The 1980s

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 January, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 January, 2010, 12:00am

The 1980s are back. That's if you believe Sydney's Powerhouse Museum, which is featuring an exhibition of that name until the end of the year.

Featuring everything from the Rubik's Cube and Choose Life T-shirts, to Boy George and the Sony Walkman, the exhibition promises to be a hit with punters eager to relive the decade that was once synonymous with conspicuous consumption.

But to design addicts, the most important element of the exhibition is the stunning display of 80s 'Memphis' furniture, specifically the Sunset in New York sofa, by Gaetano Pesce (for Cassina), and the Carlton Room divider and Treetops floor lamp by Ettore Sottsass (for Memphis; pictured).

Memphis was a design collective, established in Milan in 1981, led by Sottsass.

According to the book Mod to Memphis, the group's objective was 'to embrace an eclectic range of influences'. The result was 'an outrageously daring and colourful aesthetic that flew in the face of 'legitimate style''.

By the 90s, Memphis' whimsical post-modern approach had had its day. For the next decade, the modernists were in control of the asylum and design was to be dominated by white-on-white minimalism.

Greg Natale, of Greg Natale Design, however, believes Memphis-inspired pieces will make a comeback.

'The 80s are going to be huge,' says Natale. 'It's really forward thinking for a lot of designers but I promise you this is where it's going.'

So, what exactly typifies the 80s aesthetic? Well, when it comes to colour, the obvious hues are the Miami Vice-inspired apricot, grey and pink. And of course there are the playful primary colours along with the art-deco black and white.

In terms of materials, 'I'll be using a lot of granite again for both bench tops and flooring,' says Natale.

Architecturally, the 80s renaissance should also see some interestingly shaped interiors, with the use of relaxed angles and curves.

In furniture, lacquered oak in white, grey and black was an 80s classic. So too were chrome-framed tables with glass tops. And you could do worse than find a set of Costes chairs by Philippe Starck to place around the table.

A few finishing touches might include rugs and cushions that are ultra-colourful and feature jarring zig-zag patterns; an eccentric nod to art deco.