The two furniture icons had one of the most fruitful partnerships in the American furniture design of the last century, making way for so many other artists and setting the grounds for what we came to know as the American mid-century modern style.
Both born in America, Coggin in North Carolina and Baughman in Kansas, they had their separate ways until they met in 1953. It is fascinating to see how two destinies have fit so well together that they intermingled for more than five decades after, and their predecessors are still writing their stories.
Thayer Coggin was the duo’s entrepreneur mind that made dreams come to life in his factory. He was drawn to furniture making when he was very young when he received a claw hammer for Christmas and made rocking chairs in his high school shop class.
This little high school passion transformed into a career when he co-founded James Manufacturing, a furniture-making company specializing in rocking chairs and other similar pieces. The success of his business wasn’t enough for this thirsty mind, so Coggin went traveling to Europe, where he was impressed by the design tendencies characterized by clean lines and comfortable upholstery.
Baughman has been a designer most of his life. When he was 13, and his family relocated to California, he was the one who designed their new house. He didn’t interrupt his work when serving in the Army, creating clubs for the officers. He studied architecture and design, establishing himself as a proclaimed designer.
After designing successful collections for a few companies, Baughman came to meet Coggins when the latter was establishing his company. It began a beautiful partnership that successfully combined Coggin’s vision with Baughman’s brilliant and practical design.
What made the partnership of the two so successful is that they had the same vision about how furniture should be. They were into simple yet strong designs, almost architectural in structure, but did not give up on comfort and functionality.
As a more broad characteristic of the mid-century modern era, the combination of artful design and classic functionality still makes Thayer Coggin furniture so sought after to this day. Their original designs are still being produced in the factory where it all began, and they continue to inspire contemporary designers to create similar pieces.