New Wave Lookers

Welcome to the ’80s revival

Two pieces of furniture stuck out like sore thumbs recently at FAT CHANCE (162 N. La Brea Ave., L.A., 323-930-1960), the high-end vintage furniture shop. Among the severe Knoll couches and a Paul Frankl cork-top table were a chandelier exploding in glass calla lilies and a room-hogging wood desk with pull-out surfaces on its backside so that three people can use it at once. Stranger still, SOLD tags hung from both items. Welcome to the ’80s revival. “People are looking for oversize, Dynasty kind of glamour,”says store owner Jeff Schuerholz, who marvels at the pendulum swing from both midcentury simplicity and Hollywood Regency elegance. If the only object from 1980s interiors that comes to mind is Michael Graves’s bird-whistle tea kettle, that’s because the decade’s biggest design movement was antidesign in principle: Memphis, a group based in Italy, used a seemingly random mix of colors and materials. It was ridiculed at the time, but a quarter century has passed, and it’s starting to look good in retrospect. Ettore Sottsass, founder of Memphis, was the subject of an exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art last year, whetting the appetite of collectors, who quickly cleaned out every Memphis item from another boutique, MODERN ONE (7956 Beverly Blvd., L.A., 323-651-5082). “A lot of people don’t get ’80s furniture, but it’s going to be very collectible,” says store manager Scott Roberts. People on the aesthetic edge are either nostalgic for the stuff they grew up with or like the cheap prices at Western Avenue stores that never sold their original stock. Says club promoter Mario Diaz, “I’ve been living with white leather furniture, glass coffee tables, and Patrick Nagel prints.” (Nagel created the sexy cover of Duran Duran’s album Rio.) “At first glance it’s hideous, but once you sit with it, it warms the cockles of your heart.” And fills your room.

Bag of Secrets
Cutesy is getting kiboshed. Chic parents have been wanting diaper bags that look like anything but, and designers are finally making them. Fleurville’s G-Luxe (1) could have stepped off a fashion runway yet comes equipped with a changing pad and wipes case ($195 at Jax Children’s Boutique, West L.A., 310-477-0306). Storksak Cole’s Messenger (2) is equally incognito ($250 at Tabitha, Pacific Palisades, 310-454-1086). The Diaper Dude (3) was created for dads allergic to fluffy pink purses ($90 at Naked Baby, Studio City, 818-760-8851). Heidi Abra’s velvet, machine-washable Florentine (4) is available at her Beverly Boulevard store ($450 at Heidi Abra, L.A., 323-935-9799) as well as at Los Feliz’s La La Ling (323-664- 4400), which caters to new parents—on the down low.

Photograph: Ettore Sottsass, “Carlton” Bookshelf, 1981, Renzo Brugola for Memphis Milano/Courtesy Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)