Thayer Coggin: The Birthplace of the Mid-Century Modern Movement

Thayer Coggin is one of the most celebrated names in luxury home furnishings.

Founded in 1953, Thayer Coggin  Inc. is widely recognized for its commitment to mid-century modern, classic design that we know and adore today.

The company’s founder and namesake brilliantly paired his vision with Distinguished Design Award honoree Milo Baughman’s creations to make the company’s collections some of the most recognizable furniture designs in the world.


screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-3-25-49-pmPictured: Thayer Coggin, Founder 

{Photo Courtesy of Thayer Coggin}

A native of North Carolina, Thayer Coggin relocated to High Point, NC (which would later be the birthplace of Thayer Coggin, Inc.) with his family in 1934.

Coggin’s love for furniture building began on an early Christmas morning, when he received a claw hammer. A few years later while in his high school shop class, he made rocking chairs and cedar chests.

Coggin went on to become the founder of James Manufacturing, a company that specialized in sleeper sofas and rocking chairs.

Although his business thrived, he dreamed of producing designs that were innovative, so he went to Europe in the early 1950s in search of inspiration.

It was there that he first saw light-scaled, European upholstery, and the simple clean lines appealed to his sense of beauty.

From that point on, Thayer became a contemporary furniture convert. He had his vision–now he just needed to find the right creative designer…


Milo Baughman was born in Kansas in 1923. After establishing himself as an acclaimed furniture designer and being recognized by The New York Times for his innovative designs that were deemed “elegant and fresh,” he traveled to High Point, NC, the national center for furniture manufacturing, in an attempt to attract interest in his modern, upholstery designs.


The bad news is that ALL of the major companies he presented his designs to turned him down…all except for one.

In one of his last presentations, one of his former high school classmates happened to be sitting in the room.

After his company decided to “pass” on Baughman’s designs, he quietly approached him after the presentation and mentioned that he had a friend who might be more receptive to Baughman’s ideas.

He connected Baughman with his friend, Thayer Coggin, who listened to his pitch for about an hour.

After watching Baughman’s passionate presentation, Thayer is said to have said, “I don’t understand anything you just said, but I’m in!”

A simple handshake sealed a significant partnership that would last for 50 years, and the rest is history.

The unique and creative design genius of one, combined with the inventive engineering and manufacturing expertise of the other, manifested into the formation of Thayer Coggin, Inc.

From 1953 until Baughman’s death in 2003, the two collaborated on designs, engineering and manufacturing techniques that came to define the mid-century modern era of American residential furniture.

milo-thayer-411x494Pictured: Milo Baughman (left) with Thayer Coggin (right) 

{Photo Courtesy of LaDiff}


Milo Baughman’s uniquely American designs were forward-thinking and distinctive then, yet the relaxed and timeless quality of his furniture make them just as relevant today!

screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-3-22-10-pm{Photo courtesy of Thayer Coggin}

Because of his unique perspective and uncompromising commitment to design, Baughman achieved a look that is modern without violating the timeless standards of classic good taste.

Aptly, in 1987, he was inducted in the the Furniture Hall of Fame.


Today, Thayer Coggin is still producing high quality furniture in High Point, North Carolina–in the very same facility where it all began.

{A view of the Thayer Coggin warehouse}

The company churns out hundreds of custom-made pieces a month, but good news!

Thayer Coggin, Inc. is now partnered with Design Within Reach to make authentic Milo Baughman furniture available to retail customers!

And you don’t have to worry, Thayer Coggin, Inc. and the estate of Milo Baughman have also entered into a lifetime licensing agreement, so that the design classics of Milo Baughman would forever be appropriately built by Thayer Coggin according to their original specifications.

screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-3-18-10-pm{Photo courtesy of Thayer Coggin}


During my recent trip to High Point Market, I had the incredible opportunity to tour the Thayer Coggin manufacturing facility.

What a treat!

Here are some images from our walk through the facility:

Baughman’s design philosophy was that furniture should present beautifully from any angle. He’s a shot of the same chair from the front and back views.

Can we just talk about this chair for a moment?!? How sleek yet current is this?!?

Each furniture design features comfortable upholstery and frames with strong lines.

This shearling covered chaise lounge made me want to curl up with a good book!

This curved sofa feels very retro but also current.

Again, the chair game is strong!

This sectional features a Crypton fabric which makes these timeless designs durable AND fashionable. Win!

Speaking of Crypton, Thayer Coggin has an amazingly large selection of fabrics and many of them are Crypton (learn more about this stain-resistant, super fabric here!).

A walk through the factory and warehouse provides proof that each piece is hand-crafted using the very best materials.

Here are chair frames awaiting their next step in the construction process.

Here is a workstation with many of the tools used to construct these iconic furniture pieces.

I noticed this sign in several places around the factory. Interestingly, these are the original signs that have been in the facility since its opening.

It’s a testament to the company’s commitment to quality.

Client approved fabric samples are tagged and stored so that they are ready for their designated piece!

I love the blue and green floral fabric on these chairs! I’ll bet the finished product will be stunning!

These acrylic framed chairs are so beautiful and so current!

As we walked through the factory and showroom, I was struck by how familiar the frames were to me.

These are the shapes and lines we think of when we think of midcentury modern design.

What was once so “outlandish” and “unheard of” to all of those furniture companies back in 1953 has proven to stand the test of time and to lead the way in one of the most prevalent design styles of our time.

The opportunity to see the facility in person and to hear the story of Thayer Coggin from his Grandnephew was unreal.

To make the day even more special, Thayer Coggin Inc. and Crypton Fabrics gifted each of the Design Bloggers who attended the presentation with a commemorative copy of one of Milo Baughman’s very last designs for Thayer Coggin.


I hope that this blog post makes you look at each midcentury modern design with just a little more appreciations and with fondness toward two trailblazers: Thayer Coggin and Milo Baughman.


Author: Arianne Bellizaire

Interior designer, blogger, and public speaker Arianne Bellizaire creates spaces that are beautiful yet highly functional for her clients. She served as one of only nine 2015 High Point Market Authority Style Spotters, and she has been featured in Rue Magazine, House Beautiful Online, GoodHousekeeping, EditorAtLarge, U.S. News & World Report, Roomhints,, USA Today, and MyFitItUpLife!

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