Some 70 years after its big debut, mid-century modern design is still one of the most enduring and timeless design styles in the world. Its influence colors and informs today's takes on modern and minimalism, and if you look hard enough, you might find its watermarks — things like tapered legs and cane paneling among them — in furniture pieces all over your house.
I've done a bit of the legwork for you to find some of the best bookshelves with roots in this design era, should you yourself be a big fan of mid-century sensibilities. So get ready to read on; there should be plenty of sleek lines, organic shapes, and mixed mediums in your future.
12 of the best mid-century modern bookcases
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Covered in a water-based acorn finish, this narrow wooden bookcase is the best of two different products: a set of drawers and a set of shelves. A perfect bookshelf for a small space!
Cane detailing and curved, rounded edges are a dead mid-century modern giveaway. This piece has the fit of something you'd think would be more stout while actually adding quite a bit of height to a room.
Yes, I know what you're thinking — the boxed shelves on this modular, retro, and minimalist bookshelf can accommodate record albums. So you can really lean into your "Daisy Jones and The Six" fantasies.
Price: $559.99 (33% off)
A combination of that retro modularity and the famous cane detailing, this 5-tiered piece from Homary is show-stopping for its silhouette alone; it would surely fall into the category of "bookshelves that make your living room look more expensive." Use it by itself, or buy a second to place nearby and cover the whole wall.
Though it leans more cabinet than anything, this affordable bookshelf from Walmart is nothing if not versatile. So hide away some of your favorite reads or use it as more of a bar cabinet — it really can do everything (and at a great price).
Price: $332.99 (46% off)
I'm particularly entranced by this rounded, modern bookshelf from Home Threads, which offers three gorgeous storage tiers surrounded by a slatted timber-style design.
For something a bit heartier, this wide teak brown bookcase with clear mid-century modern influences has both drawers and shelves strong enough to withstand the heftiest of design elements.
Target has done it again with this curved wooden bookcase that evokes both minimalist and modern bookshelf vibes. There is a second and lighter colorway available, but I think this brown option is the most applicable here.
Sometimes dark brown or wood coloring/staining just won't cut it. Lighten up a corner with a white bookshelf that also offers a bit of storage at the base.
For the price, this cherry bookcase looks incredibly robust. Plenty of storage, with that classic tapered leg finish and brass hardware.
It's hard to get more mid-century modern than this sleek three-part freestanding shelf, available at an enviable price at Bed Bath & Beyond.
How can I style a mid-century modern bookshelf?
When styling a bookshelf, Kristin Schmitt, a designer at Gensler, recommends thinking about what mood you'd like to evoke and going from there. Something like color can really help here. "The important factor is opting for a subtle contrast in tones, textures, and finishes without complicating the space," she said.
For example, consider "a simple but textured wallpaper backing paired with smooth ceramics." The texture of the wallpaper is balanced out by the sheen of the ceramics, adding depth and visual interest to the structure. "Using a variety of decor" like "sculptural objects, oversized bowls, frames, and bookends" will also help "keep the eye moving." Just be sure you don't overcrowd! "Depending on length, you should limit yourself to only a couple or few items with ample spacing between each item," she went on. To anchor the design, start with the tallest and largest pieces first and build from there.
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Brigid Kennedy is a style editor at Livingetc.com, where she is responsible for obsessively combing the internet for the best and most stylish deals on home decor and more. She was previously a story editor at TheWeek.com, where she covered both U.S. politics and culture. She describes her design style as colorful and clean, and in her free time enjoys reading, watching movies, and curating impossibly niche playlists on Spotify. She lives in New York.
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