Born in Kansas City in 1923, Milo Baughman was raised in Long Beach, California, a laid-back coastal town that likely informed his ongoing quest for approachability in design. At thirteen, Baughman, a preternatural aesthete, was enlisted by his parents to develop an architectural plan for the family’s home. He completed designs for both the exterior and interior and his family went on to live in the house for the next thirty-four years.
After graduating high school in 1941, Baughman spent four years in the Army Air Forces, where he occasionally designed officer’s clubs, before enrolling at the Chouinard Arts Institute (now the California Institute of the Arts) to study product and architectural design. Baughman landed a job creating window displays for Frank Brothers in Los Angeles, a pioneering modern furniture store responsible for furnishing Arts & Architecture magazine’s seminal Case Study Houses. With his foot firmly in the door, Baughman began creating his own custom designs and in 1947, at just 24 years old, he established Milo Baughman Design Inc. Milo Baughman's furniture was about to get big.
Shortly after launching his firm, the commissions began to roll in. Baughman created designs for Glenn of California and Pacific Iron—both of which were at the forefront of the California Modern furniture movement—as well as Drexel in North Carolina and Winchendon Furniture in Massachusetts, which brought his crisp, cool west coast style to the east. In 1953, while in High Point, North Carolina, Baughman sealed the deal of a lifetime after a brief meeting with the furniture manufacturer Thayer Coggin.
Coggin, who aimed to create stylish yet accessible furniture for post-war America, was floored by Baughman’s designs, which spoke directly to his vision. The two quickly embarked on a partnership that would last fifty years. Marrying Baughman’s creative vision with Coggin’s engineering and manufacturing prowess, the duo created an array of designs that came to define the modern American era.
Working with popular mid-century materials such as leather, wood and metal, Baughman created furniture that was anything but ordinary. Another Baughman hallmark is comfort. From his swivel and scoop chairs to his curvaceous lounges and ample sofas, each piece is as functional as it is stunning. To achieve this dichotomy, Baughman relied on simple silhouettes amplified by glamorous touches such as sumptuous velvet upholstery, chrome bases, and exotic wood elements. Thanks to this combination of simplicity and livability, Milo Baughman’s furniture remains decidedly timeless and versatile today.
Baughman worked with Thayer Coggin until his death in 2003, and the furniture manufacturer continues to produce a number of iconic Baughman designs—a testament to their ageless quality—including his large circular sofa, the No. 951-103 chair, and his classic armless dining chairs, which have appeared in countless high-style dining rooms. Many of Baughman’s designs reside in the permanent collections of major museums, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.