Memphis moves into the 21st Century

From the Resene colour inspiration – latest looks gallery

Just like that old adage goes – everything comes back around.

Once laughed off as one of many crazy choices of the 1980s, the loud colours and zany patterns of the Memphis design movement have snuck their way back into the Zeitgeist.

Invented in December 1980, the Memphis design movement emerged when a group of like-minded designers gathered one night in a tiny apartment in Milan. At the time, the style was reactionary to the austerity of modernism – and its resurgence today isn’t much different in that regard. Those who will find Memphis revival style appealing today are those who are bored of the paired down simplistic and minimalistic looks that have gained huge popularity since the turn of the century.

Memphis inspired design movement
Graphic lines for impact.
Paint: Walls in Resene Kandinsky with grid in Resene Wet N Wild. Floor in Resene Wet N Wild. Nightstand in Resene Secrets with drawer in Resene Wet & Wild. Large Plant Pot in Resene Jalapeno. Small Plant Pot in Resene Alabaster. Vase in Resene Jalapeno. Lamp in Resene Alabaster. Picture frame in Resene Alabaster. Accessories: Vitra Tip Ton Chair in White from Citta; Mikro Floor Rug from Freedom Furniture; Headphones in Metro Cobalt Blue, LED Desk lamp, Black Table Clock from Kmart; Red jumper and windbreaker from H&M; All other props are stylist’s own.

But what really set the Memphis movement apart is it’s unique energy, which carries a sense of excitement and playfulness. If bold colours and geometric patterns speak to you, a Memphis-revival theme can offer a fantastic opportunity to bring some eclectic vibrancy into your home and, above all, have some fun.

Mood board

Mood board: Background in Resene Wet N Wild with A4-sized draw down swatches (from left to right) in Resene Half Black White, Resene Secrets, Resene Jalapeno and Resene Kandinsky and a vase painted Resene Jalapeno.

The key to pulling off this kind of look today is to create a balance of colour and pattern with enough simplicity to keep the scheme from overwhelming. While the hues should be bold, its best to stick to two or three main colours and then mix in one of two neutrals. Although the scheme will be pulling its inspiration and theme from the 80s, these limitations will help the space feel more like a tribute as opposed to stuck in a time warp.

This radical throwback office pays special homage to the Memphis movement. The walls are painted Resene Kandinsky with a grid in electric blue Resene Wet N Wild. The easiest way to achieve the effect is to paint the wall in two coats of Resene Wet N Wild first, then mask off the grid using painter’s tape before painting a couple coats of Resene Kandinsky over top. The tape can be carefully removed once the wall is touch dry. Invest in good quality tape for the best results and use a utility knife along the edges of the tape for extra clean lines if you are concerned about the top layer of paint lifting.

Resene Wet N Wild has been continued from the base of the grid on to the floor while the plant pot and vase are painted Resene Jalapeno to highlight the reds in the artwork. The desk, lamp and picture frame are all painted Resene Half Black White to create a sense of continuity.

The statement rug marches to the beat of its own drum with its bold pattern, yet it still manages to play off the colours and lines present in the rest of the scheme. The ficus adds some freshness and greenery to break up the space while still feeling undeniably 80s in its own right. With its eye-popping colours and distinct illustrative style portraying one of the most popular icons of the era, the Bowie Art Print by Anna McKay fits the scheme perfectly and ties the whole look together.

Styling by Laura Lynn Johnston. Photography by Bryce Carleton. 2019

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