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Mid-Century Modern Book Reviews

Mid-century modern books

There are so many great architecture, design and furniture books out there that it can be overwhelming. There are fantastic biographies of famed architects and designers, books filled with incredible homes in specific regions and there are books detailing everything from mid-century modern cabins to Japanese landscaping - and I like them all!

I often get asked about my top recommendations for mid-century modern books, but it is hard to narrow them all down and pick favorites. I do, however, want to start reviewing and recommending some of my recent top picks. You'll also find links to the books themselves if you're interested in purchasing any for yourself or as a gift. (There are no affiliate links here, FYI.)

Never Leave Well Enough Alone Loewy

Raymond Loewy is known as the Man Who Shaped America and the Father of Industrial Design, and he is responsible for some of the most iconic logos and designs in the world. Loewy designed cars, trains, the TWA logo, toasters, the Coca-Cola contour bottle, Leisurama homes and even NASA's Skylab Space Station. It's no surprise, then, that a biography written by Raymond Loewy would be just as interesting as his life.

Never Leave Well Enough Alone is written by Loewy in English, although he was born and raised in France. His autobiography is fascinating and really quite funny. It details his life in great stories, highlighting the turning points in his career and revealing the depth of his creativity. It's a great read and a book I highly recommend.

Weekend Utopia Alastair Gordon

If you've ever dreamt of building your own weekend getaway, then you'll drool over this book. Weekend Utopia delves into the history of the Hamptons, what drove people to summer and vacation in the region and then details why so many people, may of whom were creatives, gravitated there. It is filled with period photographs of amazing homes built on the beach.

Many of these homes are small but modern, since they weren't full-time residences for their owners. They are (relatively) easy to construct, making them the perfect homes you can dream about building yourself one day. Look for the Johnson House by George Nelson, the Farney House by Philip Johnson and my current favorite, the Peter Blake House with its movable walls, among many others.

Form & Space in Japanese Architecture

Some of you may already know that we live in a home designed by Norman Carver. What you may not know is that he is also a celebrated photographer who still owns a gallery in Downtown Kalamazoo, Michigan. Carver traveled and worked extensively in Japan during the 1950s and 1960s, and his photography pays homage to the structure, form and architecture found in traditional Japanese homes and shrines. Many of the structures he photographed no longer exist so there are some gems preserved on film here. It is impossible to ignore the Japanese influence on his home designs and on modern architecture as a whole.

Carver's many photography books can be ordered in person at his gallery or by emailing/calling him there. You can also often find new and used copies of this book and others on Amazon.

Modernism Rediscovered

Julius Shulman was arguably one of America's top architectural photographers, and he was largely responsible for showing the world the beauty of California Modern homes. It should come as no surprise, then, that Modernism Rediscovered is packed with stunning photographs. You'll find iconic shots of mid-century modern structures from around the country, although there is a definite focus on homes in California. There are also some unexpected gems, including some period shots of structures I'd never seen before. It's well worth getting the hardcover version, because this is something you'll be flipping through for years to come.

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