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Ettore Sottsass Memphis Carlton

Carlton 1981

Ettore Sottsass IT

Memphis IT

MDF, plastic laminate

purchase from Copi, 1990

Carlton is an early design by Memphis, the non-conformist Italian designer collective that Ettore Sottsass founded in 1981. The bookcase is in many respects typical of Memphis: playful, brightly coloured, sculptural and decorative. With this subversive ‘anti-design’, the creators criticized the rigid no-nonsense functionalism of modernism, which in their view had become entangled with capitalist consumer culture. The pieces of furniture were often made by hand and produced in small series. Ironically enough, the kitschy and casual character of the designs ensured that they themselves fell prey to the system that they wanted to upend. After all, postmodernism was rapidly associated with extravagance and decadence. In 2002 Sottsass put it this way: “[We] designed with an almost ethical attitude, we thought we were producing products that made people's lives better, society happier, which of course didn't happen.”


Marjanne van Helvert, The responsible object. A history of design ideology for the future, Valiz, Amsterdam, 2016, pp. 179-180;
Horacio Silva, Memphis has left the building, in: The New York Times Magazine,, 14/4/2002.