This is Ettore Sottsass's Ashoka that he designed for Memphis in 1981. It is still available!
But some have never stopped being available. In a sense, this does not work to their advantage, because there is no big publicity splash surrounding their reappearance.
So let's make a big splash here for possibly the most significant collection in this category: Memphis!
and Matteo Thun (his Santa Fe):
They spent the night discussing the need for a new creative approach to design. They decided to form a design collective which they immediately christened Memphis, because they had been playing over and over in the background Bob Dylan's Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again.
I cannot conceive of a style of FF&E less likely to be specified at the moment. They are colourful; have mismatched -- often plastic -- surfaces; they are usually not symmetrical, they have content and meaning, referring as they do to art deco (Bay by Ettore Sottsass):
fifities Dan Dare space fantasies (Peter Shire's Cahuenga):
jolly space creatures -- Martians? ( Martine Bedin's Terminus)
and fun animals (Ettore Sottsass' famous Tahiti):
The effect was hugely liberating: they could design what they wanted -- any shape, any material, any reference. And the result was works of great interest, wit and originality.
From the lighting collection, nothing sums up better how innovative designs could be as a result of this freedom than Peter Shire's Laurel of 1985:
If you must use a fluorescent lamp, at least ensure that it has a separate ballast (the four used here do) and create something which is fun, joyous. Compare this to any other light that uses fluorescent lamps: are they as life-enhancing as this?! (From some angles it looks abstract, from others it looks like a bird.)
So, yes, you'd have to be courageous to specify items by Memphis at the moment, but supposing you have a client who wants intelligent, fun pieces (treat them as sculptures)...
...and/or a client who is design-aware and who therefore realizes the importance of these pieces. They may have attended the 2007 Ettore Sottsass exhibition at tthe Design Museum , for example, where they have seversal Memphis pieces in the permanent collection, including Gerard Taylor's Piccadilly:
Of course, the Memphis collection is not just lighting! All the classics are there, including Sottsass's Carlton room divider:
and this chair, Bel Air by Peter Shire:
Note that we have focussed in this post on the Memphis 1981-88 collection, but the descendants, as it were, have continued to design great things since.
Given the fame and importance of this collection, and the very high values that these pieces can now achieve at auction, there are inevitably many fakes around. Memphis therefore offer a service that will confirm authenticity (or not). Details here.
You are really excited about Memphis now, right? You want some, don't you? Well, that's just great, because here are Memphis gift ideas;
I really want one of those ties. Hint hint.