On Spotlight: Gus* x LUUM, and Modernizing Memphis – Molecule Store partner

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Caris Avendaño Cruz is a Filipina writer and author of MARIKIT WEARS THE MAP TO THE ENGKANTOS, a Middle Grade fantasy book that features an all-Filipino cast and local folklore, debuting in FSG BYR Macmillan, Fall 2022.

Design has always been a dialogue. One would find it in the maker’s choice of materials, the symmetry of its lines, the beauty of its aesthetics, and the way it functions for its end-users. This may not necessarily be traditional. At some point, a good design is meant to break out from the norm, to find the possibilities above the ordinary, and to create newfound ways to absolve necessity while communicating visually. The dialogue could be a pro or a con; a rebellion that breaks the status quo, or a marriage of two abstractly different things.

This was evident in Gus* Modern’s new collaboration with LUUM Textiles, featuring a rediscovered Halifax Chair and a Porter End Table—both Canadian in their own right—arriving in limited-edition, fresh new colors. The collaboration of the two furniture brands wonderfully merges Gus* Modern’s knack for creating contemporary objects for the home, while LUUM magnanimously outfits each structure with their decadent upholstery.

new modernized Halifax
Geometry, lines and color becomes the highlight of Gus* Modern’s collaboration with LUUM

Gus* x LUUM

Furniture is best done in color, and for Gus* x LUUM’s collaboration, radiant palettes take the center stage. In bright shades of green, teal, and lavender, the two-piece set stands out with their clean lines and apparent shapes. The slender becomes spectacular.

There is, however, a sort of plush air into it, most especially in Halifax, thanks to the beautifully upholstered cushion that sits on the frame. The solid steel frame becomes the home for a padded LUUM textile that perfectly matches the overall tone. From afar, one might wonder what it is—unlike regular canvas, this new variety has a thicker, more textured sensation, and the rows of rounded accents create a stylish finish to the overall piece.

New Gus* X LUUM Halifax collaboration
Plush upholstery, vibrant colors. This pair immediately captures the eye in any interior

Suzanne Tick of LUUM calls this material Knurl, an intelligent mix of black and colored yarn wherein the threads peek through the darker canvass and look like repetitive patterns. On a closer look, one might find the same fabric on the Porter End Table, whose vibrant round top is accentuated with a fabric pull. Just like the palette on the chairs, the smaller side tables echo the same colors and almost the similar clean-cut style, thanks to its triangular shaped base. Powder-coat finishes cap off the two designs with subtle highlights—the chairs have armrests that have a contrasting finish. 

First forms

The first iteration of the Halifax chairs was more minimalist, made from walnut wood for a more opulent feel, and are polished with three, limited but classic options: ivory, grey and black. There was no hint of Memphis on it, only sleek, sharp lines, and thoughts of comfort. Cushions are wrapped with clean upholstered canvass and are filled with Dacon. Balancing off the monotonous look, the armrests are topped with exposed edges that subtly puts the wood finish on display. The chair collection is crisp and subtle, made for contemporary spaces, with the basic tones that easily harmonize with every environment.

original Halifax
Halifax chairs are all about neutral colors

The Porter End Table, also made of walnut, has its first rendition in the tone of dark wood. A round wooden top sits nicely on a triangular base, with a bespoke fabric pull made out of leather. Neutral and natural, this gorgeously organic chair fits into Zen-inspired rooms that beckon for healing and meditation.

One may have thought these designs have reached their apex. But then, the real magic comes with the color and the change in fabric.

There was no other perfect collaborator than LUUM, whose company core was all about textiles, and the conscious engineering of better fibers to flourish in homes and offices. There is a certain philosophy to weaving, a process that does not only involve looming threads but also discovering approaches that make a textile more enduring and visually appealing.

LuUM textiles
LUUM’s Knurl, a fabric that puts the focus on sensation

Knurl is their latest product, a textural fabric that comfortably thrives in commercial and residential settings. Thick, knobby rows of polyester are seen and beautifully felt all over the fabrics, creating a lovely row of dotted patterns that give the textile a unique sensation. The optical glamour is added with saturated colors to bring out the full Memphis effect, in which brighter colors are used: Violet Pop Chatoyant, Pink Pop Hematite, and Orange Pop Module. 

The pairing of sharp, geometrical shapes and vivid accent colors naturally results in an eye-catching Memphis collection, an emerging trend in modern-day furniture.

What makes a Memphis?

Memphis design is characterized by flat, geometric shapes; solid yet saturated colors, repetitive patterns and an overall incongruent look that gives this style a fresh new air. It is inspired by many influences: art Deco, Pop Art, the 50s kitsch and a gaze into the future, with a sprig of Bacterio prints appearing through the inlays. At one point, one would consider it outrageous; it looked like a child’s playthings assembled from sticks, panels, or building blocks. But the way it defied common shapes made it a much-loved movement that Memphis was considered an art.

LUUM's fabrics
LUUM’s outstanding colors and the repetitive dot patterns exude a true Memphis flavor

Italian architect Ettore Sottsass founded it in the late 80s as a radical status quo from the humorless shapes of the 70s—hefty, squarish, minimalist furniture that looks and feels the same.

There was fun into it—lines are curvy, squiggly and appear to have no direction; patterns are drawn unevenly to create a quirky result. Colors are mostly shocking, with bright neon prints floating above a solid-hued canvass, and designers are allowed to put together a palette that comes from the different parts of the color wheel. Ditching normal materials, the Memphis puts other resources into play, with printed glass, acrylics, textured sheet metals, neon tubes, colored bulbs, laminates, and so on.

Surprisingly, the term Memphis was not inspired by the actual place, but a song–one that was played on repeat as Sottsass and his group mapped out their creative direction. Bob Dylan must be credited to their brainstorming, for “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again” became the theme of this artistic rebellion, a movement that constantly finds itself re-emerging above the surface of conventional paradigms. In 1988, Sottsass disbanded the group, thinking it was only a fad. But the spirit of Memphis thrives on and takes a permanent place in the contemporary culture, continuously alluring designers and users alike, whether it is held, worn, or sat on.

Halifax in LUUM
Memphis makes a delightful comeback in this collaborative design

It is logical to think that design is the comeback of the old. But one shouldn’t forget that creativity is a continuous dialogue, a fresh reiteration of the former, and a philosophy that keeps on growing and indulging at the same time.