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
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. ➤
HABITAT THE CONRAN SHOP MID- CENTURY PAT TERN RESTAURANTS