British designer Terence Conran changed the way people lived

LONDON • Terence Conran, a renowned designer and restaurateur credited with modernising British retail and decor, has died, his family said last Saturday. He was 88.

Conran made his name in the 1960s with the Habitat home-furnishing store, known for its contemporary pine furniture, brightly coloured fabrics and tasteful kitchenware, which proved a hit.

He later become chairman of the Storehouse retail group, which included well-known British high-street shops such as Mothercare.

Also passionate about food, his first restaurant, The Soup Kitchen, opened in London in 1953 and he went on to open many more in the capital, including Le Pont de la Tour, Quaglino's and Mezzo, with his restaurant interests also ultimately stretching from Paris to New York to Tokyo.

Mr Tim Marlow, director and chief executive of London's Design Museum, which Conran founded, 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."

His family echoed this. "He was a visionary who enjoyed an extraordinary life and career that revolutionised the way we live in Britain," it said in a statement.

Conran studied textile design at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London and launched Habitat in 1964, dreaming of providing well-designed goods for ordinary people.

A single store in west London grew into a national and international chain. He opened his first The Conran Shop, which also focused on furniture and home decor, in 1972 and was knighted in 1983.

"I've spent a colourful lifetime working in design and everything related to it, because design is where all the things I have worked on meet," he wrote in a question-and-answer section for the Design Museum's website, crediting his mother as a major inspiration.

"The restaurants, hotels and bars we have designed or operated, the shops, interiors, buildings, products and furniture or the books I have written - design is the one thing that connects them all and they add up to what I call a style of life.

"I also realise how lucky I have been in that everything I have ever done for work or business, I would have done simply for pleasure."

His business enterprises were not always a success. In 1990, he stepped down as chairman of Storehouse, which later sold the loss-making Habitat chain to Swedish rival Ikea.

He turned his back on the mass market to focus on his upmarket retail stores and restaurants.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2020, with the headline 'British designer Terence Conran changed the way people lived'. Print Edition | Subscribe