Furniture maker Thayer Coggin marks anniversary, long collaboration with modernist designer


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HIGH POINT, N.C. -- Modern is still contemporary after 60 years at Thayer Coggin, the family owned furniture company based in North Carolina. Among the first manufacturers of modern furniture in the U.S., the company is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year.

It's also commemorating the collaboration of designer Milo Baughman and Thayer Coggin. The duo worked together for 50 years until 2003, the year both men died. They had a solid friendship and together pioneered modern residential design in this country. As a way to honor that, the company launched the Milo Baughman Design Classics Road Show in Dallas at the beginning of the year. It stops Wednesday at Perlora on Carson Street, South Side. The national tour showcases 23 of Baughman's (pronounced BOFF-man) iconic pieces exclusively created for Thayer Coggin.

"It was always a handshake agreement," says Royale Coggin Wiggin, Coggin's daughter and president of the company.

Among the pieces coming to Perlora are the Drum table (1970) in stainless steel or brushed bronze, the Circle sofa and T-Back lounge chair, both from 1968, and the 1957 Stem table with round walnut top and stainless-steel base.

A U.S. Army medic in World War II, Coggin founded Thayer Coggin in 1953 and saw a shared vision in Baughman, a young designer from California. That year, Baughman designed the Scoop chair, with simple, elegant lines. It was the first piece the team produced. Baughman was 80 years old when he designed his last piece for Thayer Coggin.

"Milo created his final collection, Studio MB, while visiting High Point for Thayer's memorial service," remembers Ms. Wiggin.

It was for the company's 50th anniversary in 2003. Three months later the designer died. Both chairs will be in the road show.

"My father and Milo had a terrific relationship. He greatly appreciated Milo's designs, and Milo valued Thayer's talents to engineer and build them."

Actually, Thayer and his wife, Dot, had purchased a Milo Baughman bedroom suite before they ever met the man. The couple loved the look and recognized the talent behind it early on.

"Milo was a design genius and a very fine gentleman," recalls Dot Coggin.

Quality was always paramount, which is why even today each piece is handcrafted, bench-made and can be customized to a client's specifications. This commitment has paid off with the originals commanding high prices. "They are sought-after collectibles," notes Phil Miller, vice president of sales and marketing.

Thayer Coggin furniture was sought after long before it became vintage by celebrities, including Frank Sinatra and Robert Redford. The company made matching pink leather recliners for Elvis Presley. Among the showstoppers will be the Draper chair and the Viceroy recliner, both from 1965 and both with the carved solid walnut frames that defined the stylish warmth of Baughman's residential modern look.

"With everyone going nuts for the whole midcentury modern look today, we constantly recycle archived designs such as the Draper and the Archie chair," Ms. Wiggin said. "We reintroduced the Archie during the April furniture market."

The buttoned back has a built-in lumbar support as did the original from the 1960s. Today, its filler is recycled fiber made from plastic soda bottles, she said.

All of the road show pieces are back in production and can be ordered.

"Contemporary is that which is stylish; modern is a set of principles," Baughman once said.

And both remain in evidence at Thayer Coggin today.

To attend the "Hit the Road, Milo!" cocktail party at Perlora from 5 to 8 p.m Wednesday, email Maggie@perlora.com or call 412-431-2220. Space is limited.

homes - artarchitecture

Patricia Sheridan: psheridan@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2613 or follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/pasheridan.


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