Sir Terence conran
Educated at the celebrated Central School of Arts and Crafts (today the famous Central St Martin’s) in London, Terence Conran then joined Dennis Lennon's architectural firm where he worked on the Royal Festival Hall and the Homes and Gardens pavilions.
As a young designer, he was influenced by modernism and revelled in the boundless euphoria of the post-war period. At heart an epicurean, he opened his first restaurant The Soup Kitchen in 1953 followed by Orrery the following year. These warm convivial atmospheres helped define his quest for style and simplicity, and his values for living and entertaining well. In 1957, he set up the Conran Design Group. Always concerned with aesthetics, he has an unerring talent for designing simple yet beautiful objects. In London's Swinging Sixties, he revolutionised the way people thought about the way they lived and shopped. In 1964 the talented designer turned businessman created Habitat's self-service retail concept, which has continued to flourish and expand in Europe over the years. In 1983, he was knighted by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Then in 1992 he retired from Habitat to set up The Conran Shop. Between 2003 and 2011 he was Provost of the Royal College of Art. Sir Terence Conran then returned to his first love - restaurants.
"We were young, extremely ambitious and frustrated that shops hadn't cottoned on to the fact that the world was changing. We thought they were too lazy and too complacent to seize the opportunity that was in front of their eyes. We realised that we had an opportunity to revolutionise the way in which products were sold, to create something much more than a simple furniture shop and because nobody understood our concept, we set up on our own. This is how Habitat came about - born out frustration but also the deep conviction that a better way of life could, and should, be accessible to as many people as possible (...).
By proposing our designs and styles, by making and selling desirable products for young people rather than recycling old ideas, we started our own little revolution in taste and retail. This spirit is still evident in French Habitat stores today. As I once told a Parisian journalist in hesitant strongly-accented French: "L’utile peut être beau et le beau accessible" (useful can be beautiful and beauty affordable)."
Extract from the forward of the book Habitat - 50 years, which will be published in October by Éditions du Chêne.
Opposite: the Parnasse tea set designed by Sir Terence Conran
To celebrate the brand's 50th anniversary, Sir Terence Conran designed the Parnasse collection. The timeless, clean lines of his porcelain tea service perfectly illustrate the conviviality he is so very good at creating.
The name of the range pays homage to the first Habitat store to open in France in Montparnasse in 1973.
Sir Terence Conran, 1950 Photo : Ray Williams