Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Britain says "Happy Birthday" to an old designer called Terence Conran and old men remember his 'Habitat' wares when young men in the 1970's

Terence Orby Conran, designer, restaurateur, retailer and writer is 80 years old today.

What you possibly didn't know about Terence, that he :

* was born in Kingston upon Thames, the son of an English mother and South African father who owned a rubber importation company.

* went to school in Dorset and then 'Saint Martin's College of Art and Design', where he studied textiles and other materials.

* at the age of 20, in 1951, got his first professional work at the 'Festival of Britain' on the South Bank of the Thames and has said that it was 'a huge ray of light in the gloom of post Second World War austerity.'

* remembered that the Exhibition 'just stunned the general public who came along in their dreary wartime mackintoshes, gas-mask cases filled with Spam sandwiches and found bright cafes, music, flowers, modern furniture and a spirit of something that none of them had ever experienced in their lives.'

* got a job with an architectural company commissioned to make a scale interior of a Princess Flying Boat and then started his own design practice, at the age of 25 in 1956, with the Summa furniture range and designed a shop for Mary Quant.

* opened his first 'Habitat' shop in 1964 with his third wife, started a 'chain' selling household goods and furniture in contemporary designs, expanded it into a group which included 'Mothercare' and 'Heals', then lost control of the group in 1990.

* had a major role in the regeneration in the early 1990's of the Shad Thames area of London next to Tower Bridge which included the 'Design Museum'.

* created a number of London restaurants, in 2005 was named as the 'most influential restaurateur' in Britain by 'CatererSearch' then in 2007, sold 49% of his restaurant business and then, at the age of 77, opened a new restaurant in London.

* at the age of 80, started to furnish British living-rooms once more with a new range for 'Marks and Spencer'.

Terence talking about his work as a designer :

Deyan Sudjic, Director of the Design Museum when opening an exhibition which examined the Conran legacy said :
'No one has done more to change the way that Britain looks, or the way we look at things. He's changed the way our living-rooms look, what we cook, where we go on holiday, our restaurant habits – the restaurant as a middle-class pursuit is something that really came with Conran. His influence has been enormous.'

I was too young, at the age of 4, to remember the Festival of Britain, but I was in my 20's when my wife and I, as a middle class young couple, like thousands of others, furnished our first home with furniture and furnishings from 'Habitat'.

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