Trend Watch: Postmodern Revival

by Maxwell Tielman


Above image: Objects Oversize Tee Dress by Dusen Dusen.

Unlike trends in fashion, which seem to change as unpredictably as the weather, the aesthetic shifts in home design are a bit longer lasting (a good thing, because who wants to re-buy a sofa every season?!). There are, of course, overlaps and changes according to the general zeitgeist, parallels that become evident with larger shifts in social perspectives. Over the past several years (possibly even the last decade), a certain type of simplicity has reigned supreme, its various iterations informed by an emboldened environmentalist movement, a recession-driven return to handicraft, and a slightly techno-phobic nostalgia for “simpler times.” This general movement, while still going strong without a definite end in sight, now appears to have a challenger (or possibly a contrasting complement, depending on your perspective)—the Postmodern Revival. Although this, too, is a trend that looks backwards for inspiration, its roots lie in the not-too-distant past—the aesthetic counter-movement that ruled design from the seventies through the nineties. The original Postmodern movement was largely a reaction against the flawed utopian ideals of Modernism; an aesthetic rejection of the uniform and homogenous and an embrace of the contradictory and irreverent. This current revival seems to subscribe, at least partly, to similar ideals. In many ways, it appears to be a harsh (and utterly refreshing) departure from the quaint, the cozy, and that oh-so-reviled pejorative term—the “twee.” It looks instead to excitement, discomfort and unpredictability, offering many more questions than answers. I can’t personally say that I see myself running out to redecorate my home in full-out Memphis attire, but I will say that I am thrilled to see this fresh face in the design crowd. —Max


Above: Our DIY Painted Floor Runner, inspired by an Ettore Sottsass design.


Above: The dining room in Stacey Anne Longenecker’s Home.


Above: Print by Saskia Pomeroy.


Above: Sottsass Coasters by Saskia Pomeroy.


Above: Shape Sculpture by Saskia Palmeroy.


Above: So Sottsass Cushion by Darkroom.


Above: Studiopepe Kora Vase


Above: HAY Penta Cushion


Above: Josef Prat Sorolla for Print All Over Me.


Above: William Edmonds Ceramics, via New Abstract London.


Above: Annie Strachan Sculpture, via New Abstract London.


Above: Annie Strachan Sculpture


Above: “Meanwhile” design collection by Epiforma


Above: The kitchen counter in Ellen Van Dusen’s home.


Above: Designer Ellen Van Dusen’s desk.


Above: Nathalie Du Pasquier Pattern Shirt for American Apparel.


Above: Nathalie Du Pasquier Pattern Shirt for American Apparel.


Above: Planter by Kelly Behun.


Above: Douglas Riccardi’s nightstand.


Above: A “bacterium” pattern covers the walls of Jenny from Little Green Notebook’s bathroom.


Above: Geometric sculptures at New York’s Dover Street Market.

Suggested For You


  • Take me back to Saturday morning at PeeWee’s Playhouse. Love it! And I’m glad to know that ‘bacterium’ pattern term. Didn’t know what those consistently-inconsistent patterns were called — that’s a great word for it.

  • No, no, no. Now I understand why my mother never cared for the fifties designs coming back. When you live through an era, it’s easy to just how tacky it all was.

  • I like a lot of the original PoMo designs that were created during that time period (LOVED Memphis!), but I am not digging much of new work produced during this revival.

  • Good luck with that. Maybe some of the clothes and pottery, but the furniture from that time is totally unlivable. I understand mid century modern is slowing a little and there is a problem in that we have nothing to move on to because after the 70’s is when the stuff from China infiltrated the market and none of it is really collectible. There is some cool post modern furniture, but it was made and sold through art galleries and not anything you would want to fill your house with. But whatever. Enjoy the flea market Nagel prints with tacky faux metal frames.

  • I’m…trying….to like it, and I appreciate the brash *contrast* it offers to current trends, but, gosh, it seemed tacky in the 80s, and it hasn’t really improved with age. What it does do is excite me that maybe something *really* new and different is just around the corner, since we’ve mined the past to the point of calling something designed just 10 years ago a “revival,” certainly that means that we have to push forward, finally, into the future.