Three MCM Books Worth Reading

If you’ve ever visited our blog before, you’ll know that we try to offer as much advice as we possibly can on our specialist subject: mid century modern furniture.

However, loath as we are to admit it, there is still plenty we don’t know about it.

What’s more, we are never going to have enough time on this site to run through everything that we do.

That’s why we thought we’d provide the conscientious and the curious among you a starting point for conducting your own research into the topic.

So here are three books on mid century furniture design that we love (and one that confuses the hell out of us).

Miller's Midd-Century Modern

Mid-Century Modern: Living with Mid-Century Modern Design

by Judith Miller
Mitchell Beazley

This is just a great place to start for anyone who is both new to the topic and keen to learn more about what it all means.

Eminently readable, this book offers a concise introduction into the influences of the period, the Scandinavian aesthetic and why many of the defining design choices were made.

It also delivers a comprehensive appraisal of the work of so many important designers and manufacturers alongside the recurring characteristics of production regions.

The feature you might use most, however, is the price code, which can help you identify the value of the pieces featured throughout.

This book covers furniture, homeware and interior design from the 1940’s to the 1970’s.

It’s a big book (or at least our copy is) so expect it to take pride of place on a coffee table.

But having it close at hand may prove useful as you look for inspiration for your next addition to your MCM or minimalist interior.

Well worth a look, all in all.

Mid-Century Modern by Greenberg

Mid-Century Modern: Furniture of the 1950’s

By Cara Greenberg
Three Rivers Press

It wouldn’t be fair to put together such an article and not include this book as it is widely credited with coining the now oft use phrase ‘mid-century modern’.

It is a different proposition from Miller’s book, being, as it is, “a loving tribute to the innovative furniture of the fifties and its enduring popularity”.

While it is a more personal account, it is by no means any less engaging or informative.

Greenberg, to her credit, does a fine job of looking at the full spectrum of furniture design from the period.

You’re unlikely to love it all but we have always found it to be a useful tool for contextualising the pieces from the era.

Inside you’ll find a host of original images that will make you smile and cringe in equal measures.

You’ll also get to take a look inside the homes of the some of the top collectors as well as casting your eye over Greenberg’s ten best chairs of the period. 

Agree or not, this book offers a very accessible way to get your head around an era that many consider to be the absolute pinnacle of design and production.

Bradbury's Mid-Century Modern Complete

Mid-Century Modern Complete

By Dominic Bradbury
Thames & Hudson

If you’re looking for the definitive guide to MCM then this is probably it.

Over the course of 500 or so pages, Bradbury takes a look at the era’s best furniture, lighting, product design, graphics, architecture and more.

It’s packed full of engaging imagery and commentary that is sure to introduce you to at least a handful of designers and designs that you didn’t already know.

There are also a number of essays by renowned experts so you’ll get to hear a wider range of voices than you would in the other two books on this list.

This is, in our opinion, never a bad thing.

Again, this book is a bit of a beast so if you make the purchase, expect to display it on a coffee table.

This really is the comprehensive guide that covers design from all around the globe, though, so it was never going to be anything else.

And One Book to Treat with Caution

the Cat who Ate Danish Modern

The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern by Lilian Jackson Braun appears in our Google searches far more often than it should.

We don’t mind admitting that we haven’t yet found the energy to source and read it.

Now, we accept that telling someone not to read a book you haven’t read yourself is unreasonable.

However, we feel confident that a book which is described as “the second mystery in the bestselling Cat Who series” is unlikely to be brimming with scholarly analysis of furniture design.

That said, if the prospect of a feline sleuth “pawing clues in the dictionary and sniffing designer furniture” appeals, then go for gold.

Who knows. It might be brilliant.

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