Today I'm revisiting Memphis Style and how it has evolved since it's inception. If you haven't read my first blog post on the definition of Memphis Style, check it out before you keep going. It's one of the most fascinating styles and even though you may have never heard the name, I guarantee you have seen it and probably more often than you realize.
Memphis style came on the scene right after the Modernism movement. Straight lines gave way to squiggles and curves; brown and orange color-palettes opened the door to brighter hues. It was an explosion of color, pattern and creativity.
The style became synonymous with the 80's and is surely in most memories of TV shows, malls and fashion of that era. But just like everything else, style is cyclical and we are seeing Memphis again in a BIG new way. This newer version is a little more palatable, a lot more calming, but still loads of fun. It's popping up ALL over too so if you are into interior design at all, you will want to keep your eyes peeled for this current trend.
I'm going to be calling this updated version, New Memphis. Here's a great example of how we are seeing it play out in 2023:
Remember the 5 Main elements of Memphis that I listed in my previous blog post on the topic?
They were: Post-modernism, bold colors, geometric shapes, pattern mixing and pop-culture references.
We are still seeing that in this New Memphis version. Notice the squiggles? The curved furnishings? The busy pattern of the plaster walls? There's a lot going on here but because the colors are simpler, the space feels less overwhelming. The biggest change to Memphis in 2023 is a much subtler color palette.
With New Memphis, when color is introduced, it's often neutral or monochromatic.
Or in the form of bold pops of color instead of the all-over explosion of colors we used to see.
The shapes and motifs are similar but the colors are dialed WAYYYYYY back. It makes me think how if 80's and 90's style had a baby, this would be it.
Another change: there's a lot more curves in this newer version. While squiggles and waves were always apart of Memphis--- they are brought to a whole new level now. The room above is a good example... there's hardly a straight line in sight.
New Memphis is still very playful and doesn't take itself seriously. I love how the traditional molding is accented by the wavy and exaggerated furnishings here.
Lastly, the pattern mix is a lot gentler. Instead of pattern on every surface you may get just a hint of one, or the colors are a lot less contrasting than the black and white or neons we used to see. I'm obsessed with this bathroom by Sarah Sherman Samuel. #swoon
Why these changes? After our hectic fast-paced days, New Memphis is a lot more calming on the senses. Because of this, it's easier to work into existing interior design choices we may already have in our homes. Additionally, we are still a tiny bit afraid of color and pattern and unsure how to use it at times. I do believe both those things are making a comeback after the neutral phase of approx. 2010-2019 but it's a slow simmer. My guess is that this style will continue to evolve, incorporating moodier deep colors along with it.
So what do you think? Do you like this style?
If so, I have a tip in case you're thinking, "I like this but I already have a totally different design direction in my home". To that I want to say: "Great! This is a perfect opportunity to play with mixing styles!". Because Memphis is so over-the-top, a little can go a long way. A fluted vase or accent table can compliment or contrast incredibly with a minimal or even ornate space. Let me show you how Memphis/Post-Modernism can be mixed with other styles:
Island Style + Post-Modernism
Coastal Style + Memphis:
Traditional + Post-Modern:
Parisian + Memphis:
I also want to point out that no version of Memphis (or any style) is wrong. You can choose the OG version, the newer version or any gradient between. Most of us like a mix of styles and truly good design is when we mix elements and make our home OURS. If you're really amazing, you might end up doing something no one has ever done before and wouldn't that be cool??!
So what do you think? Are you intrigued? Inspired? Disgusted? haha!
I will be adding little Memphis/Post-Modern touches to my house over the next year. I was really inspired by this recent room I saw combining it with my current Palm Beach style and I'm eager to meld the two a bit.
So, if you're like me and are ready to get your Memphis ON, I curated some of my favorite goods for you:
Did you learn anything from this? I would love to hear what you think and if you plan to adopt some of this trend. And if you can't get enough, I have a pin board with even more inspiration here.