Born in Kansas in 1923, Milo Baughman was an incredibly prolific designer, lecturer, and author, whose aesthetic sensibility helped to define the midcentury modern style in the United States.
Baughman spent his formative years in Long Beach, California. From an early age, he exhibited a strong interest in the arts. At the age of thirteen, he designed the architectural floor plan for his parent’s new house, where they would reside for 34 years. After graduating high school, Baughman served in the US Army Air Forces between 1941 and 1945. Following his service, studied Product and Architectural Design at the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles County and designed window displays for Frank Brothers, the first all-modern furniture store on the West Coast.
In 1947, Baughman founded his eponymous design agency in Los Angeles and began to design casual yet upscale furniture that blended modernist and Art Deco idioms—an aesthetic that would later become known as “Hollywood Regency.” Baughman’s designs from this era include the classic California Modern collection for Glenn of California (created in collaboration with the Swedish-American designer Greta Magnusson-Grossman) and a series of metal dining tables for Pacific Iron (one of which appeared in a model house built for a 1950 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York).
In the early 1950s, Baughman traveled to the East Coast, where he designed collections for companies like Macy’s, Drexel, Winchendon Furniture. In 1951, his work received rave reviews in The New York Times. Around 1953, he went to High Point, North Carolina—a major center for US furniture manufacturing at the time—looking for partners. Although most companies thought his designs were too modern, Thayer Coggin Inc. recognized his potential right away. A handshake deal between Baughman and Mr. Coggin solidified a collaboration that would last fifty years. From 1953 until 2003, the pair collaborated on numerous midcentury modern furniture collections that were characterized by bold yet controlled proportions and fine materials in sophisticated finishes. Baughman was particularly fond of using sleek chrome bases, varnished burled wood, and tufted upholstery. Iconic designs from the collaboration include the 820-400 Chaise (1954), 955-304 Sofa (1954), 951-103 Milo Lounge Chair (1962), T-Back 989-103 Lounge Chair (1963), Viceroy Recliner (1965), the Wave Chaise (1960s), and 1224 Circle Sectional (1970s).
Over the course of his career, Baughman also designed for other furniture companies like Arch Gordon, Design Institute America, Directional, George Kovacs, Henredon, The Inco Company, Mode Furniture, and Murray Furniture, among others.
In 1987, Baughman was inducted in the Furniture Hall of Fame. His designs have been featured in institutional exhibitions like High Styles: Twentieth Century American Design at the Whitney Museum of Art in New York (1985) and California Design, 1930-1965: Living in a Modern Way at LACMA in Los Angeles (2012). Baughman passed away in 2003.