Channel the 1980s with Memphis design inspired by your favorite 80s movies and TV shows! This is one look that is on the comeback!
Are you looking for a fun and playful way to incorporate the look and feel of your favorite 80s movies and TV shows into your space? Well look no further, “Memphis Milano” or Memphis style is for you! No other interior design statement defined the 1980s design style quite like the Memphis design movement. Lucky for us, Memphis style can be a fun and fabulous way to bring color and life into an otherwise drab millennial living space!
The Memphis design style was defined by its black and white patterns, crazy pops of color, geometric designs and fun, wild, squiggly motifs. The look borrowed elements from 1920 art deco, 1950s kitsch, and pop art of recent decades, so there’s bound to be a little bit of something for everyone here. Using examples from your favorite 80s movies and TV shows, I'll show you how you can use anything from simple accessories to full-blown room redos to incorporate this 80s look into your rad 21st-century pad! Like, totally!
The 80s simply would not have been the same without the “Brat Pack” movie masterpieces of director John Hughes. Actress Molly Ringwald, the star of many of these movies, was practically the poster child for the quintessential 80s look. However, when it came to classic 80s Memphis interior design, few films stand out quite like Pretty in Pink. In this particular scene from the movie, we spot actress Molly Ringwald hanging out in a Memphis-inspired living room. This room is defined by its checkerboard curved coffee table, crazy geometric print blankets, eclectic throw pillows, curved full-length Memphis design lamp and brightly colored geometric wall art. Any true 80s mega-movie fan would be sitting pretty in this Pretty in Pink Memphis style space!
Want to channel your inner Molly Ringwald through Memphis-inspired wall art and accessories? Give the works of designer Camille Walala a spin! Her eccentrically geometric and contemporary designs represent everything that was iconic about the Memphis aesthetic. Almost every detail of this photograph from the black and white splatter painted plant vase to the yellow cord phone and pastel book covers epitomize Memphis style to a T!
If you want to achieve a similar look, heed her black and white grid Memphis pattern based designs and don’t shy away from eclectic color combos. The talents of this awesome designer aren’t limited to just home decor, no! Her works have gone on to inspire the styles of musical artists such as Katy Perry and popular clothing brands including Urban Outfitters. Want more inspiration from this uber-talented artist? Feel free to wig out over some more of her 80s throwback-inspired work on her Instagram here!
It's alright 'cause I'm saved by the bell! (I now have this show’s theme song stuck in my head like crazy!) Saved by the Bell was an extremely popular 80s and 90s TV show that focused on the lives of six students at Bayside High School in California. In fact, the show was so popular that decades later it has gone on to inspire "Saved by the Max," a completely booked-out pop-up Chicago eatery based on the iconic The Max diner from the show itself! This diner is so Memphis it can only be described as a Memphis factory explosion...with no survivors.
The original The Max diner from the show was defined by its spectacular neon jukebox (blasting only the most gnarly 80s jams, I’m sure), brightly colored cushioned metal chairs, pastel curved glass doorway, glowing pink glass cube windows, and checkered floor. This modern day replica is so spot on it would make Principal Belding proud! Think you can take the plunge into fabulously fuchsia and pastel Memphis group furniture?
Yearning for a bit of modern-Memphis that channels your favorite high school TV show diner? Take a gander at these bodacious Memphis style inspired modern chairs! The pastel color palette and clean geometric lines of these seats give off a quintessentially 80s vibe that takes a cue from the vibrant TV show diner and is Memphis to the max! I can totally see these chairs leaning against some black and white painted Memphis-inspired walls, or accenting a modern-Memphis style table.
Great Scott! The Cafe 80s featured in 1989’s Back to the Future Part II encapsulates everything that was iconic about the Memphis movement. This far out cafe repeats similar styles we’ve seen such as the checkerboard black and white floor tile, a blend of bright neon colors, and curved accents. It can be a challenge to pinpoint exactly what is iconic about a decade (especially when you’re still in that decade), but that’s exactly what the directors of this sequel did. I would say the set designers of this movie paid homage to the Memphis style in a radical way!
Want to incorporate bits and pieces of this retro eatery into your modern day kitchen? This contemporary kitchen successfully incorporates elements of Memphis style and 1950s kitsch (as seen in the first Back to the Future movie) into one! The brightly colored dishware and red accents found on both the ceiling and chairs stand as a throwback to this 1980s style. When it comes to the wall art, instead of strictly geometric designs, elements such as a deer and decorative plates featuring the faces of American presidents offer an eclectic take on this style. The circular wine bottle holders and honeycomb fridge magnets still remain true to the geometric look of this style in an original and phenomenal way!
On the set of Bette Midler’s 1986 black comedy Ruthless People, it’s so easy to see how elements of the Memphis style were incorporated into the furnishings and accents of this living room. This particular space totes yellow and red confetti style chairs with vertical black and white striped accents out the wazoo. In fact, this set is so Memphis that it’s hard to find a spot that hasn’t been influenced by the style! Would you ever go all-out Memphis in a living room like this one?
Via Happy Mundane
If your answer to the previous question was yes, take a gander at this modern-day Memphis living room! This living room integrates a black and white striped carpet, color-blocked furniture, and patterned throw pillows—all accents that are reminiscent of this Bette Midler flick. If you check out the art on the walls, you’ll spot a retrofitted Milton Glaser poster of singer Bob Dylan. Did you know Memphis style got its name because the creators of the style were listening to the song Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again by Bob Dylan at the time? Talk about tubular taste! When it comes to the lighting of this retro room, the coiled mini orange desk lamps of this space furthermore channel this iconic style with their alternative take on traditional room lighting. It is important to keep in mind that Memphis-style lighting is anything but ordinary!
Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice! In this fantasy flick starring Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin, Beetlejuice is a movie that sports an obviously alternative and darker version of this iconic style with its black and white fur Memphis Milano furniture, geometric art-deco fireplace, geometric mantel pieces, and funky lighting. As we already know, the designers of this film needed to incorporate alternative lighting to fit this style. Their solution was glowing fireplace tiles paired with botanical accents. The leafy palms and bird of paradise plant we see in this room were incorporated because of the green and red colors they contributed to this space.
Via Happy Mundane
Here we have an example of how you can incorporate subtle elements of this throwback movie into your present-day bedroom! We can see a modern take on the classic Memphis black and white stripes with a black and white chevron area rug. The curved stems of the nightstand lamps also pay homage to this 80s style in a subtle way. If you’re leaning towards not-so-subtle furnishings, take a cue from the black modern Memphis art piece on the left side of this bedroom that matches the ominous look of the Beetlejuice abode.
Incorporate blocked-out elements such as the pure yellow chairs at the foot of the bed and red throw pillows to achieve this look, as well as a statement plant or two to add some greenery. If you want to try your hand at your very own Memphis-style tropical plant project, check out this easy-peasy tutorial that will have your 80s decor feeling botanical in no time! The great thing about this particular room’s Memphis Milano design is that the elements used are clear references to this distinctive style without being too overpowering.
Memphis art style is an astounding and often overlooked style that has gone on to inspire the works of many modern-day artists and Memphis interior designers. The style may appear striking, over-the-top, and even sometimes bizarre, but it’s a style that is uniquely 80s and that’s why we love it! How would you think to incorporate or accessorize elements of this bodacious style into your home? Comment below and don’t forget to share this post with your fellow admirers of all things 80s! Until next time!
**Featured image via Mirror80