“Contemporary is that which is stylish; modern is a set of principles”
– Milo Baughman
“Good design is enduring design” – Milo Baughman
Timeless modern. Milo Baughman (Milo Ray Baughman, Jr, 1923-2003) was a pioneer in modern design and a leader in late 20th Century modern furniture design. An iconic American designer, indeed.
Of course, the history of design always begins with the history of the designer…with appreciation of the links to the past which brings forth classic American modern style…
If design begins at an early age, for Milo Baughman, at the age of 13 it certainly did. As a young man, Baughman was assigned the task of designing both the interior and exterior of his family’s new house in Southern California. Imagine. A young, inspiring designer, indeed. While serving in the Army Air forces during World War II, Baughman continued with interior skills in designing officer’s clubs. For certain, design followed his path. After the war he returned to Southern California to study product and architectural design at the Art Center School of Los Angeles and at Chouinard Art Institute, which would later become the California Institute of the Arts. Baughman’s career would then lead him to design as an interior and custom furniture designer at the Frank Brothers furniture store, the first west coast all-modern specialty store until 1947. The world of American Modern design was emerging and Baughman was certainly a part of it.
Beginning in the mid-1940s until his death his death in 2003, his modern sensibitilties were brought forth in designs for various furniture companies. In 1947 “Milo Baughman Design Inc.,” was established. Baughman would soon be commissioned to design for Glenn of California and Pacific Iron. Baughman is credited at helping to place these companies at the forefront of a new California modernist design movement. The “California Modern” collection created for Glenn of California in 1948 used walnut, iron and formica and “put forth a distinctive Los Angeles style”. Baughman would design for many companies including Mode Furniture, The Inco Company, Arch Gordon, Design Institute America, George Kovacs, Directional, Henredon, Drexel, Thayer Coggin, Inc. and the Murray Furniture. Of note, the “The Milo Baughman Collection” of 1952 for Murray Furniture of Winchendon, Massachusetts, included Baughman’s 1948 desk design for Winchendon which would be included in the Whitney Museum 1985 exhibition “High Styles: Twentieth Century American Design”,” in New York City. For certain, credible appreciation of great style. In 1987, Baughman was honored even further with the induction into the the Furniture Hall of Fame.
Between 1951-1952, amidst Baughman’s design commissions, he and his wife at the time, Olga Lee, opened the Baughman-Lee Showroom, a custom design shop in Los Angeles, offering their services as interior consultants. Lee contributed hand printed fabrics, wallpaper, lamps and accessories to embellish Baughman’s furniture designs. Of interest, both Milo and Olga offered their services as interior consultants. Certainly an acknowledgement that design is a constant.
Yet of all of the associations with furniture design companies Baughman designed for, including himself, it is his association with Thayer Coggin, Inc. that Baughman is most acclaimed for. From 1953 until Milo’s death in 2003 the 5o year association of Milo Baughman and Thayer Coggin would bring forth to the world of interior design a timeless modern style with excellence of craftsmanship.
A furniture manufacturer with a commitment to high quality and style (based in North Carolina and founded in 1953), Milo was commissioned to design the first line for Thayer’s collection of upholstered furniture. Thayer Coggin paired strikingly with the design vision of clean and modern designs of Milo Baughman to create American contemporary furniture that would endure as iconic modern design that still appeals today. Together they would collaborate on designs, engineering and manufacturing techniques that would in time credit them with the honor of creating a design category in residential furniture that is said to define the Mid-Century modern era of American residential furniture. Original design classics, indeed.
“Milo Baughman and Thayer Coggin worked together to define a classical era of modern furniture in America.
– Mrs. Royale Coggin Wiggin, Thayer Coggin President
“In a way, Thayer and Milo got their start together. Milo came here when the company was in its organizational stage. Thayer was looking for a designer and their relationship began with a handshake agreement.”
-Dot Coggin, Thayer’s wife and spokeswoman
As great style endures, it is wonderful to note that “Thayer Coggin, Inc. and the estate of Milo Baughman have entered into a lifetime licensing agreement, so that the design classics of Milo Baughman would forever be appropriately built by Thayer Coggin, according to their original specification”. Custom made to order and handcrafted by master craftsman by a family owned an operated company still headquartered in High Point, North Carolina. Great quality and style endures. Baughman is said to have achieved a look that is uncompromisingly modern, but which “never violates the timeless standards of classic good taste” (www.thayercoggin.com).
Of course, a nod to the vintage print advertisements that herald great style...
And of the chairs of distinctively modern Milo Baughman style….a visual appreciation of enduring design, indeed…
It is interesting to note that in his later years, Baughman would lecture and write on the benefits of how great design impacts the lives of human beings and the state of modern design. It is said that his lectures have defined and shaped the very discussion of those aspects for years to come.
“Furniture that is too obviously designed is very interesting but too often belongs only in museums” – Milo Baughman
Consider with appreciation the modern, yet timeless appeal of Baughman’s designs. The “relaxed and timeless quality” of Baughman’s uniquely American and trendsetting designs were and remain highly influential, modern and distinctive and will certainly endure and will continue to be reinvented and revived. An evolution of design, for certain. The “uncompromisingly modern” appeal that Milo offered still holds to the timeless standards of classic good taste. With the design philosophy that furniture should enhance the atmosphere of the space and improve the quality of life, Baughman’s impact lives on. His mastery of creating relaxed residential furnishings and his use of beautiful wood veneers & burled wood, glass, chrome, and lacquer and successfully combining those mediums paired with details and shapes of great design still appeal and offer a modern classic style…
“When I left Art Center, I thought Modern design would change the world. Now, I no longer have such lofty hopes, but perhaps the world is just a bit better off because of it. In any event, good Modern has already proven to be the most enduring, timeless and classic of all design movements“- Milo Baughman
“With an ongoing interest in 1950s and 1960s design, a lot of my work has been reintroduced and been very well-received. Increasingly, architects are using these mid-century classics from the pioneer producers of this period. I understand because I admire these as well, but it’s a bit unfortunate for current designers with new interpretations of Modern. Going back to the ‘classics’ is playing it safe, which limits opportunities for new concepts in design”- Milo Baughman