Looking to dive deeper into the history of the Mid-Century Modern style, and to learn more about the distinctive elements that whisk you back in time when you see a beautiful MCM building, furnishing, or decorative item?
One way you can expand your knowledge of the mid century style is to go beyond digital resources to print books.
But where do you begin with respect to MCM books?
Here is our ever evolving top recommended reads.
1. Mid-Century Modern Complete
Mid-Century Modern Complete is a book by Dominic Bradbury, a well-known architecture and design writer who has contributed to publications such as Mountain Modern and The Iconic Interior.
The 544-page book consists of three main sections covering “Media and Masters,” “Houses and Interiors,” and an alphabetized dictionary. Some of the subsections you’ll encounter include “Furniture,” “Lighting,” “Glass and Ceramics,” “Textiles,” “Industrial and Product Design,” “Graphics,” and “Houses and Interiors.”
In all, you’ll find ninety-five biographies of MCM designers along with hundreds of beautiful color photographs.
Also, if other books have frustrated you by only showing the outsides of houses, you will be thrilled by how many interior photos are in the “Houses and Interiors” section.
It would be an exaggeration to call any book about MCM design truly “complete,” but we can at least say that this is a comprehensive introduction to MCM, and a great option if you are new to the style and looking to learn about its most iconic buildings and designers.
2. Atomic Ranch Midcentury Interiors
From Michelle Gringeri-Brown, founding editor of Atomic Ranch magazine, comes Atomic Ranch Midcentury Interiors, a beautiful coffee table book that features eight American MCM ranch-style homes.
The book is 192 pages long and features photographs from Michelle’s husband Jim Brown. Together, Michelle and Jim explore not just the ranch homes in these pages, but also the stories of their homeowners.
Reading this book will help you learn more about the MCM style as expressed through the ranch-style home, and also give you design ideas for your own atomic ranch.
A quick note—the hardcover edition of this book includes color photographs, but there is apparently another edition that has black-and-white photos only. So, make sure you are getting the version with the color photographs—it is worth it.
3. The Midcentury Modern Landscape
If you want to learn more about mid-century neighborhood planning and MCM landscaping, The Midcentury Modern Landscape by Ethne Clarke is worth a read. Clarke was previously the garden editor for Traditional Home, and also worked for House & Garden as a contributing editor.
This book includes 224 pages of detailed information, and is very well-researched. Even though the main focus is on landscaping, the author puts the landscapes she shares into a broader context so that you can understand how they fit in with MCM architecture and neighborhood planning.
4. Atlas of Mid-Century Modern Houses
Here is another book worth checking out by Dominic Bradbury, author of Mid-Century Modern Complete. Consisting of 440 pages, the book features over 400 mid-century homes designed by over 290 architects. So, you will have a chance to explore houses designed by the most iconic MCM architects, but also discover those by architects you have never heard of. Buildings from all around the world are showcased in these pages. In fact, you will see examples from over 70 countries!
This mid century modern book is highly recommended both for the expansive amount of ground it covers and for its huge, beautiful, full-color photographs, which sometimes span two pages, and include detailed, informative captions.
5. Eames (Basic Art Series 2.0)
At some point, you will no doubt want to take your mid-century modern reading to the next level, moving beyond books that provide a broad overview of the style, and delving into the works of individual designers.
One good starting point is Eames (Basic Art Series 2.0) by author Gloria Koenig. If her last name jumps out at you, that is probably because she was married to modernist architect Pierre Koenig. Moreover, she is an architectural historian. In the 96 pages of this book, she has provided an in-depth look at the work of Charles and Ray Kaiser Eames, two of the most pivotal MCM designers.
The 120 illustrations in this book not only include photos, but also sketches and plans, providing you with a greater visual understanding of the Eames’ designs. Not only that, but the writing in the book is incredibly rich and informative. So, while Eames (Basic Art Series 2.0) makes a great coffee table book, it is also so much more.
6. Knoll: A Modernist Universe
Another quality MCM book that can help you learn more about two of the most influential mid century designers is Knoll: A Modernist Universe, by Brian Lutz, an author who has also written about Eero Saarinen.
This book explores the work of Hans and Florence Knoll at a level that most other books covering Knoll designs have hardly approached. You’ll be able to enjoy a lot of spectacular pictures, but you will also learn a great deal about the amazing individuals who revolutionized design at the Knoll Group.
After reading this book, you will walk away with a renewed appreciation of these amazing designers and a deeper understanding of how they impacted the design world.
7. Mid-Century Modern At Home
A new addition to our list. This book by DC Hillier was a great Xmas gift from my wife. It has hundreds of ideas to merge the lines from vintage to MCM to the more modern aesthetics of 2023.
Now you have our suggestions for Mid Century Modern books that are packed with information and pictures of Mid Century Modern homes, public buildings, furnishings and more. Click on any of the links in this article to enjoy these reads, and continue exploring our website to keep learning more about this nostalgic style.