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The Reinvented Memphis Trend + 31 Products We Are Into



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I think we can safely say that there is no style that won’t make a comeback – no matter how much we dislike it at this very second. They just all come back, often in a different form or an updated color palette but at some point in our life every trend will return.  I once joked that the only thing in fashion that I didn’t think would ever come back is the bolo tie, but I was wrong (not that I embraced that trend, please). So it should be no surprise that the Memphis Trend has been popping its bright, geometric head up lately. It wasn’t even very big or well-loved the first time around (in the 80’s) but that doesn’t mean that its all bad (in fact there are some awesome pieces on our roundup).

But first, lets revisit the horror:

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Wow. That furniture sure had a LOT of character. I’m terrified to say that if I were 8 years old in the 80’s I probably would have been into it. I love me some ‘funky’ furniture (hell, I do own a hand chair after all). And what little kid wouldn’t love this – I read a quote that it’s Memphis is if Bauhaus had a baby with Fisher Price.

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While many elements of the 80’s are certainly back in home design (with the 90’s also happening, too) I think it’s safe to say that the 80’s was not a decade where ‘timelessness’ really mattered and generally it wreaked havoc in fashion and home (P.S. I’m getting the new ‘perm’ soon … and I’m absolutely not joking.)

They like REALLY designed things. Going all out like this is so fun and I’d love, love, love to be in this bathroom for a very short time.

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No words.

Now in this photo, below you can see a glimmer of hope. When you take most of the color out of it it becomes far more interesting and almost attractive… the 80’s referenced art deco a lot and I’m very into that original style.

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This is one of the better versions from the 80’s – Karl Lagerfield’s Monaco apartment.

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Totally normal…. but pretty awesome. You couldn’t pay me to live there but I would absolutely airbnb the heck out of that place for a week and the kids would think we went to disneyland.

This guy, Dennis Zanone, REALLY likes this Memphis style, so much so that he has amassed the largest collection in the world in his Tennessee home. I wonder if it’s because there maybe aren’t a lot of competitive “collectors”. Here is a link that talk more about him and his collection.

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So how could that possibly be back, even a little bit? Let’s break down the elements – geometric shapes, bright colors, color-blocking and a lot of WACK. Sound familiar?

It may not be what I’m super into right now (or you) but those things are trending but in a more modern 2017 way.

I think that Orlando’s design of Design Milk Jaime Derringer’s bedroom is certainly 80’s inspired,could even lean Memphis and I love it:

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We’ve notice it popping around more and more in editorials …

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I love this shot below. Yes there is bright red and some ‘funky’ happening, but it’s restrained enough with sculptures that are balancing it in a neutral color palette.

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The color blocking of the door, the melon cart and that piece of art are all we need to get the feeling of Memphis without the you know, total insanity.

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It’s still pretty terrifying to be honest. And terrifying things always create good content, right? So we gave ourselves the challenge – could we create a collection of contemporary products that feel Memphis that we actually like and would own or buy for a client?

And we did.

Emily Henderson Trends Design Eighties Mempis Get The Look 11

1. ‘Fun Patterns with Pink’ Print | 2. Patterned Stool | 3. Winslow Sleeper Sofa | 4. Zig Zag Floor Lamp | 5. Black Coffee Table | 6. Rug | 7. Confetti Throw Pillow | 8. Black and White Sprinkle Pillow | 9. Grid Pillow | 10. Lips Throw Blanket | 11. Terrazzo Halfmoon Arc | 12. Neon Pink Candlestick | 13. Bottle Vase | 14. Buckle Jar | 15. Shape Up 5 Piece Chandelier | 16. Margot Pyramid Table Mirror | 17. Charcoal Dinner Plate | 18. Plastic Cereal Bowl | 19. Grid High Ball Glass | 20. Tea Towels Set | 21. Circle Wire Hook | 22. Triangle Wire Hook | 23. Pink Chair | 24. Striped Box Side Table | 25. Yellow Digital Print | 26. Neo Laminati Chair No. 34 | 27. Janis Metal Shelf | 28. Platform Bowl | 29. Scribble Vase | 30. Yellow Lamp | 16. Wave Trivet

Now not all of these would work in my current house (or perhaps “none of them” would be more accurate ) but let’s just say we had a client funky enough to go for this look, I could absolutely get behind it.

Are you slightly convinced that some references from this Memphis are back and awesome? Or are you over and out?

Fin Mark


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Too whackadoodle for me! Fun post though. Your interpretation for today’s client shows how talented you are!

Mary Catherine

Agreed! It’s one thing to have great taste–another thing entirely to be able to deliver someone else’s style and vision if it’s not your personal fave. So well done, Emily!



Tracey (From KY)

I just can’t! Nothing homey or cozy about this style.


I would totally buy all of those pieces you linked! I love FUN! As long as it makes your heart sing, that’s all that matters! I’m very much a color/geometric/color blocking girl! Not a fan of the old photos, but love the new and improved!

Terrible! Unless it’s for a kid’s playroom.


I can’t say that I like this trend… But it does have an oddly satisfying/calming affect that I can only describe as nostalgic for my childhood. It reminds me of the old McDonald’s playplaces and Discovery Zones; something I loved very much in the early 90s.


Yes!! I totally miss those bright McDonald’s from my youth. Nowadays, the McDonald’s restaurants I go to with my kids are all decorated in brown and taupe decor – like they are really trying to be modern and Starbucksian. No offense, McD’s, but your McCafe is not why I visit you – it’s the $3 Happy Meals!


I thought Discovery Zone too! It definitely gives me those nostalgic vibes as well, but I definitely could not get behind it for my home. I’m glad my parents never embraced any of these trends in the 80’s, ha!


YES! I was totally thinking about the skating rink we used to go to every week ask kids. haha

That said, I could get on board with some of the pieces you linked to. Not typically my style, but I think we’ve seen a lot of restraint over the last several years in design and I’d like to see more fun and whimsy. Kindah Khalidy is one of my favorite artists right now and I would die to have a piece of hers… and I feel like it nods to this design style.


WOW. It’s like the complete opposite end of the spectrum from all that California casual. At some level, some color is a welcome relief after all those white walls and pieces of wood. But a little can go a LONG way. (But the Fisher Price bathroom insight was genius). Weirdly, it reminds me of some very bright and modern youth hostels I stayed in in Europe at various points in the 90s. But there too, there was a lot of white to balance out all that color. But ultimately, I am a “zen” on your design quiz and like a… Read more »


I think the modern interpretation is interesting and more restrained than the original (like you said). It’s not for me personally, but I enjoy looking at the new interpretation.


Firstly, i didn’t realize this was called “Memphis,” so thanks for the education! It’s so fun to look back. I distinctly remember my neighborhood McDonalds (in Ohio) had FULL ON Memphis decor through the 90s.

I think Orlando’s triangular artwork in his new space lean Memphis and i LOVE it, but i’m not ready for the crazy primary colors.

Also curious, when i was house hunting some years ago, I remember seeing a few custom builds from the 80s with glass block shower surrounds — sometimes they were circular. Was that an output of the “Memphis” trend?


oh my goodness! I reference McD’s in my comment below before I read your comment! (Also in Ohio.) HA! I had a McD’s bday party in ’86 and everything.


Emily! I actually love this look as you’ve illustrated in your board! The craziness works as long as you temper it with a couple of neutrals.
Oddly enough, I feel like Kelly Wearstler hits this vibe pretty consistently (does she still have her blog, My Vibe My Life?) Just throw a couple of brass busts of various nudes in repose and you have it.


My thought exactly!!!! Kelly is modern Memphis for sure.

We asked for color:) I hated all the full on 80’s Memphis pictures, and wasn’t really digging many of the scaled back current day versions…except I do like the kitchen with the teal/turquoise door. It’s a good exercise to identify what elements I like even in trends that don’t.

I’ve always loved Kandinsky and a lot of his pieces fit right in with this trend.


Not feeling this style, even the modern version of it. Well-written post though.

After Googling, I don’t think someone could pay me enough to undergo a modern perm – I think it would take around $2k of the salon paying me before I’d do it. Same for the blorange (blonde + orange) hair trend that’s having a moment. May work for 1 to 5% of people, but not me.


This gives me anxiety. NOOO


oh my. I have a physical reaction to each photo – makes me nauseous! Born in ’81…but that’s pretty much the only 80s that are in my blood. (Although, we went to this amazing doctors office when I was a kid … and it had ALL of this style of furniture plus funhouse mirrors, and we loved it.) But, now, I see the red and yellow and bright colors and, yes, it takes me instantly back to the 80’s — directly to a McDonald’s (or to pee-wee’s playhouse).


In small doses, mainly more color-blocking than anything else, I can get into it. (your image with the blue and marigold color-blocked “office” above) does this REALLY well. I love how they’re referencing the style but giving it a fresh perspective and sometimes bohemian edge.


Also, I LOVE Orlando’s design of Jaime Derringer’s bedroom, and that reminds me…. What’s going on with her living room/dining room refresh that you guys posted about so long ago? I’m dying to see the finished product. I can’t wait to see the custom dining room rug (and get the deets on where to do this) as well as the Hoffman chairs around the table, etc. Pretty please on an update of that project?!


Um, I think that second terrible picture is from the movie “Ruthless People”! (Why do I know that and not the plot of any Shakespeare comedy?) I can’t get on board with any of this stuff; it’s so cartoony that it’s exhausting. But good for you for trying to make it less horrible.


Um, I think that second terrible picture is from the movie “Ruthless People”! (Why do I know that and not the plot of any Shakespeare comedy?) I can’t get on board with any of this stuff; it’s so cartoony that it’s exhausting. But good for you for trying to make it less horrible!




It’s awful. All of it.


I do not love it. Certain elements (vases, pillows, and small hard goods) remind me a lot of Oh Joy in a good way. Come to think of it the pink sofa does too! Orlando did a wonderful job on the client room with the style.


I thought the same! And also! So is their style considered ‘Memphis’? I never knew the name for this trend, and although I’m not a huge fan, I have loved looking at the Oh Joy and designs!! They’re so fun!


I like the Memphis style some – the bright colors and clean geometric lines really appeal to me. But when the furniture gets so bizarre you can’t use it, and the colors look like the inside of an 8-pack of crayons, it starts to be way too much.

Thanks for this post! I never new this style had a particular name.


Love all of the modern examples (though in my own home I prefer more complicated colors than the pure primary red/blue/etc) and all of your products you picked. Had never heard of this style specifically before but will definitely keep an eye out for it in the future, since graphic + bold + intense color is really what I shoot for at home!


Not my style at all but I know it’s just the thing for some. I am in a point in my life that timeless is more attractive. I guess that leads to the discussion of what is truly timeless…


Um, after the mention of getting the new ‘perm’ that’s all I wanted to hear more of!


I’ll second that!


Ha! Me too! I had to google it. I’d love to hear about that, Emily! I’m naturally curly (very!) (similar to Shakira’s curly curly hair) but so interested. Also, I thought this post was really fun, even if I’m not into it! Loved it!



Kathryn E.

DItto. The word “perm” scares me more than anything in this post. (Which I enjoyed very much for all the colors and graphic elements, btw.) But “perm” is one of those hopeful words that one thinks will be great and then is filled with so much regret. Tell me more.

Agreed on all accounts!

Does anyone remember the “body wave” perm? I never got it, but my friend with straight hair got it done and it looked pretty good!


haha yes! tell us about this perm!?!


I do miss that picture of you with the wild and curly hair that used to be on the front page of the blog! I don’t know if I would venture into permland again – most of the pics I could find online of this “new perm” just look like my hair airdried and unstyled, but I’m totally interested!

I also require more information about this perm ???? (but thanks to other commenters now I also have to go Google “blorange trend” brb)


Fun post! While I do like *some* of the pieces you highlighted, I think it is safe to say we do NOT need a full breakdown on how to get this look. That said, I’ll allow another to completely disagree 🙂

It’s actually looking really fresh and good, crazy how updated trends end up doing that!

Characters & Carry-ons


Really into this trend!


Gah, this is a bit too cuckoo for me.

BUT, I do totally appreciate the design education and the featuring of different design styles. Your interpretation of Memphis for the modern client is brilliant, well done!


Peewee’s Playhouse. I find it overstimulating personally, but there’s a lid for every pot.


YES!! I went directly to Pee Wee’s Playhouse!! Man, I appreciate art history, but the Memphis style… I just can’t.


The 80’s are totally back in design and fashion! I like elements of it but over all its not my style. Joy Cho reminds me a lot of this style! I think it can be well done but it is super easy to over-do.

ew. no. the only good thing about it is that it reminds me a little of the diner in Saved by the Bell. And Saved by the Bell was such a fun show and fun time. 🙂


Minus the primary colors, I love it! Does that make it not Memphis, then? There’s something TNG Star Trek about it that I’m really into.


Not. Gonna. Happen. The 80’s need to stay far away.


I’m kind of amazed that no one has referenced Pee Wee’s Playhouse!


I have to ask, what is “the new ‘perm'”? I’ve always wanted wavy hair, but I feel like perms are considered out of style, and I don’t know how many stylists can do them. Are perms coming back in style in LA? Are they bigger, looser curls?


Ha! What a fun post. After 4 years of design school and 3 years in the commercial design world and I’ve never heard of this!? I suppose the style isn’t a gleaming example of high design but I do love your modern take. Good work!

Pee Wee’s Playhouse!


I don’t think I would ever commit to this look, but this is a great post. I love seeing your interpretation of old trends–please consider doing more of these. Plus, I would even buy that CB2 coffee table. I echo the other comments about the comfort of the 1980s in some of these photos–I too had a pang of nostalgia.


“Let’s revisit the horror ” hahahaha


While I like the photo with the green door and blocky art (since it’s not very Memphis at all) the rest is just awful. There’s too much pattern and primary colours to be restful at all. Too bizarre for me but to each their own 🙂


wow, I can’t think of a style I dislike more! But agreed, stripped of color it is somewhat “better” and leans deco. It’s interesting that so much of the shapes in modern jewelry design seem very inspired by this trend. and it works amazingly well. how?!

thanks for this post! but now I’m going to pinterest some Big Sur homes to clean my palate 😉

(omg, new perm? whaaaat?)

Diane Jaynes

If you want to see a whole house decorated in the Memphis Style, check out the movie Ruthless People with Bette Midler and Danny De Vito. The furnishings are an additional cast member. A fun post, Emily.


Nooooooooooooooo! Make it stoooop!


ever see the artsy tinker toys, “ZOLO”? Memphis style reminds me of ZOLO. It’s, as they say, “a lotta look” but also kind of fun in small doses (either in time or in space!)


Definitely not for me, but to each her own. I could see somebody having fun with this style, but not moi. 🙂


Nope can’t do it…I feel like all of these except the 2017 bedroom are giving me anxiety. This is a trend that should go away!! All of these rooms look like every one of the fresh prince of Bel-Air’s tee shirts.


Would love a post on which elements of the 80’s and 90’s are back that wouldn’t necessarily put you into this Memphis zone. I grew up in the 80’s/90’s and my parents have recently retired and are going through the whole “get rid of all the things” phase. Just wondering if there is anything worth salvaging or should we just let it all die? Specifically, what’s your take on lacquered furniture? Only appropriate you think if you want to lean Memphis?


agreed. that would be a great post.


I am totally OUT, but I do love Orlando’s bedroom design… So maybe I just like to look at really refined versions of this?


Gag me with a spoon.

Reminds me of PeeWee’s Playhouse!

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