Style History

Lower the Curtain Down on Memphis (Design)

Do you ever find that you like something that nobody else does? Art and design are truly subjective, and styles that are loved by some are in turn loathed by others.

When a design style is truly indicative of its time, such as the modernism of the 50s and 60s, Art Deco from the early 20th century, it's sure to evoke a strong reaction. The strongest reaction of all that I've seen was to the Memphis design movement of the 80s, and quite honestly I enjoy both the design and the reactions I hear.

Okay so what is Memphis Design? The most mainstream example of Memphis is the opening titles of "Saved By The Bell" or MTV advertising (oh hey there, David Bowie). It involved 80s-era bright colors, over-the-top geometric patterns, and off-the-charts whimsicality. What began as a movement by Italian product designer Ettore Sottsass in 1981 has been a subject of derision by many for several decades. You may find that you aren't a fan yourself. But recently the patterns and shapes have been pervading their way into our culture once again.

As a great example of this, not that the link for the SBTB credits is actually a web series called "Teens React". I found it was difficult to find a video that showed just the credit sequence, but it actually helps me prove a point. I find it cute and hysterical when the teens laugh at the styles that the cast members are wearing, even though they themselves are wearing similar fashions (and a couple of them admit it). Just no perms. Those were horrible. Yes I had one. I have fine hair. Shut up.

Back when I was in design school we had a class called History of Style Studio. For the entire semester we were assigned to select one design style and eventually create an interpretive center in and around that style. An interpretive center is essentially an interactive museum. I chose Memphis because I wanted to have fun with the assignment, and Pop Art was already taken. I found myself appreciating the form, its sense of pluck, and its willingness to entertain while performing a function. My center included Memphis furniture, china, a tea bar, and a film station featuring a documentary with Karl Lagerfeld.

So this above was my version. In 2015, high end contemporary furniture outfit Kartell presented their own exhibit in Milan, detailed here by the Dezeen blog. In it they mention that some of the key designers of the Memphis movement are seeing a resurgence of interest in their work and are contributing new pieces in the style. Make sure to scroll down and check out the Daisy chandelier.

Wallpaper - Brunschwig & Fils Staccato on Paper

I've been thinking about Memphis lately due to my favorite song, "Under the Milky Way" by The Church, and I got the blog title from one of the lyrics. Perhaps I'm happy that I now have options to create my own Memphis curtains, perhaps in a style like the wallpaper seen here.

When counterbalanced with a sense of restraint in furniture and surfaces, a statement pattern can bring a room to the next level.  Is there a style that you want to bring into your home but are scared of how to make it work? I'm eager to talk to you about it, as I often purport that your home is the place to display what you love, and I want to encourage you to make that happen.

Other links on the Memphis resurgence if you're interested:


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