Monday, 14 September 2020

Goodbye Sir Terence.


There is no doubt that Sir Terence Conran changed our lives.

His mid-1960's store, Habitat, brought to the High Street things we had only ever previously encountered abroad; mostly in France.

His simple, plain white painted, stores offered us Le Creuset cast iron casserole dishes (mostly orange), large round tissue-paper lampshades, duvets, and even woks. You walked into his stores and literally became enthralled.

His other great love was good food, and he opened over 50 restaurants, from the simple to the gourmet. Whist studying at The Central, his tutor had been sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi who was a passionate foodie, and had introduced him to the pleasures of simple Italian foods which he later tried to emulate in his eateries.

Conran's philosophy was that 'good design makes people's lives better'; and he was right.

So, goodbye Sir Terence; your 88 years were well spent, and you certainly improved mine.

p.s. My small black leather wallet, which I've owned for years, was designed by his son.

29 comments:

  1. I hadn't heard that he had died. Rest in peace Sir Terence.

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  2. Replies
    1. Trying to do things too quickly. I also noticed that I'd spelt Terence with two r's. Corrected!

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  3. Good design is difficult to define, but you just know when you see it.

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    1. He certainly did. He scoured Europe for things 'aesthetic' to sell.

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  4. I still have his early house books, most of the Habitat catalogues, some pots and pans, and two small Chesterfield sofas that are about 40yrs old. Good design works and it lasts - thank you, Sir T.

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    1. I still have a few Le creusets, some salt glazed bowls, and a couple of white oval platters. None of them has dated.

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  5. A friend of mine worked at Heals furniture store which was a rival of Habitat. To Heals employees Habitat was known as 'Shabitat'.

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    1. Heals prided themselves on their quality, but I don't think Habitat's was that bad.

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  6. I hadn't heard of him but most interesting.

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    1. I would have thought that a Habitat shop in Melbourne would have done very well.

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  7. Certainly someone who made a big difference, I hope he knew that.

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    1. I'm sure he did. He gave a whole generation a new attitude towards interior design.

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  8. Like you I was enthralled by Habitat's simplicity and sophistication when it opened. I was once fortunate to lunch at his restaurant overlooking the Thames. It was a design marvel to me at the time. It was only when I read in the mid '20s that his chain was being made over by the new owners to get rid of its 'tired' image that I realised how little I must have known about contemporary design.

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    1. When they first opened, his Habitat stores were visited much as we visited Biba. They were full of interest, and were places to be seen!

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  9. Biba first then Habitat as I got older and began to get interested in interiors. We all had the Habitat paper lanterns ( Tom still has them and they haven’t dated .... our children had them when they had their first homes ) & I still have three white, very large plates/platters that are so useful. I had much more but have moved on ... probably should have kept lots of it but never mind. Just like Biba, neither were the same when they were taken over. Thanks for the beautiful, innovative design Terence. XXXX

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    1. I'm sure you remember Biba in High St Ken. I knew the 'twins' who worked there, they became quite famous. I spent a lot of time (and money) in there. High maintenance girlfriend!!

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    2. I was in Biba all the time Cro but I preferred it before it moved ... there was more atmosphere in Church Street ... it got too big when it moved to High Street Ken. I don’t like saying things were better in the 60’s/70’s but there is nothing like Biba, Bus Stop, Lord Kitcheners etc. anymore. or Habitat .... I guess people would say Ikea is similar but it’s not ! XXXX

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    3. I meant Church St. When they moved to Derry & Toms it became silly.

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  10. Biba, Conran and Laura Ashley all trail blazers. Fantastic stores and products, still love them all.

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    1. I was running a small antiques business in Chelsea in the Quant era too; wonderful times.

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    2. I still love them all as well S&P ... there’s nothing like it now. XXXX

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  11. Read his Obit in The Times this morning and it did strike me that he has left a good legacy behind him with his son.

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  12. "Habitat" gave us a glimpse into how modern living could be. He was right that there is a direct relationship between the environments we inhabit and our sense of ease within them. As you suggest - Terence Conran left his mark upon our world and it was a good one.

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    1. He had more influence over our lives than he could ever have imagined.

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  13. I am not familiar with this store. From your description and the comments, I am quite sure I would have enjoyed and appreciated the aesthetic he represented.

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    1. It was a ground-breaking store, filled with wonderful design, at affordable prices. Perfect for the 60's.

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