A Family Affair: Charles and Ingrid Kobel House


The firm of famed father/son architects Eliel Saarinen (1873-1950) and Eero Saarinen (1910-1961) was commissioned in 1937 to design a home located in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan for industrialist Charles Kobel and his wife, Ingrid. The project represents a very early project for Eero Saarinen, who had only recently returned to Michigan from travels abroad after completing his studies in architecture in 1934. The home also embodies a rare foray into residential design by the equally renowned father and son Saarinen.

The home reflects strong influence by the elder Saarinen with warm, natural materials such as wood and brick, as well as the integration of arts-and-crafts elements, built-ins, and careful detailing throughout the interior. Rich interior detailing lends contrast to the Modernist simplicity of the exterior. Similarly, the rectangular plan is punctuated using sculptural round wall forms. The home is simple and rational in layout, with an open plan on the first floor that includes a study, living room, music room and dining room as well as functional spaces such as kitchen and garage. A porch-like room extends the first floor to enclose the rear garden and create an outdoor living space, illustrating the Saarinens’ sensitivity to site. The second floor of the 5,400 square foot home represents the private zone with bedrooms along the garden side and circulation parallel to the street.

Design of the Kobel House was truly a family affair, with design drawings produced by firm partner Robert F. Swanson, Eliel’s son-in-law, and interior design by Eliel’s daughter (and Swanson’s wife), Pipson. Construction of the Kobel House was completed in 1940 and it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000. The home is privately owned.

See more photos of the house here.