The 1188 Dining Chair is claimed to be the favourite chair of its designer, Milo Baughman. Given that Baughman is one of the most accomplished and prominent figures of 20th century American furniture design, the 1188 Chair is very special indeed.
The 1188 Chair first came into the limelight in 1968, as an outcome of the very successful and compelling collaboration, the history of which dates back to 1953, when Baughman would meet and partner up with Thayer Coggin – a North Carolina native in search of an innovative furniture designer for his manufacturing business. According to Dot Coggin, Thayer’s wife and spokeswoman for the Thayer Coggin Inc. furniture company, "Milo came here when the company was in its organizational stage. Thayer was looking for a designer and their relationship began with a handshake agreement." That handshake opened the floodgates for the collaboration that lasted for five decades, until Baughman’s death in 2003 and resulted in a multitude of astonishing designs, including the 1188 Dining Chair.
"Furniture that is too obviously designed is very interesting, but too often belongs only in museums." This quote by Milo Baughman perfectly depicts his approach to the furniture design. In Baughman's distinguished body of work, his ample creativity never interfered with functionality, instead he reached an ideal modernist balance. His designs were defined by the idea of making timeless, universal objects that would resist the passage of time. The concept of making very simple and fully functional, yet elegant and stylish objects has been present in the design of the 1188 Dining Chair from the very beginning. The chair was meant to be widely available to the public both in terms of price and retail outlet. Thus the chair is easy to manufacture and utilizes accessible materials. The most distinctive part of the chair is its airy, delicate frame with brushed bronze finish. The frame looks like a cuboid with one side missing. It is made from tubular steel profiles with a square cross-section. Separate pieces are welded together, then the welds are grinded and buffed, in order to make the frame look smooth and seamless. Legs are spanned at the bottom for the additional strength, giving the chair’s base its famous, square U-shape. Both the seat pan and the back rest are screwed to the frame under a slight angle to improve the sitting comfort. They consist of the kiln-dried maple and plywood cores, layered with the foam and fiber cushions on top. The bolster arm rests, with their cylindrical shape, diversify rather angular appearance of the 1188 Dining Chair. Although the chair was originally available upholstered in fabric, today customers can choose from a wide range of weaves and leathers in order to create their personalized variation of this modern design classic. Even today, almost five decades after its presentation, when modernism is not an extravagant or radical concept anymore, the 1188 Dining Chair has neither aged nor become trite. It still looks fresh and contemporary. This characteristic of a good design is particularly well depicted by Baughman himself, who once said: “When I left Art Center, I thought Modern design would change the world. Now, I no longer have such lofty hopes, but perhaps the world is just a bit better off because of it. In any event, good Modern has already proven to be the most enduring, timeless and classic of all design movements.”
Milo Baughman was born in 1923 in Kansas. However, he moved with his family in his infancy to Long Beach, California. He studied architecture and product design at the Art Center School of Los Angeles and at Chouinard Art Institute, which later became the California Institute of the Arts.
Milo Baughman’s adventure with the furniture design started early in his teenage years and was present is his life ever since. At the age of 13, he was assigned the task of designing both the interior and exterior of his family's new house in California. Following high school, he served for four years in the Army Air Forces during World War II, at that time he was participating in designing officer's clubs.
Baughman’s chose the 1188 Dining Chair to furnish the home of his business partner and friend, Thayer Coggin. Given that Coggin could have had any dining chair from his company’s inventory, the 1188 proved to be a truly outstanding piece of furniture indeed.