Eight contemporary designs that echo the color and joy of Sottsass's postmodern movement


Long Live Memphis

It goes without saying that midcentury modernism has been a style mainstay for more than a decade. And now—just as it happened half a century ago—a counter movement has arisen, driven by contemporary designers looking to rock the boat, go bold, and shake up a design world that may have gone a bit stale with its overwhelming adoration of all things pared-back and functionalist. Yes, we’re talking about the growing resurgence of Memphis; that exuberant late-20th-century backlash that was all about wild pops of color, voluminous silhouettes, and outsized geometric solids.

While we love a beautiful teak sideboard as much as the next design lover, we’re also drawn to these emerging designers’ points of view, as they advocate for bringing in a bit of fun to spice things up. Perfectly elegant taste is great, but life’s more enjoyable when you can wonder, play, and laugh a little! These 8 pieces represent a range of leading-edge takes on the iconic postmodernist style—you’ve never seen Memphis look this refined!

 

Young German designer Moritz Bannach takes a distinctive shape that could just as easily be minimalist and gives it a Memphis flair with his pop-inspired palette with the Alerio Dining Table. A statement piece that’s all about bold geometric form and joyful, unrestrained color—Sottsass would be proud.

 

Spanish design studio Masquespacio says their stunning sofa, table, and puff designs are inspired by contemporary visual culture, but we also see a liberal dose of the inflated forms that typified Memphis. The palette might be slightly more grown-up than the original Memphis primary colors, but nevertheless we’re getting a definite phantasmogorical vibe from this delightful ensemble.

 

May Arratia  is another Spanish designer whose work synthesizes a postmodernist vibe with contemporary materials and a bit of glam. The metallic sheen of these aeronautical grade aluminium legs positions the stunning Mykonos Sofa right at the intersection of another resurgent style; Art Deco. And we’re all the way into it.

 

The Monumental Devotion Stool is what you get when neo-Memphis forms meet a clean, Swedish sensibility. Matz Engdahl transforms the juxtaposed shapes and the mix of color-blocking and pattern with his restrained palette; it’s postmodernism come of age.

 

The Anemone Armchair by Italian architect Giancarlo Zema brings a blast of color into any interior—more than enough to wake up eyes grown accustomed to muted modernist woods, glass, and tubular steel. Fun, pop-inspired, and outlandish, the piece embodies the sense of freedom and wit that was so central to Memphis.

 

The sculptural PARA(D) Chair by French studio Nova Obiecta is part pop-chic and part playground equipment, in the best possible way. Bursting with personality and a sense of fun, the exaggerated proportions and in-your-face color combo of this unique lounge chair cheerfully hark back to the heyday of Memphis.

 

The Hector Lamp by US-based design studio DAMM takes a nostalgic look at their 1980s childhood memories and melds them seamlessly with the intellectual influences of the Memphis Group and how the husband and wife team’s encounters with radical design shaped their design ethos. Strange to think that an aesthetic that started out being so revolutionary could now be considered retro chic—anyway, we’re fans!

 

Last but not least, this adorable vase by founding Memphis member Nathalie du Pasquier for Bitossi is what we might think of as a gateway drug for future Memphis-fans. This contemporary, limited edition, hand-painted piece would easily assimilate in any interior, while bringing a hint of the joie de vivre that originally made Memphis famous.

 

* All images courtesy of the designers and studios

 

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