Memphis Milano


The 80s isn’t generally thought of as a decade of high design; from scrunchies and crimped hair to neon and shoulder pads, it was an era that makes a lot of people cringe.  The Memphis design movement was one of the few exceptions to the 80s rule.

Founded in 1981 by Ettore Sottsass, Memphis Milano was a reaction to the darker, more minimal design of the 70s.  The group included writers, architects, and designers who created furniture, materials, and objects.  They were all over the map, and their influence was global.

Their goal was to create furniture and objects that defied boundaries.  The idea was that any one piece could be placed in any given space in a way that would intentionally clash/mesh with the surrounding items in a just right sort of way.  The Memphis designers wanted to break out of the rigid rules of previous schools of design, and through the use of   bright colors and intense patterns Memphis pieces fit into any space by essentially not fitting.  A little of it goes a long way, but in the most excellent direction!

Sottsass left the movement in 1985 and it dismantled in 1988.  Lots of people still hate Memphis, but more and more are loving it.  I think it’s ripe for a comeback.



Shiro Kuramata

Shiro Kuramata (b. 1934 in Tokyo), studied architecture at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, and then went on to trains as a cabinetmaker at the Kuwasawa Institute of Design in Tokyo.  After graduation, Kuramata worked for the firm San-Ai from 1957-64 before he founded his own firm, Kuramata Design Office, in Tokyo in 1965.  His creations were groundbreaking (though none of them look all too comfortable to me!).

During the 1970s he started to develop a true following in the world of furniture design as a result of his creations for Memphis in Milan.  His pieces were smart, unique, and incorporated unexpected materials in the most beautiful of ways.

In the 1980s Kuramata even began to explore interior design, creating several boutiques for fashion designer Issey Miyake.

Shiro Kuramata died in Tokyo in 1991.  What a cool dude.