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Photo: Photographed by Jordan Rodgers

Whoppah Explores Postmodern interior design

Discover the postmodern design style with us

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ByEvelien RemmelsMay 2021

What is postmodern design?

The postmodern design movement spanned two decades: 1970 to 1990 and peaked in the 1980s. It was the rebellion against the minimalist concepts of modern design. Postmodern design embraced unconventional ideas with an emphasis on playful, artful and extravagant style. The bohemian culture of the hippies in the 1960s paved the way for a new era of creative expression in art, music, fashion and therefore design. Flower power and long wavy hair were followed by expressive architecture with playful shapes and imaginative decoration. This translated into the ultramodern interior style: postmodernism. Postmodern designers were inspired by the past, such as neoclassical forms and materials where form did not follow function.

ParagraphPhoto: A selection of designs from The Memphis Group
ParagraphPhoto: Karl Lagerfeld in his Memphis Style apartment

The Memphis group

In 1981, a group of like-minded designers in Milan took the postmodern design movement to a whole new level with a debut of bold, graphic furniture design at the Salone del Mobile. Founded by Italian designer Ettore Sottass, the famed Memphis Group included Peter Shire, Michael Graves, George Sowden, Michele De Lucchi and Nathalie Du Pasquier. With bold, clashing colors, unconventional shapes and wild patterns, Memphis pieces were designed to convey new ideas. The influential look of Memphis furniture included combinations of geometric shapes made from a variety of materials in bright, contrasting colors or graphic black and white patterns. This exaggerated, almost cartoonish style dominated much of the 1980s.

ParagraphPhoto left: Carlton bookcase, 1981. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo right: Ettore Sottass in India 1966.

Ettore Sottass

Ettore Sottass, born in 1917, fell under the spell of design at a young age with an architect father. He works from 1957 (as well as Mario Bellini) as a design consultant for Olivetti, a typewriter factory, and in the 1960s he becomes art director for the furniture brand Poltronova. Sottass helped define the look of postmodern furniture with his use of brightly colored laminates, graphic shapes and non-functional elements. His iconic Carlton bookcase had colorful slanted shelves and bookends that were disconnected from each other. It challenged the idea of why a bookcase should look like a typical bookcase.