bought the house in order to restore and preserve it.