Finding joy in designing was his elixir of life, which renewed itself with every challenge. Terence Conran pursued multiple careers in parallel. There is likely no other designer of his generation who exerted as much of an influence on design and spreading it in the United Kingdom as he did. Tim Marlow, director of the London Design Museum that Conran started, confirms this when he writes, “Terence Conran was instrumental in the redesigning of post-war Britain, and his legacy is huge. He is revered by generations of designers from Mary Quant and David Mellor to Thomas Heatherwick and Jonny Ive. He changed the way we lived and shopped and ate. He also created a great institution – the Design Museum – of which he was justifiably proud and with which he remained fully engaged right to the end of his extraordinary life. It was a privilege and an inspiration to know him.”
Terence Conran was born in Kingston upon Thames on 4 October 1931. He studied textile design at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London, though quit his studies in 1948 to seek work. Together with artist Eduardo Paolozzi, he established a workshop in which he dabbled in furniture design, ceramics and fabrics. In 1964, Conran launched Habitat, the first chain to offer to the United Kingdom furniture with a functional and aesthetic design, all disassembled and flat-packed as is familiar from Ikea. He skilfully built up the furniture business from a single, premium shop in London to a national and international chain. Habitat was also his stepping stone into other retail undertakings such as The Conran Shop, which opened in 1972 with branches in London, Paris, New York and Japan. In partnership with Fred Lloyd Roche, Conran founded an architecture firm and devoted himself to the professionalisation of design in the UK. The Conran Design Group demonstrated the best of what design had to offer in the UK and specialised in interior decoration, hotel and restaurant design, graphic artwork, products and household goods.
Alongside design, food was also one of Terence Conran’s greatest passions. Fittingly, he became a well-known restaurateur and opened numerous restaurants between London, Paris, New York, Copenhagen and Tokyo, including Pont de la Tour, Bibendum, Orrery, Quaglino’s and Mezzo. According to a statement from his family, he had always emphasised that his work did not feel like work and that he had done all of his work for pleasure. They also say, “He was a visionary with an extraordinary life.” Terence Conran passed away at 88 years of age on 12 September 2020.