The Return to Memphis

The style of the short-lived Memphis Group, an Italian design and architecture cohort, was simply unmistakable. Their divisive output, which debuted at the 1981 Milan furniture fair, embodied the garish appeal of a decade style forgot. 

Their furniture was colourful, kitschy and exaggerated, which was evident in the fact they stacked slanted rows of cheap plastic laminates and called it a bookshelf. Led by founder Ettore Sottsass – the collective decided that geometric shapes made great table legs and black-and-white stripes seamlessly worked with lemon-yellow circles. 

Avidly collected by the likes of Karl Lagerfeld, Sofia Coppola and David Bowie, the signature clash of busy patterns and synthetic materials pervaded every aspect of popular culture. While their designs were created in the 1980s, the colourful geometric style became most popular and widely accepted in the 1990s, where it influenced furniture, architecture and household items.

It was in the very early 90s that I came across the Rockstar playfulness of the boxing ring bed – I was literally floored. Now, some 30 years later, their unbridled influence is returning and once again finding itself a home in contemporary design. 

The perfect example is IKEA’s Adelhet candle holders, which come in ice cream colours and have handles shaped like slices of lemon, or Tom Dixon’s latest Swirl collection, which feature a clash of terrazzo and colour. 

After so many years of grey and beige, people are hungry for colour again as it’s a great way to make a stylish impact on any living space.