The passing of designer Terence Conran this week was a sad moment. A fabulous innovator across design, home retail and architecture, who has been a great influence on me, although I didn’t realise at first.
Conran founded the habitat chain of high street home stores, which had a branch in Sheffield where I grew up in the 1980s. Full of bright, exciting, fun and functional products for the home, it was very different to everything else around, especially British Home Stores opposite.
My mother had an eye for design, and much of my teenage bedroom came from this wonderful place.
By the 1990s I’d moved to London and my fiancé and I had our first home together. Here we discovered The Conran Shop, first in South Kensington and later in the new Marylebone store. This store was something of a revelation: everything for the home, but here with great quality, still fun, yet with a relaxed and eclectic aesthetic which gave the style a timeless feel.
It was more expensive, but here you were buying things that you’d live with for much longer. And this is the perfect example – the first thing we bought from The Conran Shop in the late 1990s for our first flat…
A beautiful bright ribbon lampshade by Isabel Stanley, matched with a simple Conran steel base. It illuminates a room whether it’s on or off, and here it is in our current home over twenty years later, beneath a linocut print by Paul Catherall. I’m sure we’ll still have it – and still love it – in another twenty years.
In 2014 I had the chance to visit his beautiful Georgian home at Barton Court in Berkshire. Somehow it wasn’t quite what I expected, although in hindsight it should’ve been. I was expecting something spectacularly preened and ‘perfect’. It’s a magnificent house of course, and beautifully kept, but it feels so very relaxed…
A few simple (and not matching!) chairs and an umbrella outside the front of the house, a grass path, and the abundant planting all around is allowed to flourish naturally. Charming and unpretentious.
My love of The Conran Shop continues today, and I’m not sure if there’s another whole-house store quite like it. I’ll always visit when I’m nearby, especially London’s South Kensington branch. I still shop there too, for myself as well as for our interior design projects.
And the most recent thing I bought there? Last Friday I ordered one of these beautiful Verner Panton ‘Fun’ chandeliers for one of our interior design projects. Another example of simple beauty and timeless elegance.
Mother-of-pearl circles hang from the frame, catching and dispersing the light at the same time. A marvellous combination of form, function, and natural material. And an illustration of the legacy that lives on in Sir Terence’s store, his work and his lasting influence on our homes.
Sir Terence’s book of condolence is here.