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What the 1980s taught us about interior design

This collection from Habitat echoes Memphis Design with its playful aesthetic.
This collection from Habitat echoes Memphis Design with its playful aesthetic.

You don’t get a lot of zany these days. It’s not used much in conversation let alone in interior design and yet in the 1980s we couldn’t get enough of it.

Zany was the word used to describe Memphis Design and chances are that although you may not have heard of it, you’ll know it when you see it and may even have made it part of your life in some way.

Jean Colour Block Desk Lamp, £28, Habitat.

Think bright colours, bold shapes, squiggly lines and cake sprinkles. It was playful and pushed boundaries with haphazard furniture arrangements, clashing palettes and plastics.

Created by the Memphis Design Group in Milan, it was a reaction to the clean lines and stripped back aesthetic of minimalism and modernism – and it started with a house party.

Habitat Set of 4 Mugs, £4, Habitat.

One day in December 1980, Italian designer Ettore Sottsass invited a group of designers over to his apartment in Milan where they started sharing ideas, inspiration and sketches.

Bob Dylan’s song Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again was playing when the group decided to develop a range of furniture and decor to show at an exhibition in 1981, giving the collective its name.

Savona Nude Velvet Mirage Swivel Chair, £1,260, Luxdeco.

Sottsass dismantled the Memphis Group in 1988 but its influence reached all corners of the design landscape – from the MTV logo to children’s television, film sets, architecture, fashion and products, including the original Apple watch.

Oakhurst Glass Trolley, Gold, £1,540, Luxdeco.

Memphis Design wasn’t the only influence on Eighties style – Falcon Crest and Dallas played a part as well.

The glamorous lifestyles depicted on these popular TV shows introduced us to a dazzling new world of lip-gloss and gilt-edged furniture.

HAY Table, £195, Nest.

The restraint and functionalism of modernism was pushed aside for opulence and abundance.

The florals of Laura Ashley were also thrown into the mix and let’s not forget Daryl Hannah redecorating Charlie Sheen’s apartment in 1987 film Wall Street.

Poor dad Martin Sheen had nowhere to put his cuppa because the coffee table had holes in it and gold leaf became the new coving.

Conway Tambour Bedside Table, £199, Next.

Overall the Eighties was a heady concoction of bold colours and pastels, brass, florals, tambour wood, geometrics, monochrome, Perspex and Terrazzo – and that was just the CD rack.

Panel print bedding set double, £31, Habitat.
Renmin Bookcase, £1,865, Luxdeco.
Brilliant Bolster Cushion, £35, Joe Browns.
Velvet sofa, £1,320, Optimist coffee table £120, Terrazzo tufted cushion, £18, and other accessories from a selection at Habitat.


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