What is Memphis Design


Tired of the bold and clean style featured in both modern and contemporary design? You may fall in love with the bright colours, colourful patterns and unusual shapes of Memphis Design. If you do, you’ll be in good company – pop icon David Bowie was one of the movement’s biggest fans. This outrageous, often garish style is very hit and miss, but if you’re a fan it can create an eye-catching and unusual space that will generate discussion and admiration for years to come. But where did Memphis Design come from, what exactly is it and how can you use it effectively?


Memphis Design is a new style that only dates back to 1981. The 80s was a period of eclectic transformation, where previous trends were rejected but borrowed from, and new unusual technologies, materials and futuristic influences began to feature. The design movement began with a meeting in Milan, Italy, where designer Ettore Sottsass founded the ‘Memphis Design’ group named after a Bob Dylan song.

Like most art, the movement was a counter argument against the rigidity of modern and minimalism. Instead, Memphis Designers wanted to bring out the ‘radical, funny and outrageous’ – blending Art Deco geometry with pop art style colours and 1950s furniture chic.

The group debuted in 1981 at the Salone del Mobile of Milan, and found a big fan in Karl Lagerfield and subsequently David Bowie, who collected more than 400 pieces. While the style never really entered the mainstream thanks to its unashamedly unusual nature, it did appear in popular culture in films and TV shows such as Back to the Future II and Saved by the Bell.

Unfortunately, the style was relatively short lived. While there was an appetite for more colour in design, the often-garish nature of Memphis Design didn’t experience the success it needed to sustain itself. This, coupled with high individual prices for Memphis pieces, meant the trend was quickly over.



Like all design trends, however, Memphis is never truly ‘dead’. Instead, it informs and inspires a wide range of new designs. Anywhere that employs lots of spherical shapes, pop art palettes and bold patterns may be inspired by the style.

To use the style in your home, you can experiment with bold patterns on wall coverings. Use our Crystal Collection to really let the wallpaper shine through and turn up the chic factor, with our invisible plates not impacting on the pattern. Incorporating neon, primary and pastel colours into your home – generally as accent colours or for furniture as you will use patterns for flooring and wall coverings. Repeated patterns such as key shapes used again and again feature heavily.

Ultimately, it’s about getting things playful. Spherical and circular shapes are very popular in Memphis Design, so accenting your walls with the Dimensions Collection would be a great way to use Wandsworth in your Memphis Design-inspired scheme. Matt Black Dimensions plates on a white and black polka dot wall, for example, could create the type of fun, outrageous style Memphis Design aims for.

Remember, Memphis Design is a real ‘love it or hate it’ style – so feel free to either use just a little bit of the style to pay homage to 80’s culture or go full Memphis and really experiment. Whatever your result, it will add a bit of fun and excitement back into a space.

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