Treasure: Mid-century modern find a true classic

Khristi Zimmeth
Special to The Detroit News

Pick up a trendy design magazine and odds are good you’ll find an example of mid-century modern design, which continues to be among the hottest movements in collectibles today. Judy Kocsis of Royal Oak came across a good example of the style recently but wanted to know more before deciding what to do with the pieces she had.

“While cleaning out my mother-in-law’s basement in preparation for a move, I came across these very cool old chairs,” she wrote to the column. “The orange one is in great condition with a label of Thayer Coggin underneath it still attached. They have iron legs. The turquoise settee was recovered by my father-in-law in the ’60s. It shows a white Naugahyde underneath and is missing one button. He supposedly received these two chairs from a photo studio he used to service.”

Corinne Henzi-Schultz of DuMouchelle Art Gallery and Auction House downtown took a closer look at a recent appraisal session held at the auction house’s downtown headquarters. She identified Thayer Coggin as the manufacturer of the chair and probably of the matching settee, which Kocsis brought a photograph of for the appraiser but left at home due to its size.

She said that while Thayer Coggin was the manufacturer, the pieces were designed by Milo Baughman (1923-2003), who worked with the company from 1953 to 2003. According to the Thayer Coggin’s website,, Baughman was “a pioneer in modern design and one of the leading modern furniture designers of the second half of the 20th century” and was brought east from his native California in the 1950s.

“Baughman’s uniquely American designs were forward-thinking and distinctive, yet unpretentious,” the site explains. “The relaxed and timeless quality of his furniture created a ready and consistent response, and his highly influential work continues to be collected and reinvented and revived by designers around the world. … In 1987, he was inducted in the Furniture Hall of Fame.”

Despite the lack of a label and a later reupholstering, Henzi-Schultz was confident the settee was by the same maker and designer, although she could find little evidence of it in her Internet search. “The legs are the same,” she pointed out. If the Naugahyde underneath turns out to the original fabric, it would only help the value, she said.

Henzi-Schultz says that while Kocsis has just one chair, most were originally sold in pairs. A pair, she says, brings $700-$1,000 at auction, so her single chair would be worth $300-$500. The settee, even recovered, could bring $800-$1,200, she says, maybe more.

Given their value, Kocsis decided to leave them behind for DuMouchelle’s December auction. She’s hoping they will go to a new home that will enjoy and display them. “I love them and I’d keep them in my living room, but we have two cats who would shred them to pieces,” she told the appraiser.

Bob DuMouchelle, who was present at the appraisal, said the odds are very good that the pieces will be well received. “Mid-century pieces seem to be what people are looking for these days,” he said.

Do you have an object you would like to know more about? Send a photo and description that includes how you acquired the object to: The Detroit News, Trash or Treasure?, 615 W. Lafayette Blvd., Detroit, MI 48226. Include your name and daytime telephone number. You may also send your photo and description to If chosen, you’ll need to bring the items to an appraisal session. Photos cannot be returned.

About this object

Item: Mid-century modern chair

Owner: Judy Kocsis, Royal Oak

Appraised by: Corinne Henzi-Schultz, DuMouchelle Art Gallery and Auction House, Detroit

Estimated value: $300-$500