19 May 2024, 03:41
By Furniture News Sept 14, 2020

Sir Terence Conran dies aged 88

Furniture designer Sir Terence Conran passed away on 12th September at the age of 88.

The founder of Habitat, Terence led a rich life in furniture design. Before his death, he remained busy developing contemporary lines for Benchmark, The Conran Shop, and Content by Terence Conran.

Terence was involved in the design world since 1947, when he started out as a student at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, studying textile design. He opened his first furnituremaking workshop in London’s East End with Eduardo Paolozzi in 1949, and between 1949 and 1951 worked for architect Dennis Lennon on myriad projects, including the Festival of Britain.

In 1955 Terence launched his own company, Conran Fabrics, and in 1956 he created the Conran Design Group. In 1962 he moved his furnituremaking business to a factory in Thetford, Norfolk, taking nearly 80 staff from London with him and launching Summa, his first purely domestic range of flat-pack furniture.

In 1964 he opened his first shop, Habitat, which grew into a global business. As the founder of the Storehouse Group he acquired the Heal’s furniture business, set up Next and ran British Home Stores and Mothercare. He opened the first Conran Shop in 1973, which also has stores around the world. 

In 1986, Terence set up a new furnituremaking business called Benchmark Furniture in the grounds of his Berkshire home, and in 1989 he founded the Design Museum in London in an old banana warehouse in Butlers Wharf. The museum has now moved to new premises in Kensington. In 2003 he launched Content by Terence Conran, a modern furniture business that makes designs for contemporary living.

Tim Marlow, director and chief executive of the Design Museum, which Sir Terence founded in 1989, says: “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.”

Dovecot Studios, Edinburgh, is hosting an exhibition that shares Terence's early work and explores the impact he had on everyday life in post-war Britain. The exhibition runs until 9th January 2021.

Furniture News interviewed Sir Terence late last year - read it here.

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