Feature furniture

Advocate staff photo by ARTHUR D. LAUCK - Jennifer Price and David Coco pose next to a chair that has been in the Thayer Coggin line since it was designed by Milo Baughman almost 50 years ago.
Advocate staff photo by ARTHUR D. LAUCK - Jennifer Price and David Coco pose next to a chair that has been in the Thayer Coggin line since it was designed by Milo Baughman almost 50 years ago.

Baton Rouge is one of 21 major American cities to host a road show tour of vintage works of Milo Baughman, one of the great mid-century modern American furniture designers.

From the mid-1940s until Baughman’s death in 2003, he worked with many important furniture manufacturers, but his most well-know collaboration was with Thayer Coggin Inc., of High Point, N.C. To commemorate its 60th anniversary, Thayer Coggin has created an exhibit of some 25 of Baughman’s most noted designs.

“Milo Baughman designed a lot of iconic mid-century modern pieces. He was in the same category with Charles and Ray Eames and Edward Wormley,” said David Coco, a designer with Dixon Smith Interiors, where the furniture will be on display beginning Jan. 30.

The celebration will open at 5 p.m. with a talk by Phil Miller, director of sales and marketing for Thayer Coggin, who will speak about the 50-year collaboration between Thayer Coggin and Baughman.

“Mid-century modern furniture has caught on again,” Coco said. “The company has been pulling stuff out of its archives and reissuing the pieces.”

One of Baughman’s most well-known pieces is the famous Scoop Chair, which he created in 1953. “It has no back and no seat,” said Dixon Smith designer Jennifer Price.

Many of the old pieces are back in production. “Some never left, like his chrome and leather chair,” Coco said. The exhibit will feature vintage pieces, which viewers can compare with new pieces in stock at Dixon Smith Interiors.

Baughman was born in Goodland, Kan., in 1923 and moved as an infant with his family to Long Beach, Calif. From childhood, he was interested in design and construction and designed the interior and exterior of his family home when he was just 13. During World War II, he served in the Army Air Forces designing officers clubs. After the war, he studied product and architectural design at the Art Center School of Los Angeles (now Art Center College of Design) and at Chouinard Art Institute (later the California Institute of the Arts).

After working for several major furniture companies and running his own custom design shop, Baughman began his collaboration with Thayer Coggin. During the 1960s and ’70s, he designed numerous major modern collections using his favorite materials — chrome, stainless steel, glass, walnut, iron and Formica. By the 1960s, he was nationally recognized for his work.

In 1965, Baughman converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In 1969, he established the Department of Environmental Design at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, where he served as chairman and adjunct professor.

Baughman lectured on modern furniture design at universities around the country. His work has been on exhibit at several major museums and was included in 1985 in the Whitney Museum of American Art exhibit “High Styles: Twentieth Century American Design.”

Baughman’s designs focused on clean lines as well as comfort. He liked simplicity.

“Furniture that is too obviously designed is very interesting but too often belongs only in museums,” he once said.

Price has a special affection for mid-century modern that she learned from her grandmother, the late Jane Boyce. Boyce’s contemporary-style Jefferson Place home, designed by the late A. Hays Town, was filled with wood, chrome, leather and glass pieces done by some of American’s great contemporary designers.

Many of Price’s design clients, especially younger ones, like to mix traditional French Provincial pieces with mid-century modern pieces.

“There will always be a place in the South for French Provincial pieces,” Price said. “Some people just like to mix things up. Mixing makes a house look more like a collection than a showroom.”