There has been a resurgence of Mid-century modern in the marketplace, but instead of looking for whatever Mid-century modern upholstery is on the market, I specifically seek out high-quality Mid-century modern upholstery. If I can, I seek out my favorite designers at estate sales or on high-quality resale sites such as 1st Dibs. However, vintage pieces are somewhat limited, so I often look to designers from the past whose designs are still being produced today. Some of these designers include Knoll, which produces the Saarinen Tulip table and Mie van de Rohe’s Barcelona chair, Le Corbusier and Finn Juhl, to name a few.
My current favorite and one of the most sought-after is Milo Baughman for Thayer Coggin. For 50 years, starting with a handshake in 1953, the partnership of Milo Baughman and Thayer Coggin produced several iconic and still instantly recognizable designs, many that are still being produced today and to the same exact specifications. There are a few reasons why Milo Baughman’s designs appeal to me, and those reasons include:
- Enduring design
- Value retention
High Quality Mid-century Modern Upholstery by Milo Baughman for Thayer Coggin
Back in 1953, the style was big and bulky, but Baughman’s designs were thin, streamlined, and fashion-forward – atypical of what one would see in the US market at that time. Looking at Milo Baughman-designed designs today, one would never know that many styles currently in the line are more than 50 years old. These two men were ahead of their time and recognized that “good design is enduring design” and this philosophy, along with unwavering quality and their attention to detail is why their designs continue to be relevant today.
Comfort takes precedence over form in Milo Baughman’s designs. At first glance, one might think that his thin frames might not be the most comfortable to sit in, but that is anything but. The pitch on every chair is carefully engineered for maximum comfort, and this along with Baughman’s simpler, fashion-forward designs, is what he became known for.
The pair of Steve Spinner chairs (pictured below) was originally included for my design for the 2017 Pasadena Showcase House, but afterward, I moved them into my parents home, as my mom instantly fell in love with them (and she has impeccable taste). My dad is 87 years old and Steve Spinner has become his instant favorite. On a typical evening, he can be found happily perched in his favorite swivel, watching the evening news with a drink in hand. My dad is a man who is critical of every piece of furniture in his home, and comfort is always key. Looks, not so – he is all about comfort and practicality. Notice the gentle curve on the seat and the slight pitch of the seat back. These slight adjustments result in a world of difference when it boils down to comfort and customer satisfaction.
Unlike my dad, my mother is all about what looks good in her home. She was excited to bring these chairs home and the last thing she expected was for my dad to fall for them too. For the first time in over 50 years of marriage, they actually agree on a chair. That is a miracle in itself!
There are a few larger national retailers who carry a few Milo Baughman upholstery frames. However, by purchasing through these national retailers you are limited to only a few frames that Milo Baughman actually designed and only in the fabrics that they have selected (usually only a handful), with no option of using COM (customer’s own material). Purchasing through a designer or smaller authorized retailer, you have the entire line of Milo Baughman and the rest of the Thayer Coggin frames available (which are equally as fabulous) and you can purchase in any of their graded-in fabrics or even your own fabric. In addition, you have wood and metal options that may be limited if not purchasing through an authorized retailer that carries the full line. Given the full options, the possibilities are truly endless and you can create a piece that is uniquely your own.
Below is a photo of a Thayer Coggin chair in production, which I took last year when I visited the Thayer Coggin factory in High Point, North Carolina. The print shown is a perfect example of how the fabric can be customized to reflect one’s individual personality.
One thing that the consumer may not understand is the concept of graded-in fabrics. When a fabric is “graded-in”, that means that the manufacturer has purchased fabric at a significant discount from the mill in large quantities. In doing so, they can offer these fabrics as an option at a much lower price than if the consumer were to select their own fabric. Thayer Coggin offers a wide selection of fabric and leather options, including Crypton and Sunbrella – both of which I always like to specify for the active home where kids or pets are present. When purchased without a graded-in option, both Crypton and Sunbrella fabric can be quite expensive, but when purchased through the company’s graded-in option, it becomes much more affordable.
Here is a sampling of some of the fabrics available in Thayer Coggin’s graded-in fabric program. There are many more available than are shown in this shot, including several leather options.
To Milo Baughman, it was always about great, enduring design. This quote is proudly displayed in the High Point, North Carolina showroom and perfectly sums up Milo Baughman’s philosophy.
As mentioned earlier, Milo Baughman and Thayer Coggin’s partnership began in 1953. Looking at their designs today, no one would ever know that many of the styles are over half a decade old. A testament to enduring design is the fact that the Steve Spinner chair can appeal to a wide audience, ranging from the millennial to a couple my parents’ age. Very rarely do you find a style that will speak to all ages.
Milo Baughman believed in unpretentious, classic furniture that stood the test of time, and these designs definitely have. I can name a handful of manufacturers who are currently producing swivel chairs that are based on Milo Baughman’s designs, but none even remotely compare to the original.
Value Retention for High-Quality Mid-Century Modern Upholstery
A true testament to both the quality and design of Thayer Coggin is the plethora of vintage pieces that can be found on the market and the high prices that they command. I regularly peruse high-quality online vintage sites such as 1st Dibs, Viyet, Chairish, Decaso, and at any given time, there are no less than a handful of Milo Baughman high-quality Mid-century modern upholstery pieces for sale. Often times the vintage pieces that are being sold are still in production and being sold at the same price, or sometimes even higher than purchasing them new.
When customers walk into our showroom, occasionally they mention that they have seen similar pieces but at a lesser price point. Yes, imitation is the biggest form of flattery, and Milo Baughman pieces have been copied time and time again. My advice to people seeking high quality Mid-century modern upholstery is to buy the best you can afford. You may be paying more than a knock-off, but consider the long-term ramifications. After a few years, the knock-off is worth nothing, but the high-quality Milo Baughman piece is worth just as much as what was paid, so which piece is more expensive in the long run?
A Milo Baughman is an investment, but a relatively small one if you consider the alternative. Purchasing a piece of high-quality Mid-century modern upholstery – especially one designed by Milo Baughman, has been proven to retain its value throughout the years, making it a much wiser purchase. It is an investment, rather than something disposable that will depreciate over time.
Below is one of my favorite videos on Thayer Coggin and Milo Baughman, and the more than 60-year history of the company and the furniture they produce. This video tells the story behind the partnership of Thayer Coggin and Milo Baughman, the high-quality Mid-century modern upholstery they produce, and the people behind the scenes who make it happen:
Thayer Coggin and Milo Baughman: 60 Years of Modern Furniture from Thayer Coggin on Vimeo.
Cozy Stylish Chic is an authorized retailer of Milo Baughman for Thayer Coggin. Our showroom has the full selection of graded-in fabrics and leathers as well as metal and wood finishes. In addition, COM (customers own material) and COL (customers own leather) is also an option. When purchasing your next piece of high-quality Mid-century modern upholstery, consider investing in Milo Baughman. We would be more than happy to assist you in selecting pieces that reflect your style and personality and would be honored in helping you to create what will most certainly become an investment and heirloom.
Hi Jeanne! Great article on why high-quality furnishings outdo imitation pieces. We really appreciate your thoroughness, and featured your work on Design Studio’s Twitter (as we often do!) – https://twitter.com/studiowebware/status/905449262351306757
Thanks so much for sharing our content. It is much appreciated!