Thursday, 23 February 2012

The Way We Live Now

The Design Museum has marked the 80th birthday of British designer and entrepreneur Terence Conran with an exhibition celebrating the contribution he has made to contemporary British design.


Born in 1931 in Kinston Upon Thames, Conran studied textiles and design at Central St Martins in London.  One of his tutors was Scottish sculptor and artist Eduaordo Paolozzi.  Conran's first professional work was for the Festival of Britain in 1951 when he was working for an architectural company commissioned by the festival.
Original Advertistment for Habitat, c1960s
Conran set up his own company in 1954 and opened the first Habitat store in Chelsea ten years later.  Habitat revolutionised the UK high street during the 1960s and 70s, with chains opening throughout the country. It was the first time modern and intelligent design was made accessible to the general public.  The Conran Shop was setup much later, along with Benchmark Furniture, a bespoke furniture makers that champions quality craftmanship and sustainability.

Conran's iconic 'Salad Ware' designs for Midwinter Pottery, c1955.
Most notable in Conran's career are the successful partnerships formed with other British manufactures, designers, and companies, including numerous hotels and restaurants.  From the start of his career Conran has strengthened his brand through working together with others.  From his iconic designs for Midwinter Pottery and a shop for designer Mary Quant in the 1950s, to creating the restaurant Bibendum and Bluebird Garage in Chelsea.  Conran also had a major role in the regeneration of the Shad Thames area near Tower Bridge, with the Design Museum itself being managed by The Conran Foundation.

1950s textiles, furniture and ceramics by Terence Conran.
A replica of Terence Conran's workspace at his home.

Terence Conran received a knighthood in 1983 and after 80 years is still passionate about design and continues to work at his studio in London and at his home in Barton Court.  The Conran Group now encompases architecture, interior, product and graphic design, as well as the operation of shops, restaurants and hotels.

A selection of various Conran products on display.
Conran's philosophy has always been the same: "that good design gives you pleasure and improves the quality of all our lives through products, buildings or interiors that work well, are affordable and look beautiful." -

You can find original Conran designs at Alfies, in particular 1950s Midwinter ceramics. Have a look at Robinson Antiques on the ground floor and with Ian Broughton on the second floor.

The exhibition 'The Way We Live Now' runs until the 12th April at the Design Museum, Shad Thames.

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