Some might say with the current state of affairs as they are, we’re living out a sort of 1980s surrealist dream. Trump is president, relations with Russia are tense, it’s a weird time. So, we may as well party like it’s 1987!

The surrealist Palais Bulles (Bubble Palace) designed by architect Antti Lovag, completed in 1989.

revival of the 80s

The Memphis Group

They say history repeats itself, and no place is that truer than design. The 1980s are often thought of as the perfect decade to forget. Throw out the clothes, hair, and politics to start from the cool - if slightly angsty - 1990s clean slate. But there is a lot to learn from a decade marked by vivid colours, bold patterns, and overall excess. Much like the world at the time, designers were entrenched in questions about accessibility, disposability and mass production. Few answered this call more spectacularly than the Memphis Group. In 1981 a young, rebellious collective of Italian artists and designers sat around listening to the Dylan song on repeat until an idea occurred, one that was undoubtedly produced during that perfect axis between early hours and substances: let’s make some whacky sh*t. Led by Ettore Sottsass, the group produced an exuberant, bold, and ultimately divisive body of work until they disbanded a short 7 years later in 1988. Critics panned their aesthetic as juvenile and gaudy, while taste-makers like Karl Lagerfeld filled entire French apartments exclusively in the group’s arresting designs.


Karl Lagerfeld    and his Memphis Design apartment.

Karl Lagerfeld and his Memphis Design apartment.

While some of the geometric prints and kitschy colours stayed in the 80s, the group's influence has never fully faded, and in fact became a cultural touchstone most millennials would recognize. The beloved Max’s Diner on Saved by the Bell was inspired by the Memphis Group. Nathalie Du Pasquier, a former Memphis member, has designed a collection for American Apparel in 2014, and inspired a line at West Elm in 2015. Alessandro Mendini, who debuted with the collective at the Milan furniture fair in 1981, designed a set of skateboards for Supreme in 2016.


Modern-day designer Charles Zana filled his    French    apartmen t  with a mix of contemporary and Memphis movement art and furniture.

Modern-day designer Charles Zana filled his French apartment with a mix of contemporary and Memphis movement art and furniture.

Miami Vice

Surprisingly the groups philosophy - although translated into big, loud, plastic furniture and installations - was heavily inspired by Sottsass's time in Southern India, where he ruminated on the local’s relationship with the items in the home, often placing more value on the objects’ contribution to one’s life over some sort of monetary value. He wanted to create items with the emphasis on how they made their users feel, over their functionality or price. The irony is he found an audience in the newly rich Miami crowd.

Throughout the 1980s Miami's Art Deco District enjoyed a revitalization period, facades were restored and painted in pastel hues.

1980s Miami proved to be a perfect backdrop for a budding aesthetic shift, producing the kind of chicken-and-egg dynamic that often exemplifies the early days of a movement. The place influenced the people and the people influenced the place. Money poured in and with it demand for novelty, sophistication, and style. Designers flocked in to answer the call, working with the city’s existing art deco architecture but loosening it up with pastel paints for day and neon lights for night. Television shows like Miami Vice - with their cheery colours, and penchant for jungle prints -  made it impossible for anyone to get away from a look that started to creep into mainstream consciousness.


An Art=Deco building re-painted with pastel hues in the 80s.

An Art=Deco building re-painted with pastel hues in the 80s.

80s Revival in Retail and Hospitality Design

And in the mainstream, it has truly remained. Warm brass, cool pastels, and geometric prints all rule contemporary design. Retail and hospitality reap the benefits of these designs to create clean, minimalist spaces that exude a retro-charm while keeping an arms-length cool. And in a way, even Sottsass's seemingly contrarian philosophy of how the objects in our life make us feel rising over the noise of the materialistic 80s era mirrors our own contemporary duality. We try to fill our spaces with things that bring us joy, while simultaneously filtering our most Instagram-able angles against the jungle-print walls of Toronto’s local restaurants.

Cooker's Gourmet Cafe   , Moscow, 2018 by VETER Design & Architecture.

Cooker's Gourmet Cafe, Moscow, 2018 by VETER Design & Architecture.

Questions? Comments?  Please leave them below.


written by: Alona Glikin

edited by: Ania Trica


Yes, it’s STILL a thing .... more of a bubbling idea symbolizing an amalgamation of youth-driven culture than a colour, things came to a halt when in 2017 it was finally given a name, Millennial Pink, and the distinction (and often kiss of death) of 2016 Pantone’s Colour of the Year. It should be noted that their other colour: serenity, captured no one's imagination. It’s 2018, though, and it appears this little colour-that-could is nowhere close to done. And why should it be? Sure, nobody is surprised by a rose-gold iPhone or an Instagram model showing off her toned body in the newest variation of workout tights in this gradient of a shade, but like many other design staples that have been used and abused by mass consumption, there is something more here.

Banco Popolare di Verona by Carlo Scarpa 1973.


Forget the name and the generational chaos around it. What does it really look like? Really feel like? Well, it kind of looks and feels like the last 10 minutes of golden-hour reflecting off the exterior of a fading Miami home or hotel. It’s not Paris Hilton-early-aughts-saccharine pink. In fact, it’s not really girly at all. It’s feminine, but ambiguously so, it’s stronger, steelier, ready for this oh-so-uncertain world. It’s refined and modern!

Dusty pink desert sand dunes.

Of course, nature kind of got the memo first. This is the colour of the sprawling, dusty, timeless deserts of the south. Ever watch an especially moving sunset? Probably had shades of that expansive, mystic pink, natures reward at the end of a long day.

La Muralla Roja, meaning the red wall, is an apartment complex rising from the clifftops of Calpe, a coastal town in Spain. Designed by Ricardo Bofill in 1973.

For human use, the colour’s origins are slightly less romantic. The colour, initially called Baker-Miller Pink, was developed and classified in a tangible, usable paint in the 1970s to determine its calming effects on navel prison cells. Thankfully, we now use the colour to turn sumptuous interiors into delicious visual confections with a little twirl of pink and white. Designers have banked on this transformative colour to elevate otherwise primitive shapes and forms into chic studies on calming oasis’, transporting us to a time we don’t quite remember and can’t quite place. It feels as at home in minimalist, sparse spaces, as richly appointed restaurants, enveloping velvet poofs and our hearts.

Aesop’s millennial pink flagship store in London.


written by:  Alona Glikin

edited by: Ania Trica

Did you enjoy our reflection on colour?  Would you like to hear more of these colour/mood reflections in the future? Please leave your comments below.