Books That Explore Residential Mid-century Modernism

An extensive list of Mid-century Modernism books.

A Field Guide to American Houses by Virginia Savage McAlester

Essential Bookshelf

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A Field Guide to American Houses by Virginia Savage McAlester (Knopf, 2014 edition) The essential guide to domestic architecture Native to the present, with ground-breaking coverage of housing trends and styles since 1940.


Case House Studies by Elizabeth A.T. Smith (Taschen 2016) “Modernism to the masses . . . affordable postwar homes” created by luminaries including Neutra, Eames, and Saarinen for a program sponsored by Arts & Architecture magazine 1945–1966. Showing 36 model houses, most in Southern California, that redefined the home.

• See also Taschen’s Basic Architecture series with separate volumes on the architecture of Richard Neutra, Mies van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, the Bauhaus, and more.

Mid-Century Modern Complete by Dominic Bradbury (Abrams 2014) Excellent introduction and overview of the design movement Palm Springs to Long Island, Japan to Scandinavia, including 20 seminal houses and reference guides.

The Ranch House by Alan Hess.

Total Design: Architecture and Interiors of Iconic Modern Houses by George H. Marcus (Rizzoli 2014) Visit masterpieces of modern design from Arts & Crafts-era practitioners (Wright, Greene & Greene, C.R. Mackintosh) through van der Rohe, Saarinen, Aalto, Ponti, and beyond.

Cape Cod Modern: Midcentury Architecture … on the Outer Cape by Peter McMahon and Christine Cipriani (Metropolis Books 2014). Exploring the legacy of an experimental, regional modernism left by Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer, and a cadre of Bauhaus thinkers and East Coast intellectuals.

Forgotten Modern: California Houses 1940–1970 by Alan Hess (Gibbs Smith 2007) Primary examples of early residential modernism, variants on minimalism, and the endurance of organic architecture (once referred to as “unchecked emotionalism” by Eero Saarinen).

The Ranch House by Alan Hess (Abrams 2004) The first attempt to seamlessly connect the early California Ranch and later suburban examples, with historical context and acceptance of the whole stylistic range. The bulk of the book tours 26 restored Ranches in the Southwest.


William Krisel’s Palm Springs: The Language of Modernism by Heidi Creighton and Chris Menrad (Gibbs Smith 2016) Monograph on the Modern designer includes architectural drawings, archival photos.

Unseen Midcentury Desert Modern by Dan Chavkin (Gibbs Smith 2016) Recent photographic record of unpublished MCM homes by William Cody, John Porter Clark, and lesser-known designers.

Cliff May and the Modern Ranch House by Daniel P. Gregory (Rizzoli 2008) A bridge between Arts & Crafts architecture and the suburban ranch, here are glorious Ranch antecedents from the 1930s–40s.

Eichler: Modernism Rebuilds the American Dream by Paul Adamson and Marty Arbunich (Gibbs Smith 2002) Innovative, then-affordable houses by the pioneering developer of residential suburbs in the 1950s–60s in California.


Mid-Century Modern Architecture Travel Guide/East Coast by Sam Lubell (Phaidon Press 2018) Featuring 250 destinations Maine to Florida, including work by Mies, Breuer, Saarinen, and Johnson: skyscrapers to beach houses.

Midcentury Houses Today by Jeffrey Matz and Cristina A. Ross et al (Monacelli Press 2014) Exploring the concentration of residential modernism in NYC suburb New Canaan, Conn., in the 1940s–50s, with houses by Philip Johnson, Marcel Breuer, Eliot Noyes, Edward Durell Stone, and others.

 Atomic Ranch: Design Ideas for Stylish Ranch Homes


Atomic Ranch: Design Ideas for Stylish Ranch Homes by Michelle Gringeri-Brown (Gibbs Smith 2006) Mid-century ranches high and low—upgraded, restored, or decorated with thrift-store finds.

Atomic Ranch: Midcentury Interiors by Michelle Gringeri-Brown (Gibbs Smith 2012) Rich presentation of eight modest, well-done MCM houses with tips on color, flooring, window coverings, and furniture; resources.

Mid-Century Modern: Interiors, Furniture, Design Details by Bradley Quinn (Conran, 2006) Contemporary home decoration of the 1950s, with case studies showing exemplary homes today.


Mid-Century Modern by Judith Miller (Mitchell Beazley 2018) For both collectors and decorators, it covers late 1930s through 1960s furniture and furnishings: Bauhaus and American, Scandinavian, Italian.

The Midcentury Modern Landscape by Ethne Clark.

Danish Modern by Andrew Hollingsworth (Gibbs Smith, 2008) The history traced to the 1770s and the furniture style’s 20-century evolution; serious info. for collectors.

Heywood-Wakefield Blond: Depression to ’50s by Donna S. Baker (Schiffer 2005) Light-color mid-century furniture by the renowned Mass. company with information for collectors.

Danish Modern and Beyond: Scandinavian Inspired Furniture from Heywood-Wakefield by Donna S. Baker (Schiffer 2005) American-made “Danish Modern” furniture of the Fifties and Sixties shown in original catalog images with room arrangements.


The Midcentury Modern Landscape by Ethne Clarke (Gibbs Smith 2017) Origins and language of contemporary gardens, with references to art and design and social changes; beautiful photography.

See a stunning Mid-century Modern house: A West Coast 1957 House.

Tags: books mid-century mid-century modern OHJ October 2018

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