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These 10 Pieces Prove That Memphis Design Is Alive and Well
Squiggles? Eccentric geometric shapes? They’re all here, and more.
There’s no question that the last decade saw a revival of the Memphis Milano movement that captured the popular imagination. The collective—brought to life in the early 1980s by the Italian architect and designer Ettore Sottsass in reaction to the austerity of modernism—was known for its predilection for eye-catching asymmetry, Pop color palettes, and the incorporation of synthetic and composite materials, and these are the traits that reverberated with Instagram influencers and curators alike. From the 2016 Supreme collaboration with Italian designer and founding member Alessandro Mendini to the 2017 Met Breuer exhibition “Ettore Sottsass: Design Radical,” the unabashedly eighties design movement was suddenly everywhere.
Now, in a new decade, the Memphis movement hasn’t quite relinquished its influential grip on the work of emerging talents. “I often think of Sottsass saying functionalism is not enough, design must also be sensual and exciting,” says Brooklyn-based designer Asa Pingree, who describes the movement’s influence on his work as an “ideological connection.” The Stockholm designer Gustaf Westman concurs: “My objects are supposed to be friendly and fun, and hopefully are an escape from reality in some sort of way. That’s what the Memphis group did, too.”
Many contemporary designers are interpreting the patterns and colors of Memphis in their own fresh ways, evolving the collective’s design vernacular and customizing it for the way we live today. From Italy to Brooklyn, here are 10 of our favorite Memphis Milano–inspired pieces, any of which would surely bring some liveliness and spunk to your home.
The curved shapes of this voice-activated lamp by Soft-Geometry would add a subtle Memphis touch to any room.
You may have seen the Curvy Mirror by Swedish designer Gustaf Westman on your Instagram feed of late. This larger-than-life stunner—ideal for leaning against a bare wall—takes its cues from Ettore Sottsass’s similarly shapely Ultrafragola mirror.
This floor lamp by Mario Bottiglieri will undoubtedly, ahem, catch the eye of anyone who walks in the room. And to complement the eclectic striped lampshade, you’ll find—why not?—a candleholder on its opposite side.
These pastel bookends from Bi-Rite Studio are sold individually. Mixing and matching is a must!
The multicolored, undulating stripes of this Pieces Home rug will be the focal point of any room, in any size.
This chair was a collaboration between the artist Andrea Forapani and the Swiss multimedia artist Tania Grace Knuckey. Its hand-painted squiggles give it a strong tie back to the Memphis movement.
Ellen Van Dusen’s eponymous line features Memphis-inspired textiles, including hand towels and bedding sets.
This ultra-whimsical console table by Objects for Objects features tubular legs running through its organically shaped shelves.
Trueing’s “Noodle” hook in pink and green glass is as practical as it is extravagant.
Designer Asa Pingree specializes in fine lines and silhouettes; his Monitor Stool pairs a low-slung powder-coated steel base with a pleasingly rotund velvet pouf. Just try keeping your hands off this beauty.