We chat to the legendary designer about his passion for making things, open-plan living and using colour
In the world of design, Sir Terence Conran is something of a demi-god who has been at the forefront of his industry for the last six decades. Now in his 80s, his revolutionary Habitat chain – and The Conran Shop – have brought good design to the masses. He continues to design furniture for Content by Conran and co-founded the Design Museum, which relocates to Kensington in 2016. He has published more than 50 books, reflecting his design philosophy, the most recent being 'Conran on Colour'. He lives with his fourth wife Vicki at 18th century mansion Barton Court. He has five children, Sebastian, Jasper, Tom, Sophie and Ned, who work in fashion, art, cookery, design and the restaurant business.
Can you recall the moment you discovered your passion for making things?
As a small child I remember my favourite present was a bag of wooden off cuts, lots of nails and a pretty basic tool kit. After much pestering, my mother gave me a space for a small workshop and allowed me to set up a wood fired pottery kiln. There is no doubt this was the point where I first began to develop the curious mind of a designer and also the entrepreneurial mind of a retailer!
Having promoted open-plan living, do you detect a return to separate room living?
I think open-plan living is very much here to stay, in many ways it embodies the spirit of modernism, a contemporary style of life and relaxed, easy living. I find open-plan spaces inherently welcoming and functional and allow a natural flow of activity to take place.
What advice do you have on using colour in the home?
There is nothing like colour to add spice to your life and soul to your surroundings so why not use plenty of it? Nature has always been a huge source of colour inspiration for me – whether that is a well tended vegetable garden, a striking wild flower meadow or a Provencal landscape with azure seas and sun drenched lavender fields or green vineyards. The colors in nature are both varied and vivid and have always informed my work.
It is a quick and relatively cheap way to instantly transform a room but my top tip is definitely to prepare the surfaces immaculately – wash, brush or vacuum to get rid of dirt and debris then fill cracks and holes and sand down.
Using colour successfully does not always mean reaching for the boldest, brightest shades.Quieter, more contemplative schemes where the colour relationships shift as the light changes through the day can have just as much depth and character.
Tell us about one of the most precious things in your home?
The thing I like best about my house is my collections - I have little museums around the house and particularly like my glass pieces: industrial glass, laboratory glass, 18th century drinking glasses and agricultural pieces. I love its transparency, lightness and the traditional shapes the craftsmen have formed. I also have a collection of 19 Bugatti pedal cars that I have hung in the entrance hall of my country house.
What three products could you not live without?
Cigars, a sketch book and pencil and a good set of sharp knives for the kitchen.
Shown is the Stanford Sideboard, £999 from Content by Terence Conran and Studio sofa, £2,495.
Photos by Jake Curtis
Article by: Susan Springate