15 Books on Midcentury Modern Design That Everyone Should Read

mid-century modern travel guide
credit: Amazon

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Midcentury modern is a style made popular between the 1940s and 1960s. It's also a design movement that still influences many homes and lifestyles from Palm Springs to Long Island, and across Japan and Scandinavia. Recognized by clean lines, organic influences, and functional design, MCM is known for mixing different, unique materials (like wood, glass, and metal), making it easy to add into any space. A look coveted by design-minded folk and enthusiasts alike, it not only feels lived-in and cozy, but rooms also feel like they embody a tiny piece of history.

Whether you're looking to learn more about MCM, beef up your coffee table books, or are in need of a gift for a friend who loves midcentury modern design or knows squat about it, here are 15 books everyone can appreciate.

from a to eames
credit: Amazon

Take an illustrated journey through midcentury modern design with this whimsical A to Z picture book. Featuring 80 design stories, each letter covers a single topic of the MCM era — from midcentury modern homes and interior design to graphic design and renowned influencers. Trust us, you'll have a newfound respect for your IKEA knockoffs.

case study houses
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A must-read for new and old MCM fans, the Case Study House program (1945–66) was an experimental project that offered America new, affordable, and easy-to-build modern home models. This book displays each of the 36 prototype homes through sketches, floor plans, photographs, and more — and makes for an interesting read or stunning coffee table decor.

100 midcentury chairs
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Obsessed with MCM furniture? We don't blame you. This guide showcases the top 100 most beautiful chairs created between 1930 and 1970 by the likes of Eames, Jacobsen, Nakashima, Wegner, and more. Not only will you learn the stories behind the stylish structures, but you'll also get entertaining tips and quotes from designers and fans about each chair.

midcentury modern
credit: Amazon

A comprehensive guide to everything midcentury modern, this volume is divided into three main sections: "Media and Masters," which profiles must-know designers; "Houses and Interiors," which portrays MCM homes and their furnishings, and a dictionary of significant people, terms, and places. While it's a great source of information, it also includes more than 1,000 images — so it's not completely text-heavy.

midcentury modern travel guide
credit: Amazon

The West Coast might be known for its MCM influence, but this compact travel guide highlights more than 250 East Coast destinations featuring impressive architecture by some of midcentury modern's biggest names, including Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson. Pop this fabulous pick on your bookshelf or use it to take a road trip through time from Fire Island to Florida.

midcentury modern
credit: Amazon

Packed with over 200 photos, this design book celebrates funky MCM creations from the '50s (think: boomerang-shaped coffee tables and biomorphic sofas) and will give you all the inspiration you need to decorate your new home or update your space.

eames
credit: Amazon

All you ever wanted to know about the husband and wife team — Charles and Ray Kaiser Eames — in one spot, this book makes an eye-catching coffee table book, as well as a thoughtful gift for the MCM aficionado. It covers everything from the couple's earliest furniture experiments, architecture, and textile design to their photography and film.

california captured
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One of the best photographers you've never heard of, Los Angeles native Marvin Rand documents the work of midcentury modern masters like Frank Lloyd Wright through iconic photos in this book.

midcentury modern glass
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With over 690 gorgeous photos, this is a no-brainer for anyone who appreciates beautiful glass. Celebrating midcentury modern glass in America, the book is divided into two sections (glass manufacturers and glass decorators and designers) and examines glass decor, stemware, tableware, drinkware, and more.

frank lloyd wright book
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From Fallingwater to Robie House to Taliesen West, this exquisite book brings all of Frank Lloyd Wright's surviving homes together in a collection of vibrant photographs, floor plans, archival images, and essays by Wright scholars and experts.

william krisel palm spring
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If you love the dreamy, historical midcentury modern vibes of Palm Springs, then you'll want to snap up this book, which recounts the work and vision of architect William Krisel, who left his mark on Southern California in the form of affordable homes from the 1950s on.

mod mirage rancho mirage
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While many associate Palm Springs with MCM design, this book makes a strong case for not overlooking neighboring city Rancho Mirage. It focuses on the homes and communities that were built near the historic Thunderbird and Tamarisk Country Clubs from 1950-1970 (now making up Rancho Mirage, California), chronicling architects like William Cody, William Krisel, William Pereira — all the Williams!

herman miller a way of living
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Although this book only came out in May of 2019, it's already spent weeks at the top of the best-sellers charts. It chronicles the life and evolution of Michigan-based designer Herman Miller, who played a critical role in the evolution of midcentury modern design. Although it isn't exactly a budget-friendly option, if you're curious to learn more about the design style through the lens of one of its true godfathers, this is the perfect addition to your collection.

knoll a modern universe
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Many design experts and historians agree: The history of Knoll is the history of midcentury modern design. Founded in 1938 by Hans and Florence Knoll, the company is credited for bringing European modern design to America and using the post-World War II economic abundance to commission now-iconic furniture pieces, such as Eero Saarinen's Tulip chair and Harry Bertoia's Wire chairs.

taschen neutra complete works
credit: Taschen

Known as the quintessential California modernist, Richard Neutra's influence on postwar architecture is undisputed, and the sunny climate and rich landscape of Cali is particularly suited to his cool, sleek modern style. This book outlines his work and highlights his trademark glass walls and concrete overhangs that blend indoor and outdoor surroundings.


Susan Brickell

Susan Brickell

Susan Brickell is a New York-based writer and editor obsessed with cozy jungalow spaces, chic athleisure, and the newest skincare trends.