top of page

Furniture: Crazy Shapes and bright colors

Easy to Read


Memphis designs have very bright colors and crazy shapes.

An armchair in red and pink. One armrest is green and cylinder shaped. The front foot is a purple bar. The back foot a a shiny orange colored ball. The seating is pale blue.

Armchair "Bel-Air" by designer Peter Shire, Memphis Group,1982.


40 years ago a group of young Italian architects and designers got together.

They wanted to change the idea of what looks good and what doesn’t.

They had a party with music playing.

Bob Dylan’s song “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again”came on.

The song gave them the idea to call themselves the Memphis Group.

A group of 9 people in everyday clothes sitting close together on a stylized boxing ring. The boxing ring floor has a black and white checked pattern. The borders of the ring are green and yellow.

The Memphis group members on a bed.

The bed looks like a boxing ring.

Masanori Umeda designed it.

The name of the bed is Tawaraya.


The Vitra Design Museum is showing an exhibition of the Memphis group's furniture.


A white sideboard with green speckled doors. On top of the sideboard is a tilting wooden shelf and a metal bar. A light bulb is fixed to the metal bar.

This sideboard is called Beverly.

Ettore Sottsass designed it in 1981.


-------- Advert --------


Memphis furniture looks like from a comic book.


Sidetable: A rectangular block with a geometric black and white pattern and four blue metal furniture legs. A round yellow table top is attached to the side of the cube with a blue metal bar.

This table is called Kristall.

Michele de Lucchi designed it.


Memphis member Barbara Radice said:

We started with the idea of changing the usual designs.

Designer Michele De Lucchi said:

I had design ideas that were useless.

But the useless ideas helped me come up with good ideas.


A lamp with wheels.

Lamp: A blue laquered half-circle with wheel like a toy car. 6 light bulbs are attached to the arched top. The sockets are different colors: red, green, yellow, light-blue.

This lamp is called Super.

Martine Bedin designed it.

Martine Bedine designed this lamp with wheels.

She explained:

I had been moving house a lot.

I was tired of dragging my stuff around.

During that time I designed everything with wheels.


-------- Advert --------


Memphis group presented their first furniture collection in 1981 in Italy.

It made them famous all over the world.


Fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld loved Memphis furniture.

Karl Lagerfeld sitting at a table surrounded by Memphis design furniture.

Karl Lagerfeld in his apartment with Memphis furniture.


Lamp: lots of metal tubes in different colors put together in a geometric shape. 5  lightbulbs.

Ettore Sottsass designed this lamp.

The lamp is called Ashoka.


The Memphis group’s success shows there are no rules for beauty.

The idea of what is beautiful changes over time.

Take the example of Crocs shoes.

People once thought they were ugly.

Now celebrities are wearing them, too.

So, don't get stuck with any rules of fashion.

When you break these rules, you could be inventing a new fashion.

And you can enjoy a sense of freedom.

The Memphis group’s success shows that there is no strict definition of beauty. The image of what is beautiful changes over time. Take the example of Crocs shoes. People once thought they were ugly. Now celebrities are designing and wearing them.


-------- Advert --------


So, be inspired by the Memphis group's attitude! Don't get stuck with any rules of what is considered good taste. Following Memphis' philosophy, break the rules, and you may be a trendsetter.



Memphis: 40 Years of Kitsch and Elegance

06.02.2021 – 23.01.2022


About the Vitra Design Museum

Permanent Exhibition: The Vitra Design Museum Collection.

The Vitra Design Museum displays around 20,000 objects. These include some 7,000 pieces of furniture and more than 1,000 lighting objects.



  • Armchair »Bel-Air«, © Peter Shire, © Vitra Design Museum, Photo: Jürgen Hans.

  • Group photo of Memphis members on the boxing ring bed „Tawaraya“ © Masanori Umeda, © Studio Azzurro, with kind permission of Memphis, Milano,

  • Sideboard »Beverly«, Ettore Sottsass, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021, © Vitra Design Museum, Photo: Jürgen Hans

  • Table »Kristall«, Michele de Lucchi, 1981 © Michele de Lucchi, © Vitra Design Museum, Photo: Jürgen Hans

  • Lamp »Super«, Martine Bedin, 1981, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021, © Vitra Design Museum, Photo: Andreas Sütterlin

  • Karl Lagerfeld’s Monte Carlo Apartment with designs by Memphis, Monaco, 1982, © Jacques Schumacher, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021 for all designs by Ettore Sottsass.

  • Lamp »Ashoka«, Ettore Sottsass, 1981, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021, © Vitra Design Museum, Photo: Andreas Jung


*Quotes are edited to Easy to Read*

Back to all Easy to Read articles


bottom of page