Our 5 Favorite Books for Mid Century Inspiration

by Nicole Hodsdon

Our 5 Favorite Books for Mid Century Inspiration

Some days you're in the mood to put away all of the electronics, sit in front of a fire, on the deck, or on the beach, and curl up with a book.  Just a book.  No notifications, no blinding glare of a screen in full sunlight, no messing with brightness settings, nothing pinging, beeping or flashing at you, begging for your instantaneous attention.  Just a completely unplugged, notification-free book.  

Now, in these blissful situations, novels are great, and those business and self-help books can make you feel like you're still being productive, but when I'm completely relaxed and away from it all I love to dive into a design book.  The ones with big, beautiful, inspiring pictures that take my mind through gorgeous possibilities.  Of course they have words too, but those are completely optional in these situations.  What I'm after is the eye candy.

Here are my five favorite design books for Mid Century inspiration:

1. Eames: Beautiful Details by Eames Demetrios

Eames: Beautiful Details Cover

This book is first and foremost because it is the definitive book on my number one design inspiration: Charles and Ray Eames.  I love to pick a section and flip through it, and I'm continuously inspired by the back story behind their career path, inspiration, side projects, and design process.  It's a comprehensive view into their life and work with gorgeous photos of their finished work, daily life, and small details that consistently inspire me each time I crack it open.

2. Atomic Ranch: Design Ideas for Stylish Ranch Homes by Michelle Granger-Brown and Jim Brown

Atomic Ranch Cover

This is my bread and butter of mid century design inspiration.  It is the book to get if you want to see mid century architecture, style, and design in real life, everyday homes.  Highlighted in this title are some of the most well known mid century neighborhoods like Eichler, Levittown, and Westlake among others.  The photos are gorgeous, and just flipping through will spark so much inspiration.  It's also super informative with insights into remodeling, restoring, and maintaining these architectural treasures.  Even if you don't own an authentic mid century home of your own, it has so many beautiful ideas that you can incorporate into where you live today.

3. Cape Cod Modern by Peter McMahon, Christine Cipriani, Raimund Koch

Cape Cod Modern

 Cape Cod Modern is a favorite of mine because it has beautiful photographs, is superiorly researched, and is actually fun to read.  Now, this one does have a lot more words than pictures, but I'm ok with that in this case because the story and the way it's told is captivating to me.  It details the little-known story of how the outer tip of Cape Cod came to be home to a fantastic group of summer homes designed and lived in by some of the best-regarded mid-century architects and designers of the mid century era.  More than 100 of these homes were built by the likes of Breuer and Chermayeff to explore the post-war concepts of simplicity, economy, liveability and respect for the land.  It's a beautiful reference for how traditional American architecture, materials, and even culture was able to embrace a new approach to style and living.

4. Midcentury Houses Today by Michael Biondo, Jeffrey Matz, Lorenzo Ottaviani, Christina A. Ross

Midcentury Houses Today

 Midcentury Houses Today leans more Bauhaus and modern than mid century, but it nonetheless beautifully shows the residences in New Haven, Connecticut designed by architectural masters Marcel Breuer, Landis Gores, Eliot Noyes, and Edward Durell Stone.  I'm a big fan of floorpans, and this book includes both the original and current floorpans of these homes so you can see what was originally intended, and how the homes have be adapted to the present-day.  The meat of the book, though - the big beautiful, inspiring photos - show how the architects originally styled these homes and how the current owners are living in these masterpieces today.  It's full of creative inspiration even if the closest you get to living in one of these original mid century masterpieces is drooling over the pictures in this book.

5. Styled: Secrets for Arranging Rooms, from Tabletops to Bookshelves by Emily Henderson

Styled by Emily Henderson

Lets face it, not everyone loves the Mid Century style exclusively, and that's ok.  This title is my go-to guide when I'm looking for some inspiration when blending other styles with my first love.  There are tons of ideas for creating a solid mid century base and peppering in a bit of boho, traditional, contemporary, cottage, rustic, or even victorian to round it out (and appease those you may live with who haven't entirely embraced the awesomeness of mid century yet).  The book includes a quiz for finding your style, but I'm a fan of the pictures exclusively.  They're bright, bold, have lots of ideas, but lean towards a bit cluttered at times.  I can look past some of the clutter because I see them as ideas to try out and see if you like them in your home - a brainstorming session in pretty photos if you will.  Just maybe don't use all of the ideas in one space.

There are of course many more, but these five are my go-to resources for mid century inspiration.  I hope you found some inspiration yourself and will consider reaching for one of these the next chance you get to have an unplugged afternoon.

Nicole Hodsdon
Nicole Hodsdon