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Modern Memphis

I can’t believe it’s been almost four years since I first wrote a post about Memphis design… At the time I felt like I was standing on the edge of a cliff, leaping into the void. There was still something so raw and surreal about all those sharp edges and blazing bright colors. Fast forward to the riot of color that is the 2014 Pantone Palette, and Memphis seems old hand. Maybe.

damm design

Modern Memphis is still playful, but a lot more polished. These sculptural lamps by Damm Design provide the perfect foil to old, dark, and dirty (You know I’m down with ODD).

alessandro mendini

That’s not to say that Modern Memphis is totally tamed… it still has all the angular bite of the original iteration.

jean louis denoit

Maybe with just a little less color.

safe house usa kelly behun

christian may memphis wallpaper

Get all the flavor and only some of the crazy with pillows by Safe House USA, a Kelly Behun style supergraphic, or Christian May’s appropriately titled Memphis wallpaper produced by Black Crow Studios.

kelly wearstler

Or don’t hide your love for the Memphis… trick it out a la Kelly Wearstler. Hello venus flytrap lamp! That thing is a man eater for sure.

Perhaps you’re feeling a little gun shy about reliving the Esprit era? Don’t get your graffiti tights in a wad. Relax. There’s something for everyone.

gray malin

Gray Malin‘s photography is pretty.

robert couturier

Robert Couturier also loves my favorite Clarence House fabric ever.

kelly wearstler

And Kelly Wearstler is pretty much just Ettore Sottsass with high heels.

bungalow buff strickland

My own brush with Memphis? Just this pair of Beetlejuice chairs I bought in the middle of a dirt field, strapped Beverly Hillbillies style to the top of my car, and drove 100 miles home to meet my husband who was SO HAPPY to see them.

Ok, that last part is a lie but the rest is truth. Commitment is what it’s all about. Do something outside of your comfort zone. Push it. Push it real good.

Just don’t get divorced in the process.

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It’s a Mod World

Sorry for the late and light posts, but I’m still feeling a bit jet laggy. I’ve decided to give myself a wild and crazy pep talk to help me power through the week with style (I also need a pep talk to help me power through my dirty laundry but that’s another post). These pictures are telling me to go check out a Warhol exhibit, or maybe to grab a martini at the Highball. I think they are also telling me to ditch the rest of today’s responsibilities and go swimming…

florence lopez mod

met home

mod dining

Well, they are definitely not telling me to do my MF laundry, but I am very adept at selective hearing. Later, dudes. Hope you manage to squeeze some good times into today!

[Florence Lopez, Urban Modernista, Met Home, Roger Davies, Jeffrey Campbell shoes, Mod Rockers]

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Superflossy Superfly Supergraphic

I’m taking a breather from publicly flipping out over the house hunt today, but that doesn’t mean I’m not feverishly searching for inspiration just in case we do sign on the dotted line. It’s a safe bet that whatever we buy will need renovation. Most houses we like were built in the 70s and have remained in museum like condition — carpet, faux wood paneling, and drop down ceilings included. I found this sweet little apartment in AD and first glommed on to the walls, then moved on to the floors.

It would be really helpful if I read cyrillic so I could tell you who is responsible for this hottie, but I’m a romance language only kind of a girl. When I see all those squiggly lines, I just want to bust out my calculator and solve for X.

Damn you, American language skills! Who are you people? In completely unrelated news, I think I spy her underpants. Ok, enough with the non sequiturs. Back to the apartment.

Check out those floors! They look like cerused oak, but I’m guessing not since ceruse is apparently some kind of toxic lead based chemical. A two step stain and wax, maybe? Whatever the case, I adore them. Dark and sexy, but not overpowering. Plus I think they would hide dust fairly well. Bonus!

Those chairs… sucker punch to the love gut. I also like how there’s no molding in the space — everything is super crisp and clean, and the paint heightens the arty architectural feel. The floor provides the perfect textural foil.

So good. The color palette is uber unique.

Sorry this picture is wee (and that there’s a weird cutoff letter at the bottom of the frame), but check out the spacey bathroom. So awesome.

What do you think about the floors? Do you think an ordinary house could handle this kind of wall treatment? Do you think you could be comfortable in a space like this?

Why isn’t this place for sale?

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Invisible Cities

Long ago, in a far away time, I bought my acid washed, peg legged pants from Esprit. Now I buy them at Urban Outfitters. In case you haven’t noticed, the crazy 80s are back in a big way. Of course the wide world of interior design isn’t immune to the vagaries of trends, which seem to progress through the art-fashion-pillow life cycle until they die a gasping, lonely death on the clearance shelves of TJ Maxx. Short lived though they may be, I like following trends — although I have to say I felt a little green at the gills when I first saw the new slew of statement making brights and strong shapes. The 80s were not kind to me, with its broccoli bangs and crop topped warfare, and those linebacker sized shoulder pads that required nothing less than an absolutely unwavering sense of self confidence. Should I admit that confidence was not a quality I was born with? I still have to work for it. Every day.

Studio Toogood

Maybe my hard work is paying off, because I’m starting to move beyond my own crippled sense of nostalgia as I approach this second wave of 80s inspired wares. I’m even setting my jaw and looking deep into the neon heart of the past, to primary sources like Italian designer Ettore Sottsass, who is looking more and more like a straight up genius when viewed through my new confidence goggles.

Ettore Sottsass

One part Beetlejuice, one part Bauhaus, and one part boozy good time, Sottsass set the tone to angular and primary as founding member of the Memphis design movement. Though his work should never be confused with the current, flimsy iterations of post modern furnishings typically found at Eurway, they do take up some majormajor visual space. As even Sottsass acknowledged, a little goes a long way.

Though I can finally look at his high Memphis work without enduring painful flashbacks, I was still jazzed — and relieved — to see this house he designed near the end of his long life:


Working into his 80s, Sottssass’ mellowed out architectural effort looks to the past while also giving me something to look forward to. Within it, I see the seeds of a more mature Memphis inspired design aesthetic. And I like it. A lot.

Spare but warm, angular but not wildly so, this house is eminently livable. And of course the acres of glass, stunning reflecting pools, and luxe finishes don’t hurt. It’s obviously the refinement of a life’s work.

Sottsass died at the tail end of 2007. I suspect that the scope of his influence is only beginning to surface, but don’t think that other designers haven’t already begun mining. Kelly Wearstler’s beach house and Avalon Hotel have obvious smart references to Sottsass’ late work. Expect to see a lot more of the Memphis master, but not the kind that demands confidence.

The kind that inspires it.

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