I felt it coming. I saw the rumblings in the zeitgeist, especially in fashion. Intellectually, I knew it would come because everything comes back, but I suppose I didn’t know that one day, in the middle of May 2019, I would all of a sudden become fully engrossed in the GOOD stuff from the 1980s and early ’90s. I’ve loved the ’70s for so long and there are some similarities (oversized, rejection of the uncomfortable mid-century lines) so again, I shouldn’t be surprised. Even more specifically, I’m very into anything ‘80s Italian—WHAT. In case you are rolling your eyes, frustrated that design sites keep calling out these trends and shoving it down your throat that you need to adhere, DO NOT FEAR. We here at EHD believe that “good,” “eclectic” and “personal/sentimental” is always on trend and you can dabble in the newer trend or, as I tell my kids when they say they don’t like whatever vegetable I’ve made, take a “no thank you” bite. I was reminded of this the other day by my team when I looked at the mountain house, which has all white walls, hits of gray, black, wood, etc. with very little color and said, “am I just doing what is trendy right now on Instagram? Is this going to be boring or dated in 4 years?” They said, “No! It’s right for the vibe and function of this house and ‘beautiful’ is always in, no matter what is trending.”
But like a man with many sister wives, there are times when something new catches your eye and you lean in for a bit. I’m not looking to change out much, but as I’m finalizing all the decor and furnishings for the mountain house, I’m snagging a few Postmodern pieces—a chair that I can’t wait to show you (my friends are split, some think it’s amazing, others hideous and reminds them too much of a tub of licorice) and a lamp or two.
So now that you have my point of view on the Postmodern trend at hand, I am going to pass it over to Jess (who also is surprised by her new yet deep love for this trend) to break it down for you. In the meantime, I’m going to keep finalizing this darn near finished house so I can shoot it and then officially show it off.
When I (Jess, hi there!) think of the Postmodern trend, the first word that comes to my mind in terms of furniture is “chubby.” Now unless you are a cute baby with a roll for each day of the week to pinch with undying joy, chubby is a word that most people would quite easily take offense to if pointed in their direction. But let me just say that in this case, the chubbier, the better. Gimme those rolls because the more they got, the cooler they are. Yeah, you heard that right.
“Chubby” is the first characteristic to take note of but the curves/graphic shapes are what make these pieces chic. So think rounded, curved, graphic, even tubular shapes. Keep the key pieces in that world of adjectives and you will have a straight shot into achieving this style on the most basic level. I guess I should say that “graphic chubby” furniture is really the defining characteristic.
The ’80s phrase, “totally tubular,” has crossed over from slang to decor in 2019.
You may have seen sofas like the one above popping up on your feeds because although originally designed in the ’70s, they are completely Postmodern and freaking cool. I was trying to figure out how to describe this style of sofa and the first thing that came to mind was that it looks like the chicest muffin top in the world. I really hope that Tacchini (the designer and yes, Italian, duh) does NOT read that and take offense because it’s a complete compliment. The overstuffed, soft nature of the piece is given a beautiful and necessary architectural structure with the tubular bars. Chubby: Check. Round: Check. Totally Tubular: Check.
My/our newest and probably favorite current Postmodern designer is Mario Milana. We recently linked his Architectural Digest home feature on The Link Up a few weeks ago when Emily sent it through. All of his creations are Italian Postmodern perfection (he is originally from Milan) but the chaise in the photo above is what I consider the ultimate New Postmodern-style piece. It’s round, tubular and graphic, like the original ’80s style but has a neutral and soft look about it which makes it modern and very of the current time. Does it look like a caterpillar? Yes. Do we love it anyway? Also yes.
Now that we have “graphic chubby” furniture on lock, let’s dive into the next defining feature which is fluted accents…
This is another design element I have noticed to be almost synonymous with the “new” Postmodern trend (modern Postmodern? Postmodern Modern?). I love it because it adds a quiet, unexpected texture to a space. I mean if Sally Breer, designer of all things cool, put fluted stools in her “ahead of the trend” loft apartment a few years ago then you know it’s something we should all take note of. Also, that pendant…more on that later. Sally, you are simply too good lady.
You don’t have to go hardcore “flute” to get the essence of it. This kitchen has probably one of the coolest stove vents I’ve seen in a while and why is it so cool? It has a slight fluted texture. It makes it feel modern without it screaming, “HEY, I’M MODERN AND COOL.” The lines in this also echo the cladding of the island and cabinetry, so…cohesion without being matchy matchy.
What I personally love about this look is that it feels like a nod to the classic stripe pattern of the ’80s and ’90s but way more subtle. Take this kitchen. Aside from the tubular vents above the stove, the room doesn’t read very Postmodern until you look at the fluted paneling on the counter and island (and the terrazzo flooring outside). I think the biggest departure from the old Postmodern to the new-new Postmodern is moderation. I think initially why this style was quickly abandoned in the early ’90s was because it was A LOT, too playful if you will. Then in a vast overcorrection, it seemed like the design world collectively decided to “grow up and move to the suburbs” with their wicker, overly floral Laura Ashley upholstery and chicken wallpaper borders. But now the trend gods have learned and are better about choosing their playful Postmodern moments. And speaking of choosing your moment let’s talk about the “It” color…
Remember Sally Breer’s pendant from moments ago? That bright electric blue has been rearing its attention-demanding face lately and it’s SO MUCH YES. I know this color is not for everyone but it’s absolutely a key color in the New Postmodern era. It’s like navy or cobalt, but it put its finger in a socket, luckily wasn’t injured, but came out of the experience enlightened, hip, ahead of the crowd.
When Sarah Sherman Samuels helped Garance Doré with her LA home and put those vibrant blue chunky chairs in her living room, I think all of us took note. This space would have been neutral, modern and beautiful as is but was taken to another level with those chairs. What is great about this color is that it leans into its ’80s/’90s past with still being palatable to a 2019 audience. What’s more palatable than blue?
Tell me that cabinet isn’t exciting and cool. I dare you. Obviously, keen craftsmanship is key here, because otherwise, it might have been a disaster. The barely-there handles, arched top and interesting feet would have been special in natural wood but HELLO…there’s no ignoring this electric blue baby.
The color of this table gives the space a playfulness it would otherwise be lacking. See how important having a little design fun is?
I don’t know if I’m 100% on board with an electric blue patent leather pillow but it does scream New Postmodern. And hey, if you are into it then you got for it.
’80s Inspired Patterns
It couldn’t be called New Postmodern if there wasn’t some solid pattern play happening. What would the intro of “Saved by the Bell” think???
Probably the American New Postmodern pioneer is the one and only Kelly Wearstler. This room above that she designed mixes scale and shapes with a classic check and modern freehand line drawing. Both are modern upgrades from their ’80s counterparts.
Now, the Memphis trend was a big part of ’80s design but I think most of us can agree that the color palette and general “pattern play” was A LOT. Again, think “Saved By The Bell” intro. It came back around about two years ago, but it was still pretty intense. So to bring that look and feel to 2019, we have wallpaper like this. The wallpaper still sports a handful of different shapes, has a scattered feel but with a much more cohesive color palette and less visual chaos. Better, no?
Piet Mondrian’s cubist style was also very a popular pattern in the ’80s and early ’90s. Bold primary colors are great, but a more modern muted interpretation like the bathroom walls in the Lafayette Hotel in Guadalajara, Mexico, are the perfect bridge between the old and new.
I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the classic grid pattern. I mean, it was one of THE patterns of that time. But in 2019, designers are making it a bit more subtle and paring with lux materials and modern furnishings. The bench in the above photo gives this space just that hint of playfulness to not take itself too seriously, which I appreciate.
Delicate and Sculptural Accent Seating
Okay, it’s not all about chub rolls and muffin tops because VERY delicate and/or sculptural chairs are very important to this style.
These crazy beauties are also designed by Mario Milana and are the perfect example of what I am talking about. They are actual pieces of art that have the New Postmodern playfulness (the mix and match of the varying colors is also paramount here).
The Ekstrem chair was an iconic ’80s chair that is coming back and I like it. I know it looks pretty nutty at first glance but it was designed apparently in response to the idea of ergonomics. So aside from the potential benefits for your bod, the chunky, squiggly lines may be Old Postmodern but it’s here for the new.
Pattern play is also a key element in sculptural chairs. It can be bold like these black and white striped lounge chairs or more refined and luxe like the legs of the beauty below.
Writing this post makes me want to buy every New Postmodern chair there ever was. It’s true torture. Moving along…
This last element is kind of a sneaky one but once you see it you can’t unsee it…I’m talking about totem sculptures and objects. As I was looking for photos, I kept seeing totems large and small and I think it’s a very unique thing about this style.
The space above is from Milan Design Week this year so it’s FRESH people. Not only is this set up totally New Postmodern with those curvy, rounded blue chairs and the tubular metal chair but the baby totem sculptures on the table are right there with them.
It makes sense why totems work so seamlessly in this style because architecture, sculpture and visual interest are a part of almost every other key New Postmodern element.
You may also have noticed that in each of these rooms I’ve shown have almost a gallery type feel, where each piece in the space is used as a piece of art. And what is a modern totem if not a piece of art? They are also very versatile in terms of shape.
New Postmodern totems can be linear, graphic, curvy, large or small. But unlike their past counterparts, the totems of 2019 (oh the things you never thought you’d say) are usually solid in tone so they don’t cause too much visual chaos. The big ones tend to be very expensive so unless you have a “totem guy” that can get you a killer deal, the small ones are just as cool. Also, if you have a “totem guy” that can get you a killer deal, send him my way. 🙂
So that’s the breakdown of the New Postmodern. I think it’s safe to say that the design world FINALLY got the ’80s/early ’90s revival right. A bit of late ’70s, a hint of Memphis and a lot of chubby playfulness. The one big question still unanswered is whether or not it’s here for the long haul. I for one hope it is. I am endlessly inspired by it and its weirdness. If you are too and are wondering how to get this look in your home, I have a big present for you…a product roundup. You may have even seen some pieces used in our showhouse living room reveal. 😉
1. Saucer Vase | 2. Marble And Malachite Coaster Set | 3. Vintage 1980’s Adrian Pearsall Sofa | 4. White Stone and Seashell Inlay Round Table | 5. Table Lamp | 6. Basket | 7. Crewel Color Pillow Covers | 8. Textured Striped Planter | 9. Floating Disks Side Table | 10. Anton Solid Wood Coffee Table | 11. Pyramid | 12. Links Black Sculpture | 13. Esher Pillar | 14. Greta Recycled Leather XL Sleeper Sofa | 15. Taylor Square Bone Box | 16. Mid-Century Red Sculptural Chairs | 17. Hera Side Table | 18. Meso Novelty Vase | 19. Terracotta Glazed Object | 20. Staggered Steps Velvet Pillow Cover | 21. Three-Piece Sectional & Ottoman | 22. Curva Magazine Holder | 23. Webster Wine Glasses (set of 4) | 24. Post-Modern Hand-Crafted Maple Chairs | 25. Faux Malachite Resin Bookend Green | 26. Cypher Black Marble Dining Table | 27. Lush Blue Velvet Pillow Cover | 28. Forte Channeled Saddle Leather Sofa | 29. Striped Win Cup | 30. Cozy Swivel Chair | 31. Stepped Form Ceramic Vase | 32. Cyrus Chair | 33. Totem Colored Glass Vase
So now it’s your turn…how do you feel about this style revival? Could you or would you ever do it? Is it still TOO MUCH? Most people who lived through this time initially have probably already clicked away from PTSD, but…we want to hear all of your thought, feelings and dreams.
Love you, mean it.