“Good design” in recent years has been characterised by neutral tones, clean lines and a generally pared back approach. The terms “scandi” and “minimalist” have been broadly applied to a decluttered way of living, but all that space has made way for a new trend - Memphis design.
Well actually, it’s not new at all. Founded in the 80s, it followed on from the art-inspired Bauhaus movement. Austrian-Italian designer Ettore Sottsass brought together a close group of influential architects in Milan. During their first meeting, they had Bob Dylan’s “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again” playing on repeat in the background, inspiring the name and start of the explosive movement.
The radical style was known for its playful designs, often using asymmetrical shapes and contrasting colours. These loud moods charged their way through architecture, fashion and graphic design industries, paving the way for the bold experiments that we’re seeing more of again today. Let’s take a look at three stellar examples of how designers are embracing this jazzy aesthetic in contemporary ways.
French textile designer Camille Walala transforms public buildings and spaces with her bold, graphic style inspired by the contrasting shapes and colours of Memphis design. She’s been a household name in Shoreditch since she painted the facade of a nondescript building on the Silicon Roundabout with playful colour-blocked shapes, splashing life across the worn-out area.
For one of her most recent projects, she teamed up with Lego to build a lifesize playhouse in Coal Drops Yard, made up of more than two million pieces of a new product called Lego Dots. Spread across eight shipping containers, everything from the walls and floors to the rugs and furniture was customised in a distinctive mashup of Lego Dots and Walala’s exuberant patterns and colours.
Having ‘schneid’ is the German equivalent to being bold, the perfect name for this design studio that uses juxtaposing shapes in its graphic lighting and objects. Schneid takes a softer approach to the Memphis style by balancing jarring shapes with gentle colours, making it more accessible to the everyday home.
The Junit lighting collection is a great example of this, featuring playful customisable arrangements of geometric shapes stacked on top of one another. You can either get a pre-arranged version or work with the designers to develop your own unique arrangement.
Petite Friture - Jetlag wallpaper
This French design brand is known for its use of uplifting and surprising shapes. From airy pendant lights that look like wide brimmed floppy hats to graphic outdoor furniture in cobalt blue, Petite Friture has a varied collection created by some of the world’s most renowned designers. The thing they all have in common is that sense of experimentation.
One of their most pleasantly playful designs has got to be the Jetlag wallpaper, a black and white design covered in whimsical squiggles created by French illustrator Lisa Laubreaux. Her style is evocative of Aussie artist Keith Haring’s brush strokes, while capturing the spirit and animation of the Memphis group.
3 ways to bring this look into your home
- Splash around with primary colours - Memphis design is all about bringing opposing colours together so get bold with your choices and don’t worry too much about which ones “go well” together.
- Combine juxtaposing shapes - In the same way that you can mix and match opposing colours, you can do the same with shapes. Combine straight lines with soft curves to add something a little different to your space.
- Decorate with graphic prints - You can show off bold prints on a feature wall if you’re feeling brave or go for a little dash across cushion covers or a throw to jazz things up.