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Dillingham Esprit and Milo Baughman -- Did he design this collection?

Interior design
- 06 Jan 2016 -
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Interior design

I have learned not to believe everything I read about Milo Baughman and the furniture that dealers credit to him - Chairish and a used furniture dealer in PA credit the Dillingham Esprit Dining Table and Chairs to Milo Baughman... is this just wishful thinking? I can't find any history that puts the two together - Any insight is appreciated!

Photo is from Chairish web site..

Dillingham Esprit and Milo Baughman -- Did he design this collection?
1960 - 1969


- 22 Jan 2016

This line is widely attributed to him, but I have never seen any proof so probably not.

- 22 Jan 2016

The Milo Baughman attribution is false, but If youve ever seen the Esprit line attributed to Martin Borenstein (also false) its because of me!

My husband and I used to buy and sell furniture as a hobby in the San Francisco bay area and about four years ago we attended a garage sale in the east bay. The home owner mentioned that they had more furniture inside the home and he proceeded to show us a complete Dilingham Esprit bedroom set and matching desk. He also had a Martin Borenstein sofa with builtin end tables. He insisted that all the furniture had been designed by the same 'architect' but didnt remember the name. We ended up buying the entire lot on the cheap. We immediately came home and researched the Dilingham Esprit line and we couldnt find much information. We never once found any mention of the line being attributed to Milo Baughman or Martin Borenstein. In fact it seemed these pieces were selling regularly and noone was claiming they were designed by anyone.
Despite that we ended up cleaning the set up and listing it locally on craigslist mentioning the possible connection to Martin Borenstein. I think we knew there was no connection, but we figured maybe the mention would help sell it faster as Martin Borenstein was a local architect. We were very careful in saying that we did not know for certain, but that the original owner believed they were by Borenstein. Everything sold within a couple of days, mind you this is when the Mid-century market was still very healthy.

About a week after we sold our pieces, I noticed an ad for a similar Esprit desk listed locally by a craigslist dealer claiming outright the desk had been designed by Borenstein. A couple of weeks later another local dealer listed a pair of nightstands attributing them to Boresnstein. It was a domino effect. Within a few weeks these Esprit pieces were popping up regularly in the bay area with the Boresnstein claim. Then I noticed the first ebay listing with the attribution and finally the 1stdibs ads started popping up. Somewhere along the way I started seeing ads mentioning that the pieces were 'designed by either Baughman or Borenstein'. Within a couple of months any google search of this line yielded the Baughman or Borenstein attribution where there had been nothing before.

Now everytime I see these pieces listed, I giggle a little to myself. I also have learned to never trust any internet claim regarding the possible origin of any piece. It is incredibly easy to create 'facts' on the internet.

- 23 Jan 2016

Nice. You picked very well apparently. Not too famous to bring on heavy scrutiny. Good regional interest, with an active informal market,, and the sort of region that is looked to for matters of taste. Poorly enough documented you can hang anything on him. Adds just the right amount of value and cachet., not too much, not too little. Just plausible enough to become truth, and who can prove you wrong. Dillingham probably wishes they'd thought of it about 50 years ago.

It is a beautiful thing, freshly created truth.

Martin Borenstein, the perfect usual suspect. Right after Milo Baughman, the designer you can frame for anything.

- 23 Jan 2016

Leif, as a local dealer once told me "if it has chrome on it, list it as Milo Baughman".

- 25 Apr 2016

Original brochure for the Esprit line. Designed by Merton Gershun.

- 25 Apr 2016

Very nice, juanearl.

Are there more Esprit line pieces in that brochure? In particular, I am looking for a two-tier desk and a side table with drawer. Thanks.

- 26 Apr 2016

Here is the other side of the brochure. I believe both pieces are on here.

- 26 Apr 2016

Very nice to see the actual brochure .... however, the dining set from the OP is not represented here. Maybe I am missing something.....

I have a set of the captains chair configuration from the OP, upholstered in burnt orange wool fabric. They have been in my restoration queue for quite some time now. Dated Jan 15, 1969 on bottom. While the Baughman attribution would be nice, at the end of the day I just want to be able to accurately represent them once I get them fixed up and posted.

Is there anything solid that points towards the original dining set being Esprit?

- 26 Apr 2016

Thanks a lot, juanearl. I am now pleased to have retroactively acquired my first "chairside table".

While I have also come across the desk in the brochure, my two-tier version is a different design. It also has similar upturn edge profiles, but after I acquired the side table, I was able to determine that the two profiles have different dimensions. With the lack of any similar desk (or other piece of furniture) in this brochure, there is now more evidence that the desk is not Dillingham. All three examples I have been able to find, including mine, surfaced on the west coast, so Glenn of California (or a similar maker) gets bumped back to the top of the possible maker list.

Thanks again for adding more info to my now 2 1/2 search for the desk maker.

- 04 Aug 2016

I have this same table and chairs. Did you find out anything more about it?

- 12 Nov 2016

I also have a set with this table and chairs. It is also marked 1969: January 20, 1969 to be exact.

I suspect it is not part of the Esprit line, unless the line was expanded after that brochure, which is possible I suppose. I suspect it is some other Dillingham line, and there were quite a few others. For some reason their names are not nearly as well known as Esprit.

I would be very surprised if there is anything to the story that Milo Baughman designed the set.

- 13 Nov 2016

There is absolutely nothing in my Milo Baughman research to suggest that he ever designed for Dillingham...

- 19 Nov 2016

I just discovered that in 1965, Foster-McDavid was the maker of these chairs. Note that the photograph even shows the cane back version of the chair in the background. Different table though. So Foster-McDavid must have been bought by Dilligham between 1965 and 1969.

This also definitely has implications for the designer. It would appear that Merton Gershun is almost certainly not the designer. It would be someone who worked with Foster-McDavid.

- 03 Dec 2017

I have this set and the bottom of the chairs are stamped “Dillingham.” Not sure that helps.

- 03 Dec 2017

I have this set and the bottom of the chairs are stamped “Dillingham.” Not sure that helps.

- 23 Jan 2018

I just acquired this same dining set, and it is marked 8111 and dated January 21, 1972. This, of course, is outside of the Charish timeline, so thought I'd share it. Also, does anyone know what the wood is? The previous owner thought it was teak. I thought oak. I'm not good with wood types, so any help is appreciated.

- 24 Jan 2018

The two Dillingham/Foster-McDavid captains chairs that I have, seen in post #15 above are walnut. I say this with 100% certainty. As to other wood types that may have been used, if any, I am unsure, but I know they were at a minimum offered in walnut.

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