July 8, 2020
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Focused On The Family

A planner and his wife build a legacy family home
Norm and Vivian Miller were recently honored by the Warrick Community Foundation as Most Valuable Philanthropists.Norm and Vivian Miller were recently honored by the Warrick Community Foundation as Most Valuable Philanthropists.
Norm and Vivian Miller were recently honored by the Warrick Community Foundation as Most Valuable Philanthropists.

Married 38 years, there is not much Norm and Vivian Miller do not agree on. Nowhere is this more evident than when they talk of the motivation to build their new house, the third home they have constructed on the hilly lane bearing their family name alongside Rolling Hills Country Club in Newburgh, Ind.

Drawing on a shared deep wellspring of solid family values, intellect, and appreciation for nature, Norm and Vivian turned their laser beam focus to designing and constructing a Craftsman-influenced design home to serve the couple in their next chapter.

Family drove the decision to build the large traditional home, and both Vivian and Norm, a wealth management advisor with a collection of professional designations including a master’s degree in personal financial planning and managing director of the Northwestern Mutual Evansville office, speak of the large role family plays in their lives.

The Millers have three children, and five grandchildren ages 9 months to 6 years old, all living nearby in Warrick County.

Vivian’s parents’ large, comfortable family home on Sleepy Hollow Drive in Newburgh always had been the family gathering spot for the Millers and their extended family. Her parents, Marvin and Joan Smith, moved their family of six kids, two ponies, and one dog from Burlington, Iowa, to Newburgh, in 1969.

“As my parents age, we found it natural to step up to be the gathering place,” Vivian says. “We were always at my folks’ house. Family is so important and we built this house with that in mind.”

Norm says the new home requires low maintenance, and is heated and cooled with geothermal technology. “With a few changes, the house is what we wanted it to look like, to feel like, to function like,” he says.

But before they could build their dream home — on the property that was first acquired by Norm’s parents in the early 1960s — they first had to demolish the original home, which Norm had grown up in since his family moved to Paradise, Ind., from Powell Avenue on Evansville’s East Side.

Norm says his father, Eddy Miller, wasn’t opposed at all to tearing down the house, which was discussed before his death in 2009. “He was excited,” Norm says.

Standing in the stunning living room with 18-foot windows overlooking their pool and the lake and fountain of Rolling Hills, Norm recalls the space as the site of his childhood bedroom. “My bed was right here,” Norm points out. Before demolition, much of the home’s materials were identified for recycling or reuse.

“Norm was really gracious and offered the materials to Habitat for Humanity,” Vivian says. “We gave them a key and they took what they wanted, including the furnace and air conditioning.”

Hickory trees felled to accommodate the larger footprint of the new home were milled for the home’s mantels, staircases, and large basement bar. Redwood and cedar paneling in the leisure room were recycled from the old house.

The leisure room, Norm explains, is a more intimate space off the large open kitchen, dining room, and great room.

“The house is big,” Norm says, “but it’s still cozy. That’s why we created the leisure room.” A framed photo of the original home is hung outside the leisure room.

“In every room there is a family piece,” says Vivian, who worked with Nick Williams of Lea Matthews Design Professionals to achieve the comfortable, welcoming feel of the home. “Nick is really fun to work with,” she says. “I’ve had an attraction to his work for years.”

Ron Smith of Smith Homes in Santa Claus, Ind., has built all three of the Millers’ homes on Miller Lane.

“His creativity combined very well with our ideas. He was able to guide us to our vision,” Vivian says.

Doug Hudson, president of Town & Country Pools, says, “The Miller’s had a vision and were committed to making their new home and pool special. We had a home builder, landscaper, and pool builder who all worked together as a team and the finished product reflects the result of that teamwork and cooperation to make Norm and Vivian’s vision a reality.”

Complete site design for the home, situated on a rise, consisted of the pool, patios, a fountain, the drive, walks, and retaining walls, as well as a planting plan.

Landscape Architect Richard Mitchell, referred to the Millers by their longtime landscaper Mike Welder of Wildwood Landscaping in Newburgh, says, “A natural approach was taken because of the wooded site. Out back, there was this incredible view of the Rolling Hills Country Club golf course. Centered in the view was a lake with a fountain in the middle of it. A great focal point. It naturally looks like it is an extension of their property.”

Welder was responsible for the installation of 400 tons of boulders — the largest stones weighed more than four tons — on the property as a retaining wall. Welder completed the actual installation.

“Mulzer Crushed Stone, Inc., had recently uncovered a vein of the right color stone at their quarry,” Mitchell says. “This stone wasn’t useful for their crushed stone product so they didn’t have an immediate use for it. So, Norm made a deal.”

The couple and the contractors say the yearlong building process was smooth.

“You have to make decisions,” Norm says. “Vivian was ahead of those decisions.”

“It was fun,” Vivian says.

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