04.–07.06.2023 #immcologne

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Bright and cheerful 80s design is staging a comeback

The Memphis style is conquering the hospitality and catering sector

Born in the 1980s, brash Memphis design is staging a comeback. You’ll come across it very often online, but it is also reappearing in more and more interiors, especially in restaurants and cafes. Find out here what defines the style, what market difficulties it had to contend with and why it now has enduring potential.

Furnitures in Memphis design

Bright colours and crazy shapes: The Memphis style injects life into everyday objects and makes them instantly recognisable. (Photo: Alex Suprun on Unsplash)

The controversial history of Memphis design

The revolutionary Memphis Group was founded in Milan by the Italian designer Ettore Sottsass in 1980 and existed until 1988. The group’s name is inspired by a Bob Dylan song: “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again”. The style differed greatly from the previous design standards accepted within high-class culture and was therefore seen as very controversial. With its loud design elements, it offered something to counter the respectable-looking 70s style: emotions. The reactions to the group’s first exhibition at the Milan furniture trade fair Salone del Mobile were overwhelmingly negative, although the Memphis Group also had enthusiastic followers. But the controversies achieved exactly what the collective had set out to do: Emotions dominated the discussion.

From a commercial perspective, the Memphis style didn’t prove to be profitable, despite the considerable attention that it attracted in prestigious design magazines. The excitement about the design trend prompted a growing crowd of imitations to appear on the market. This frustrated Ettore Sottsass and his fellow members, leading the group to disband in 1988. Nevertheless, these developments resulted in a style that is still highly recognisable and continues to serve as a source of inspiration to this day.

Why the Memphis style is resurging

The Memphis style is staging a comeback Its garishly coloured patterns are increasingly popping up on clothing and in digital art. Famous fashion houses like Dior and Missoni have based their recent collections around colourful, oversize pieces. In the digital sphere, growing numbers of Memphis-inspired user interfaces are appearing. Many websites today look similar, so graphic and web designers try to stand out from the crowd with almost chaotic-looking patterns and shapes. This trend is now spilling over into the real world.

Recently the Memphis style has also been experiencing a triumphant revival in interior design. There are several reasons behind this: People want to create a cheerful, vibrant atmosphere in their homes. But on the other hand, they value nostalgia and individualism highly. All of this is combined in the 80s design style, which is seen as carefree yet daring. In this way, Memphis patterns respond to the desire for individually designed interiors and foster a positive ambience.

Graphic design in memphis style

The playful shapes of the Memphis style are increasingly popular in graphic design. They are gradually spilling over into the real world – and into interior design. (Photo: Yash Bindra on Unsplash)

Loud colours: bright, brighter, Memphis

Daring shapes and loud colours characterise the Memphis style, very much in the spirit of “what doesn’t match will be made to match”. This is demonstrated by the famous Carlton bookcase , designed by Ettore Sottsass, or the Oceanic Table Lamp by Michele De Lucchi. The latter shows the influence of dynamic pop art to advantage. The black and white stripes, combined with bright pink and yellow, almost bring a fantastical animal shape to mind. In general, black and white patterns are a key feature of Memphis design. Often, they are paired with pastel-coloured interior design objects. Combinations like this turn the Free Form Side Table by Irem Baran into a real eye-catcher.

Sometimes small decorative objects such as vases, cups or candlesticks like the Candle Holder N4 | Blue by Maison Dada or the Calice vase by Ettore Sottsass are enough to recreate the Memphis style. This meant that even a ceramic toothpick holder by Matteo Thun was able to achieve enormous popularity.

Marble, wood, glass and plastic are often combined with each other. For instance, the geometric-design Atlas coffee table by Aldo Cibic is made from wood with a transparent glass top. The extravagant Memphis table by Dooq is manufactured entirely from marble. The terrazzo look , as seen in the Low Table Terrazzo Memphis by Acapulco Design, is another hallmark of the Memphis style.

Furniture in Memphis style

The extraordinary shapes and colours of the Memphis trend turn furnishings into eye-catching pieces and inject life into an interior. (Photo: Michael DeMarco on Unsplash)

What makes Memphis design so exciting

The Memphis style is being greeted with particular enthusiasm in the hospitality and catering sector. Growing numbers of restaurants and cafes now sport the characteristic Memphis patterns. The bright neon colours enhance the ambience, creating an interior design that catches diners’ attention. The look creates a futuristic and modern ambience on the one hand, while also catering to the need for a certain comfort, as it exudes an inviting familiarity for many people.

One thing is for sure: The aesthetic is unique and succeeds in combining surreal-looking objects with practical elements. Like the splat aesthetic or the vogue for waves and twirls , this trend is a reaction to the minimalist trends that have dominated interior design in recent years. Growing numbers of people today want offbeat shapes and bold colours – in short, a bit of visual fun. This is highly relevant because rarely in the past have individualism and positivity been so important as they are today.

An enduring and inspiring movement

Memphis design is more than just a short-lived trend. It embodies an entire decade of design and has inspired generations – and still does today. Currently, Memphis is staging a magnificent comeback, due in no small part to the positive energy that its unique designs exude. In contrast to the minimalist look, Memphis-inspired objects give the home a touch of cheerful light-heartedness with their combination of extravagance and nostalgia.

The trend is already firmly established in graphic and website design and on the walls of restaurants and cafes. And it’s taking off in home interiors, too. The possible combinations are so vast that there is still huge potential to create new objects. After all, anything goes with Memphis. The style has evolved into an exciting, enduring movement.

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