Even if you've never heard the name "Memphis Group" before, you're doubtlessly familiar with the style it refers to. (Just think of the classic '80s styrofoam cup design with swipes of teal and purple, or, yes, the set of the classic kids' show, Pee-Wee's Playhouse). These iconic pop-cultural designs are all indebted to an even more iconic design movement, pioneered by the titular Memphis Group. But don't let the name fool you.
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In spite of sharing a name with a city in Tennessee, the Memphis Group actually started in Italy — helmed largely by Memphis Design pioneer Ettore Sottsass — with its additional international members coming together in Milan to forge the bold, colorful, and appealingly maximalist look that would later bear the name Memphis Milano.
Since its birth in the early '80s, Memphis has been a design movement with surprising staying power — perhaps because it's so unapologetically different from most of what's out there in the mainstream. Whatever its secret, the aesthetic is back in a big way, with surprising squiggles, whimsical lamps, and kindergarten-bright side tables coming back into fashion. Looking to bring a bit of Memphis Milano style home? Read on for our favorite sources.
Sometimes, mass-produced just won't do. When you're looking for something truly special to scratch that Memphis itch, turn to Chairish for true-vintage and other one-of-a-kind finds — including trend edits dedicated to top styles.
HAY's homeland in Denmark is far away from the Memphis Group's native Italy, but their love of bright primary colors and bold geometric forms are one and the same. Twisty, undulating shapes are always on hand at this Scandi design source.
Our pick: Pillar Candle, $55
CB2 tends to skew a bit more minimalist than the unabashedly bold look of the Memphis Group, but keep your eyes peeled and you might find a few treasures—like this objet d'art's delightful balancing noodle shapes, for one.
Our pick: Tangent Sculpture, $149
Urban has never met a trend it couldn't nail, and Memphis-inspired is no exception. Keep an eye on their rotating new arrivals for colorful pop art pieces, unique geometric shapes, and bold patterns you'll need to master the look.
Our pick: Mila Ceramic Stool, $199
Coming Soon has long been one of our favorite sources for delightfully off-kilter gifts and homewares, and its signature "you know it when you see it" aesthetic makes it a great spot to score Memphis-esque designs from glassware to furniture pieces — including some rare vintage finds that'll lend an unmistakable air of authenticity to your space.
Our pick: Chrome Cantilever Chairs (set of 2), $1,250
6. 1st Dibs
1st Dibs is another of our favorite sources for both vintage and new (but soon to be classic) pieces. Sure, some are splurge-y, but when you get the chance to own a timeless design icon, they're well worth the investment.
Our pick: Memphis Style High-Back Sculptural Chair, $2,200
If you're looking for the perfect hall runner or accent rug to elevate the Memphis vibes in an overlooked spot, look no further than ELOI. The brand's quirky and bright rugs are like an instant pick-me-up for any corner of the home.
Our pick: Rainbow Road Runner, $280
If you're only shopping YOOX for staples to enhance your closet, then you're seriously neglecting some of their best finds — art deco-inspired, terrazzo pieces for the home. This statement-making ashtray is a perfect example of the Memphis aesthetic because (spoiler alert) it was designed in 1985 by Maria Sanchez for Memphis Milano. And its limited-edition run by the group will make it even more of a conversation piece on your coffee table.
Emily Bihl is a freelance writer and sometimes-songwriter who can invariably be found rearranging furniture in a domicile somewhere along the Mississippi River. She lives with her black labrador Selkie and a small army of homemade ceramics, and has not willingly closed a browser tab since 2011.