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Memphis minimalism


From the Resene colour inspiration – latest looks gallery

The Memphis Movement is back and better than ever!

Known for its use of bright primary colours, geometric shapes and dynamic patterns, the Memphis style was developed by the founder of the Memphis Group, designer Ettore Sottsass in 1981, Milan. The group of designers and architects blended Pop Art with Art Deco to create a distinct Postmodern style that still has bearing in the design world today. Almost forty years on, the Memphis style is back in vogue and is influencing everything from fashion houses such as Dior and Missoni to inspiring Mendini’s bold range of Supreme skate decks and apparel.

Project photo

Memphis minimalism moodboard

Memphis minimalism moodboard

Memphis Movement - minimalist lounge

Moodboard: Background in Resene Quarter Concrete with Resene A4 drawdown paint swatches in (from left to right) Resene Element, Resene Concrete, Resene Double Concrete, Resene Half Concrete and Resene Quarter Concrete with hex dish in Resene Triple Concrete, wave dish in Resene Alabaster and candlestick in Resene Element.

This minimalist lounge is Memphis at its most sophisticated. With walls in varying strengths of Resene Concrete, a frosted silver grey, the space is both elegant and interesting. A minimalist approach uses bold achromatic interpretations of original Memphis designs. This allows freedom of experimentation in the space, alluding to original designs while powerfully contemporising them. By paring down the design to incorporate a monochrome look, it stops the space from becoming overwhelming and allows the eye to move freely between the striking architectural pieces.

A highlight of this stylish room is the wall design, in which free flowing lines in Resene Concrete wend their way toward the ceiling from the lower half of the wall. A classic Memphis trend, this design presents the signature curves of the Art Deco era in a decidedly postmodern way. Subtlety is achieved thanks to the very minor differences in tone between the Resene Concrete lines and the Resene Half Concrete wall, adding a sense of movement without detracting from the space. Working seamlessly with the postmodern décor, these squiggles also have the added benefit of vertical movement, giving the room a sense of height and the impression of larger space.


Accessories: Wood lamp and ball cushion from Bohzali. Glass and metal bubble lamp from Citta. Rollie Pollie Chairs from David Shore. Smoked and black glass bubble vases and circle candle holder from H&M Home. Circle vase from Kmart. Paint: Upper wall in Resene Half Concrete. Lower wall and squiggle lines in Resene Concrete. Floor in Resene Quarter Concrete. Hall table in Resene Concrete. DIY coffee table in Resene Triple Concrete (alt version has legs in Resene Element). Circle vase and tiny vase in Resene Soothe. Tiny bud vase in Resene Triple Concrete. Circle candle holder and wiggle tray in Resene Half Sauvignon. Large bulb vase, ribbed vase and lacey dish in Resene Merlot. DIY artwork in Resene Half Sauvignon, Resene Triple Concrete and Resene Soothe (pink version) and Resene Concrete, Resene Triple Concrete and Resene Element (black version). Turned wooden candle holders in Resene Element.

Bold design was the epitome of the Memphis Movement and is easy to recreate today with a few simple materials. This striking, curvy coffee table uses a single sheet of MDF and one mailing tube. Effortless design is achieved by cutting the MDF in a curved shape and painting the table in monochrome colours, such as Resene Triple Concrete with tube legs in contrasting Resene Element. The advantage to creating a coffee table yourself is that you can make it to specific design specifications so it blends seamlessly with your existing furniture. Try cutting the table in a unique shape to wrap around a corner or lounge suite.

If you’re a lover of colour but not ready to go full-blown Memphis just yet, Resene has a wide range of muted pastels perfect for incorporating into designs such as these. Start with a monochrome palette as your base, think crisp Resene Half Merino and deep Resene Double Foundry, then add in splashes of colour through décor and DIY artwork. Pastels that work well in modern and minimalist spaces often have a warmer hue that gives neutral space its personality. Relax with a lower wall in Resene Soothe, a dusty umber red-toned neutral, or incorporate smooth Resene Half Sauvignon into your colour palette for an extra dash of warmth. Other hues that work well include Resene Merlot and other soft, velvety reds.

If you’re ready to go big in your space, use chunky furniture accompanied by a bold and vibrant colour scheme. Pair cheerful Resene Galliano walls with lines or geometric patterns in bright pink Resene Scrumptious or rich Resene Half Resolution Blue. Layer interesting textures, including pinstripe and chequered, to create a space brimming with postmodern flair.

Paint project

DIY curvy coffee table

You will need:

  • 1 sheet of MDF 1200mm long x 800mm wide x 5mm thick
  • 1 mailing tube (150mm diameter x 950mm long)
  • Pencil
  • Jig saw or similar
  • Hacksaw or similar
  • Fine grit sandpaper or sanding block
  • Measuring tape
  • Wood glue, hot glue or super glue
  • Resene Quick Dry
  • Resene Lustacryl tinted to your choice of colour – we used Resene Triple Concrete
  • 2 x Mini smooth surface roller (100m wide)
  • Paint tray
  • Resene testpot brush

DIY curvy coffee table

Step-by-step instructions:

  1. Use your pencil to draw your curvy shape on to your sheet of MDF, using as much of the surface area as possible.

  2. Use a jig saw to cut out your curvy shape. Gently sand down any rough edges and use a clean, dry cloth to wipe away any dust.

  3. Measure and mark the side of your mailing tube into three equal parts to achieve your desired table height. For best results, mark the measurements all the way around your tube. Using your hacksaw, cut through the mailing tube using your marks as a guide so that you end up with straight, level cuts. Gently sand down any rough edges and use a clean, dry cloth to wipe away any dust.

  4. Prime all surfaces in one coat of Resene Quick Dry, allowing it to dry completely before moving on. Use a smooth surface mini roller for the tabletop and a Resene testpot brush for the tubes.

  5. Using a smooth surface mini roller for the tabletop and a Resene testpot brush for the tubes, paint all primed surfaces in two coats of Resene Lustacryl tinted to your choice of colour – we used Resene Triple Concrete. For a different look, paint your tabletop in a different colour from your tubes (which will become your table legs). Allow the paint to dry fully before moving on.

  6. With your tubes standing upright, in a wide v-formation, place your tabletop on top of them to make sure you like the placement of your tube legs, that the weight of the tabletop is evenly distributed and its surface is level. Adjust as needed, and once you’re happy with where they are, use a pencil to lightly mark their placement on the bottom of the tabletop.

  7. Turn your tabletop over so that it is lying flat on the floor – use a Resene drop cloth to protect it and your floor from scratches or drips. Apply wood glue, hot glue or super glue around the top edge of each of your tubes and stick them firmly to the underside of the tabletop where you marked their placements. If using wood glue, you may want to weigh each leg down with a heavy book while the glue dries so that you get good contact between the two surfaces. Allow the glue to dry fully before flipping your table over and using it.

Project by Melle van Sambeek. Photography by Bryce Carleton. 2022


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Colours shown on this website are a representation only. Please refer to the actual paint or product sample. Resene colour charts, testpots and samples are available for ordering online.   See measurements/conversions for more details on how electronic colour values are achieved.