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Ask an Expert: What is Bench Made Furniture?

Q. When it comes to how furniture is made, I’m familiar with some terms–mortise-and-tenon, distressing, and so on. But there is one term with which I’m not as familiar. What does it mean when a piece of furniture is “bench made?”

A. Ask five people in the furniture industry what bench made furniture is, and you’re likely to get five different answers. Sales professionals often use it as a buzzword that’s akin to “quality.” But simply equating bench made furniture to quality furniture doesn’t do justice to the level of thought, precision, and overall expertise that goes into such pieces.

At Thayer Coggin, bench made refers to an entire manufacturing process, in which the highest level of craftsmanship intersects with the highest caliber of materials. The result is a finished product that excels by every measure.

According to Milo Baughman, a storied and fruitful collaborator of Thayer Coggin, and one of the pioneers of mid-century modern furniture design, a quality piece of furniture should easily landscape into a room, not just be pushed up against a wall. In other words, the quality of the back of the piece is just as important as the front. To create such a piece takes craftspeople working at the highest level.

The process typically involves a woodworker who builds the frame, an inside upholsterer who upholsters the frame by applying padding and fabric, and an outside upholsterer who upholsters fabric to the exterior for a proper fit. Of the two upholsterers, the inside upholsterer is the more highly skilled position, requiring many years of experience to attain mastery.

While different furniture manufacturers have different ways to implement the bench made technique, at Thayer Coggin every order is custom built by woodworkers and upholsterers who have a minimum of 15 years of experience (some up to 25 years). All of these craftspeople are trained to make every piece of furniture the company produces, giving them an unparalleled breadth and depth of knowledge. They have eight cutting tables and hand cut every fabric they use. Additionally, the company has eliminated the role of outside upholsterer, and has the inside upholsterer complete an entire piece. The result is a finished product that is a polished masterwork.

So, what does bench made actually look like? Some examples of mid-century modern bench made furniture from Thayer Coggin and Milo Baughman include the Design Classic Lounge Chair. This classic club chair has a minimalist, hand-welded frame with exuberantly padded and hand-upholstered seat and back cushions. Or there’s the Good Egg Swivel Chair, a charming lounge chair with a curved shell shape fully hand-upholstered in luxurious fabric or leather.

Bench made isn’t relegated just to wood and/or upholstered furniture, either. For a quintessential representation of pure modern form and timeless design aesthetics, look no further than the Bronze Drum Table, which makes an outstanding bench made accent piece.

Ready to invest in an original, hand-crafted product, made with the finest materials by world-class craftsmen? Then be sure to check out all the bench made designs available from Thayer Coggin.

Phil Miller

Phil Miller

Since 2009, Phil Miller is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Thayer Coggin, Inc. He is responsible for management of all US and international sales as well as marketing strategy for Thayer Coggin, and travels extensively with sales representatives to meet with their accounts. He previously had a 30-year career as owner of Miller Office Furniture, holding positions of General Manager, President, and CEO. After 40 years in the business, Miller has extensive experience in and knowledge of all aspects of manufacturing wood case goods and upholstered furniture.

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