The ‘80s Design Movement That's Making a Comeback
Amidst all of the bright whites and perpendicular lines of modern interiors, you might, if you’ve been paying attention, have started to notice a mounting trend towards wild colors and eccentric shapes in the home décor market. It’s a breath of fresh air, and the perfect remedy for anyone feeling tired of all of that simplicity. The aesthetic is the brainchild of a design icon and the movement he championed in Milan, September 1981. Read on to learn a little history of the style, and to shop its latest and greatest iterations.
Ettore Sottsass, best-known as the founder of the Memphis Design Group of Milan in the ‘80s, once said, "When I was young, all we ever heard about was functionalism, functionalism, functionalism. It’s not enough. Design should also be sensual and exciting." The Memphis Group would become famous, perhaps even infamous, for its flamboyant and exuberant designs—Technicolor ceramics, sculptural and fluid lighting, and madcap furniture. Today, its original pieces sell for thousands in auction houses worldwide.
Memphis questioned the strict objectivity of Modernism, seeking to disrupt the notion that design should, or even could, be purely functional. Memphis Group designs burst with wit, whimsy, and often a good helping of ostentatiousness. Colors and shapes were stacked on top of one another at odd, protruding angles. The creations fearlessly juxtapose materials, neon and primary hues, and stripes and squiggles. Some found Memphis design kitschy and downright offensive to good taste, while others felt it an inspired break from austerity.
Today, present-day artists and designers are clearly finding inspiration in the style, with the trend bubbling up in luxe accessories carried at some of the most trend-setting home boutiques the likes of A+R, the MOMA Design Store, and Table of Contents, not to mention a gorgeous monograph published by Phaidon in 2014 exploring the life and legacy of Sottsass.
Scroll on to shop some of the best Memphis Group-inspired finds on the market, plus some iconic originals.