Codman Jr., a Bostonian by birth, spent his teenage years in France.
Upon returning to America in 1884, he spent a year at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology.
Codman was influenced by two uncles, one an
architect and one a decorator. He admired Italian architecture
of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries; French
architecture; and the architecture of his home city.
After brief apprenticeships
at architectural firms, Codman started his own business in Boston.
He met Edith Wharton on a business
trip to Newport, Rhode Island. Wharton became one of his first
Odgen Codman Jr.
Wharton and Codman collaborated on
redesigning the interior of her New York City townhouse
at 882-884 Park Avenue and her Newport home, Land's End.
In her autobiography, Wharton wrote:
"We asked him to alter and
decorate the housea somewhat new departure, since
the architects of that day looked down on house-decoration
as a branch of dress-making, and left the field up to
the upholsterers, who crammed every room with curtains,
lambrequins, jardinières of artificial plants, wobbly
velvet-covered tables littered with silver gew-gaws, and
festoons of lace on mantelpieces and dressing tables."
Codman shared Wharton's distaste for
these "sumptuous excesses" of the Gilded Age.