Here’s what happened when one furniture manufacturer told designers to create new product using their ‘wildest imagination’

HIGH POINT — The conversation could be called the “stuff dreams are made of,” at least for three veteran product designers.

“With great excitement to celebrate our 70-year anniversary, we empowered a team of furniture with the challenge and fun of new product development,” said Royale Wiggin, president of high-end furniture manufacturer Thayer Coggin. “The results were absolutely amazing, inspiring our valued customers and our industry.”

During High Point Market, the concepts of the three designers — Stanley Jay Friedman, Rick Lee and Ransom Culler — were front and center in the main showroom at Thayer Coggin, attracting attention and orders as buyers looking for high-end inspiration came in to see the latest introductions.

“We always tell people that Thayer Coggin furniture is an investment, not a purchase,” said Phil Miller, vice president of sales and marketing. “This is furniture for people looking for original design and heirloom quality.”

Wiggin notes that now was the right time for the no-holds-barred approach.

“During the height of the pandemic, when demand for home furnishings reached record highs while the supply chain faltered, Thayer Coggin focused on production needs rather than development of new products,” she said, adding that from 2023 onward, the focus has shifted back to the company’s legacy philosophy.

“For most of our 70-year history, Thayer Coggin has been a company fueled by the creative vision of the country’s best furniture designers,” Wiggin said. “We have a passion for making the concepts of the creative class a reality, marrying the highest quality of materials and the best standard of benchmade craft for classic Modern design.”

For the designers, the opportunity to give free reign to their imaginations was inspiring. From Friedman’s Palooka Collection to Culler’s Take Two chair and Lee’s Nest chair, the new pieces generated a lot of buzz, internally and externally.

Palooka collection

“When Royale first approached me about designing some product for Thayer Coggins 70th Anniversary, she said and I quote, ‘feel free to use your wildest imagination’ for our anniversary party for the October 2023 market,” Stanley Jay Friedman said. “So the process began soon after. … My first thoughts were organics or angles? Being that there is so much chubby organic product out there, I would inspire to design an aesthetic of crisp and fresh angles.”

Friedman said the collection’s name came about naturally.

“I have got to come up with a Palooka! — an expression I’ve used to myself many times but never ever thought of using the name for a product,” Friedman recalled. “First came the Palooka stainless steel tables and circular parking garage ramps came to mind. Why?  I don’t know, but my inspirations mostly come from life experiences.

“Second, was to become Madam Palooka, a progressive seating concept ahead of its time that I recalled from my archives (and) would now be perfectly suited to work with the Palooka tables. Once revised and tweaked, it came to life. Crisp, angular, comfortable and fresh — a perfect marriage it is.”


Take 2 lounge chair

Culler created a new take on the modern womb chair for the Take 2 Lounge Chair. Indented interior arm rests add to the linear take, while polyblend down and trillium-filled cushions complement flared metal legs, available in several finishes.

Noting the influences of designs by Eero Saarinen and Milo Baughman, Culler envisioned an angular and architectural upholstery shell that “envelopes and cradles,” he said, adding that Take 2 provides a sense of “comfort and security for its occupants in a squarish new form.”


Make a Statement (Outside): Thayer Coggin, The Nest chair by Rick Lee

Nest chair


Lee’s Nest chair concept was two and a half years in the making, and the designer outlined his process in a series of YouTube videos. According to Lee, Nest “blurs the line between art and design” and is nature inspired.

“This chair pays tribute to the spiritual beauty and simplistic nature of a bird’s nest,” he said. “A bird’s nest represents happiness, prosperity, and love, and the circular form represents infinity.”

Nest is available in several finishes including platinum and bronze and is cast in stainless steel.

Looking ahead

The three new products will make their way to retail floors in the coming months, setting the stage for more product innovation in 2024, according to company representatives.

“I have to give a big ‘Thank You’ to Royale of Thayer Coggin for giving me the opportunity to feel the complete freedom to express myself,” Friedman said. “Few opportunities come along like this in a designer’s lifetime.”

From her perspective, Wiggin believes the strong response translates into a seal of approval for Thayer Coggins’ product development strategy.

“Building on the success of our latest introductions, enthusiasm for innovative design remains the focus for Thayer Coggin,” she said. “We look forward to more international travel to discover emerging trends.

“It is an honor to work with the finest furniture designers in our industry. Ransom Culler, Stanley Jay Friedman, Guy Hill and Rick Lee constantly research the marketplace, developing their vision for inspiring design,” she added. “Our team of craftspeople eagerly awaits the challenge of building and developing these concepts for the rapidly-approaching High Point Market in April 2024.”

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