British designer Sir Terence Conran dies aged 88

Sir Terence Conran - Jeff Gilbert
Sir Terence Conran – Jeff Gilbert

Sir Terence Conran, who shaped much of the way domestic Britain looks today, has died at the age of 88.

The designer, retailer and restaurateur passed away peacefully on Saturday at his home in Barton Court in Berkshire, his influence on furniture and homeware design could be felt in a generation of homes.

In a statement his family described Sir Terence as “a visionary who enjoyed an extraordinary life and career that revolutionised the way we live in Britain”.

They added: “A proud patriot, Sir Terence promoted the best of British design, culture and the arts around the world and at the heart of everything he did was a very simple belief that good design improves the quality of people’s lives.

“From the late forties to the present day, his energy and creativity thrived in his shops, restaurants, bars, cafes and hotels and through his many design, architecture and furniture making businesses.”

Born in Kingston upon Thames, Sir Terence attended the Central School of Art and Design before joining the design team working on the 1951 Festival of Britain.

Five years later he branched out on his own, launching his own design practice with the Summa furniture range and designing a shop for the fashion pioneer Mary Quant.

Sir Terence
Sir Terence

In 1964 Sir Terence opened the first Habitat shop in Chelsea, London, with his third wife Caroline Herbert, which eventually grew into one of the country’s most successful chains for contemporary designs of household goods and furniture.

Sir Terence was profoundly influenced by both post-war continental furniture and kitchenware design – with its emphasis on clean lives, lack of clutter but also earthiness – and the vivid colours, smells and flavours of Italian and French street markets and restaurants.

Indeed his influence on British cooking was also significant.

In 1971 he launched the now famous Neil St Restaurant, going on to open The Bluebird Cafe in 1997. He was also responsible for Mezzo and Pont de la Tour, which in May 1997 famously hosted the Blairs and Clintons for a private dinner.

Sir Terence also founded the Design Museum, originally in London’s Docklands, which his family described as “one of his proudest moments”.

They added: “Through its endeavours he remained a relentless champion of the importance of education to young people in the creative industries.”

The statement continued: “Sir Terence enjoyed a remarkable life to the full and always maintained that his work never felt like a job – everything he did for business he would have done for pleasure.

“In his private life he was adored by his family and friends and we will miss him dearly. It gives us great comfort to know that many of you will mourn with us but we ask that you celebrate Terence’s extraordinary legacy and contribution to the country he loved so dearly.”

Sir Terence’s children Sebastian, Jasper, Sophie, Tom and Edmund also went into the creative industries, continuing their father’s legacy of championing beautiful things that everyone could aspire to.

Monty Don, the broadcaster and gardener, said: “Very sad to hear of the Death of Sir Terence Conran. One of the towering figures in postwar design, he shaped the lives of millions.”

Lord Mandelson, chairman of the board of trustees at the Design Museum, said: “Terence Conran has filled our lives for generations with ideas, innovation and brilliant design. He leaves a treasure trove of household and industrial design that will stay with us forever.” 

Tim Marlow, director and chief executive at the Design Museum, said: “Terence Conran was instrumental in the redesigning of post-war Britain and his legacy is huge. He changed the way we lived and shopped and ate.”

Alice G. Collins

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