The home decor world is operating mostly in throwback-mode right now. What used to be tacky is now tasteful, and looking dated doesn’t matter as much. Walk into any big box store like Target, West Elm, or CB2, and you’ll see interpretations of designs and color schemes that originally surfaced over 30-40 years ago. From the resurgence of treatments like terrazzo to the re-introduction of wicker, what’s old is new again. If you’re like me, you’ve noticed a familiar pattern pop up. And if you’re like me, it’s making you gleefully reminiscent. I’m talking about the bold and bright world of Memphis design, and its colorful impact on the 80s and 90s.
You may know it as “that squiggly pattern that was popular in the 80s…” which truthfully was what I was googling before I figured out what it was called. Memphis design refers to the loud, intentional, pattern-heavy motif that first popped up in 1981. While I was not a child of the 80s, I reaped the rewards of the Memphis styling that trickled down into the 90s. Without that first breakaway from mid-century stiffness, would we ever have gotten to enjoy the Jazz cup design? Probably not. And it’s doubtful I would’ve ever owned a Caboodle in such lovely teal and purple hues. Memphis made a huge impact on making the 90s feel so… 90s… and in true trend fashion, this design has made its circle back into the spotlight.
If worm-like lines and dauntless angles have you reminiscing about days past, here’s a list of 17 ways to bring this pattern into your home. And since all of us who enjoyed the 80s and 90s the first time around are millennials, all these products and projects are only temporary transformations – as none of us can crawl out of our student debt to afford to own our own homes and we’re all still renting. ¯_(“)_/¯
1. Dusen Dusen, founded by designer Ellen Van Dusen, is your one-stop home textiles shop for bright colors and bold patterns. This cutouts bedding speaks to the definitive squiggles and shapes of the Memphis-design, while still remaining neutral.
2. These patterned ceramic mini planters lightly touch on the playful patterns of Memphis design. How cute! You should check out this Arkansas-based artist’s other work if you’re into all things fun and colorful.
3. If you are looking to reminisce about your childhood while staying on budget, then here’s a cute DIY project! These 80s Memphis-style planters from the blog A Kailo Chic Life leave the creativity up to the crafter, but provide plenty of inspiration. If you don’t feel like getting your hands messy, these planters are also available for purchase on Etsy. Also, you have to check out her tutorial for making 80s-inspired soap bars – they are SO RAD.
4. Looking at the design on these coasters makes me feel like I’m back in the ball pit at Discovery Zone. The Etsy store No Bad Mondays totally understands why we love the 80s and 90s.
5. For a more minimal approach, all you need is a little bit of iron-on vinyl. This tutorial by Holly Wade for making an abstract patterned pillow will walk you through it.
6. Bring the Memphis-madness into your kitchen with this tutorial for hand-painted Memphis mugs.
7. Temporary wall paper is ALL THE RAGE right now, and this dreamy 80s pattern wall mural ticks so many boxes.
8. Squiggles don’t always need to be heavy-duty. The minimal, brushy treatment in these DIY circular trivets from Brittni Mehlhoff bring in just a taste of an era not long forgotten.
9. Ellen Van Dusen is at it again. Check out the Dusen Dusen collaboration with West Elm, like these black and white patterned pillow covers.
10. The wormy attitudes of the early 80s stake their claim in this Raw Mark Mug. Designed by artist Josephine Heilpern, Recreation Center truly embraces the Memphis design through a 21st-century lens.
11. But let’s get back to the 90s, right? These DIY vinyl wall decals will have you saying, “Cowabunga, dude!” in no time.
12. The color scheme in this wall clock is everything.
13. Follow this painted chair makeover tutorial from the blog Sugar & Cloth if you want to add subtle squiggly lines to an existing piece in your home. By using muted colors, the usual exuberant feel of this pattern tones down nicely to pair with different design motifs.
14. Primary colors and clean patterns? Get yourself some handcrafted Memphis design from the Etsy store Run Lena Run Art.
15. This mini patterned ring dish is a perfectly teeny way to bring back the 80s.
16. Add color and contrast with this pop circles rug.
17. This artist from Wales creates pieces with all the attitude of the 80s, coupled with the authentic nature of ceramics. How cute is this planter?