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Memphis Design Is Back

Like it or not, the 80’s are back. This time this trend is not just present on the fashion runways of Paris and Milan anymore, but has manifested itself in the world of Interior Design.

This Post-Modern, ‘more is more’ concept was conceived in 1981 by Ettore Sottsass and a group of designers and architects working in Milan. A radical design collaborative, the Memphis Group, was the leading force in popularizing this movement.

The Memphis Group melded the geometry of Art Deco, the bold colorful palate of Pop Art and the kitsch influence of the 1950’s.

This wacky design trend has been described as a “shotgun wedding of Bauhaus and Fischer Price.

Memphis design was a direct reaction to the austere modernism that was exemplified by designers like Mies van der Rohe and Marcel Breuer, a minimalist approach that was regarded as the height of style for decades previously. 

The groups effusive spirit embraced its thinking around “radical, funny and outrageous”. They experimented with inexpensive materials like, plastic, laminate and Lucite, often including rougher building materials such as steel and plywood.

Michele de Lucchi chairs

The American designers, Michael Graves, Robert Venturi and Frank Gehry are among many designers and architects globally who embraced these concepts as pictured below.

Alessi Michel Graves Teapot

Fashion Designer Karl Lagerfeld bought the entirety of Sottsass first Memphis style furniture collection and renowned, rock star, fashionista David Bowie owned more than 400 pieces.

Ettore Sottsass Coffee Table

Most of the original pieces from the 1980’s collections are still in production and are available to purchase through Memphis Milano in Milan and the New York gallery, Urban Architecture. For those of you who want to dip your feet in, stores such as West Elm presently has an affordable line that is Memphis inspired. So, if you dare…jump in and have some fun!


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