California Design. It's cool as hell, and these are the only books you'll need.

California Design References - The Past and Today

If you are one of the lucky individuals who happened to be shopping for mid-century modern furniture in the heyday of California design between the '30s to the mid '60s, you likely have some highly sought after and heirloom quality wares featured in one of the three following California Design books. When a person asks "What is California design?" There's always a nebulous response because it's core is a  confluence of influence. It's mid-century modern, but not so sleek and refined to be sanitized of warmth or comfort. I It's in the ways of use and applications of natural, synthetic and colorful notes, from wood, to polymer and fiberglass. The following three books inform us of the lushness of the fertile California design bedrock. Colorful and well-articulated in 300+ page case studies with chronology of design, these are the manifests for a Californist inspiration. Plus they look stellar on your coffee table. 


2011 brought an exposition of California design to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and with that wonderful tribute, drove the authoring of this book. Written by Wendy Kaplan, director, organizer and curator for the LACMA.  

Living in A Modern Way examines the 1930s roots of California design which are inherently modern, fueled by European design heavyweights like, Schindler, Weber and Neurtra with other injections from Mexico and Asia.  The fearless use of color, of novel materials like fiberglass, and the post war roots of the American Dream. The majority of the book describes the California design injections on the modern home, with ample uses of technology, sharp, honest edges, restless colors, and affections for the outdoors. 


Co-written by Sheri Bernstein, IIene Susan Fort and Howard Fox, this 300+ page image-filled book came with a bunch of ancillary items which helped fortify the California style marketing, particularly in the post-dot com, pre-tech bubble California world. Buying this book at the LACMA provided the reader with a mug, mouse pad and music CD.  The book assesses California's impact on visual culture and features a substantial history lesson of all things California, from internment camps, album covers, SF beat culture and the influence of the great racial and cultural diversities impacting design in all its forms.  A substantial, textbook quality book for anyone interested in the array of influence California design and inspiration draws.  This book has it all.   


Authored by Elizabeth Armstrong, current executive director for the Palm Springs Art Museum.  Taking it's title from the formidable Miles Davis release, this book features details of California's grand cultural statements in a broader depiction. Birth of the Cool tackles graphic design influences on California design. There are discussions on California's rich cultural influences on architecture, film and music.  Each section receives an expert treatment by an individual writer. The honest candor of the book details the arrays of influence projecting beyond the state boundary an obvious point, where California design does not belong to itself, but rather borrows from everything. 

You can pick up the above three books on Amazon, of course, by clicking the blue sub-title headers, above.