The Umbrellas of Cherbourg had just won the Palme D’or at the Cannes Film Festival, while the other side of the Channel was still awash in Beatlemania. However, the designer Terence Conran chose “You Really Got Me” by The Kinks for the opening of Habitat on London’s Fulham Road on 11 May 1964. Pioneer of a new art of living, the brand featured a simple, function-based design with a focus on conviviality, blending genres, authenticity and affordability, and introduced the concept of self-service decoration. Shopping at Habitat has always been as enjoyable as it is timeless, transcending both convention and trends. The spirit of the brand blends natural materials and primary colours, mixing streamlined Scandinavian design with exoticism from faraway lands. 1966 to 1974 heralded the arrival of the wok, dhurrie rugs, Japanese futons, paper lamps, sagbags, blinds, trestle tables, the chicken brick, the director’s chair, the folding chair, the duvet and much more. In 1969, the first mail-order catalogue was launched. Seventeen points of sale were already established in England when the Habitat concept spread to other countries. The first Habitat abroad opened in 1973 on the ground floor of the Montparnasse Tower in Paris. Other shops would soon open elsewhere in France and Europe. In 1979 there were more than 105 points of sale across the world. Habitat France began to focus on design that year. In a partnership with the VIA (association to promote innovation in furnishings), the brand launched a competition that awarded designers who have come to be recognised among the best, including Bertrand Savatte and Guillaume Parent for the Pesa chair, Philippe Starck for his Ray Noble shelves, and Pascal Mourgue for the Fiesta sofa.
The 1980s oil glut left much of the western world bloodless, creating a desire for release through a massive revival of colours and patterns. However, the prevailing eccentricity, sequins and glitter were not suited to the tastes of Sir Terence Conran, who reacted with a return to 1950s design focusing on monochromatic designs and quality materials. Black, chrome and leather formed an elegant style inspired by Le Corbusier. Habitat does not follow trends; it sets them. The garden now entered Habitat as a new living area in the home. In May of 1987, the Palme D’or was awarded to Under the Sun of Satan, a film directed by Maurice Pialat. The Cannes Film Festival celebrated its 40th anniversary, and Habitat dedicated an exclusive collection to the occasion. But while Habitat was courting the 7th Art - or vice-versa - the economy took a turn for the worse. Sir Terence Conran retired in 1991 to leave Habitat expertise in the hands of the family of Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of Ikea, in 1993. The next year, Habitat celebrated its 20th anniversary. Cocooning was at its peak and eclecticism was back on the market.
The cultural revolution created by the first version of the iMac appeared simultaneously with the designation of Tom Dixon as artistic director of Habitat. He created the new graphic identity “Love Your Home”. With an emphasis on design and materials and an emphatic refusal of trends, Dixon revisited the Habitat spirit with a taste for boldness and sensationalism. He also brought manufacturing back into the group’s own workshops, reinstating the brand’s original values. With the “20th Century Legends” collection, he brought back classic pieces at affordable prices. The pieces paid tribute to great designers including Anna Castelli Ferrieri, Verner Panton, Robin and Lucienne Day, Pierre Paulin. Habitat celebrated its 40th anniversary with Dixon’s VIP collection, of which the pieces are now among the brand’s cult objects. Théo Williams replaced Dixon in 2008, bringing to the forefront iconic pieces such as the Spindle lamp and the Kilo table which are still sold today. While this design period was far-reaching with its avant-garde creations, it was also a time to return to the brand’s original philosophy.
The Arab Spring ushered in a wave of revolutions in 2011. Habitat also went through its own revolution, taking on a French accent under the leadership of Hervé Giaoui, a recognised professional in furniture distribution. His idea was to bring design into everyday life and to cultivate affordable, classic beauty. Supported by the revival of its values, Habitat opened a 1964 Vintage Habitat space in the Saint-Ouen flea market of Paris in 2013. With Pierre Favresse as creative director, a synergy between the creative and manufacturing processes was born: both took place in the same studio. Taking the best from technology and expertise, today’s Habitat design continues to showcase simplicity and high-quality materials. Local sourcing has made its way back into the manufacturing logic, and unprecedented collaborations and partnerships have become part of the creative process. Habitat is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a new outlook, exploring new horizons within - and beyond - its own frontiers. Two new store concepts will be inaugurated in September: Habitat Pure on Avenue de Wagram, and Habitat Bedding at the Pont Neuf store. A book to be published by Editions du Chêne will review the fifty-year history of this beloved brand: one that has always been in step with the times.
Graphic Design : Mélina Vernant
Welcome to La vie est design, the webzine dedicated to decoration and design edited by Habitat. Our aim: to advise you, unearth new trends and to meet those who design. Through decorative ideas, inspirations and shopping tips , La vie est design reflects a lifestyle according to Habitat: faithful as always to its vision of design and its founder Terence Conran's timeless motto : “Useful can be beautiful and beautiful can be affordable”.