A life in de­sign: the Con­ran story

As Sir Ter­ence Con­ran cel­e­brates his 85th birth­day, we look at a new book chart­ing the rise of the man who trans­formed Bri­tain’s shop­ping habits and din­ing ex­pe­ri­ences

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Cel­e­brat­ing Sir Ter­ence Con­ran’s im­pact on Bri­tish de­sign

MID- CEN­TURY PAT­TERN Fab­rics, ce­ram­ics and tiles were key el­e­ments of Con­ran’s early ca­reer, which he em­barked on after study­ing tex­tile de­sign at Cen­tral School of Arts and Crafts in Lon­don – the only man in a class of 33 women. Shown here are his ‘Che­quers’ (1957) and ‘Na­ture Study’ (1955) prints, which were ap­plied to fab­ric for David White­head and china for Mid­win­ter. RESTAU­RANTS In the 1980s and ’90s, Con­ran was a pi­o­neer of the restau­rant as a place not merely to dine, but to see and be seen. His venues – such as Quaglino’s and Al­cazar, both pic­tured above – are as much about the in­te­rior as they are about the food. FUR­NI­TURE ‘In my heart, I have al­ways con­sid­ered my­self a fur­ni­ture maker,’ says Con­ran. One of his big­gest achieve­ments in this area is Bench­mark Fur­ni­ture, a com­pany founded with de­signer Sean Sut­cliffe in 1984. Known for its hand­crafted wooden pieces (such as the de­signs shown here), its fac­tory is in the grounds of Barton Court, Con­ran’s coun­try home in Berk­shire. HABI­TAT ‘The first Habi­tat store opened in May 1964 and grew out of my frus­tra­tion with Bri­tish re­tail­ers in the early 1960s,’ says Con­ran. Sud­denly, it was pos­si­ble to buy fur­ni­ture and take it straight home rather than wait­ing for it to be made. Shown here are Habi­tat’s in­spi­ra­tional cat­a­logues of the 1970s and 80s, which were sold on news­stands along­side mag­a­zines.

THE CON­RAN SHOP Habi­tat’s more lux­u­ri­ous sib­ling, which opened in 1974, stocked prod­ucts that were, in Con­ran’s words, ‘per­ceived as too ex­pen­sive or un­usual for the typ­i­cal Habi­tat cus­tomer’. Its flag­ship store on Lon­don’s Ful­ham Road is housed in a bril­liantly spa­cious for­mer tyre ware­house dat­ing from 1910, which was painstak­ingly re­stored by Con­ran – it’s still there to­day. BOOKS Ti­tles on di­verse sub­jects in­clud­ing cook­ery, DIY, gar­den­ing, Lon­don, France, colour, stor­age and eco de­sign have flowed from Con­ran’s pen over the decades. ‘I sup­pose they all add up to what I call a “style of life”,’ he says. Now, Ter­ence Con­ran: My Life in De­sign can be added to the grow­ing li­brary.

ELLE Dec­o­ra­tion read­ers can buy Ter­ence Con­ran: My Life in De­sign by Sir Ter­ence Con­ran (Con­ran Oc­to­pus, £30) for the spe­cial price of just £21, with free UK P&P. To or­der, please call 01903 828503 quot­ing ref­er­ence: De­sign/con556. Of­fer sub­ject to avail­abil­ity, please al­low seven days for de­liv­ery. ➤



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