Memphis is Mainstream (we’re talking about the design trend)!

Remember the Bob Dylan song, “Stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis blues again?”

I know, I know. What does Bob Dylan have to do with interior design?

Well, I was working on space concepts for a small tech company last week and researching one of my FAVORITE trends - Memphis. During the first (and all night) 1980 meeting in Milan of a group of furniture, product and textile designers, Dylan’s song was playing on repeat and the name “Memphis” stuck! The Memphis Group, was born and took hold as the hottest new design trend.

What elements make Memphis?

So what is Memphis exactly? It was often described as a shotgun wedding between Bauhaus and Fisher-Price. Yep, THAT Fisher-Price. Any of us who grew up in the 80’s will recognize Memphis as part of our childhood. Think Saved by the Bell, Pee Wee's Playhouse, MTV, and bubble fonts. That’s Memphis design style!

Like the birth of many creative trends, the Memphis Group was reacting against specific cultural and design norms. It was 1980 when browns, sweet florals, mid-century, and minimalism had prevailed for decades. They wanted to buck the art snobs and bring out the radical, outrageous, and funny aspects of early 80s subculture. They incorporated bright colors, strong geometric shapes and surprise elements, like sphere and pyramid legs on tables. They used cheap “low brow” materials like plastic and terrazzo and nubby textiles instead of lux leathers and opted for simple lines like squiggles and marks.

Memphis is freedom, democracy, and playfulness with an Italian touch.

The Memphis blues are back!

A renewed spirit of freedom, a celebration of diversity, and an excitement for the unorthodox has been bringing Memphis back since 2010. Memphis designs served as inspiration for the Fall/Winter 2011–2012 Christian Dior haute couture collection, the Winter 2015 Missoni collection, recent West Elm designs, and the late Karl Lagerfeld’s apartment. Musician David Bowie was also a major collector of Memphis; after his death in 2016, his collection was auctioned off at Sotheby's for a total of £1,387,000 ($1,756,011.35).

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With home trends following fashion trends, home owners are more open to large statement pieces, whimsical designs, soft curvy furniture, and splashes of color. I was recently inspired to create a Memphis-inspired trend for a tech company who wanted to bring more energy and playfulness into their space.

Growing up in the 80s + 90s, I have a special place in my heart for Memphis. It brings back memories of dancing to MTV and watching Zack Morris with my sister. Even now, it subtly finds its way into my designs.

If you are interested in integrating a little Memphis or any other design trend into your projects, our team is ready to curate the space you want, need, and love. We know you will be excited. We always are!

Nelly Arnold is the owner of personalspace. She coaches clients to build self-confidence through the power of interior design. Contact her at nelly@findpersonalspace.com.

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Nelly Arnold