'He changed the way we lived': British designer Terence Conran dies

Terence Conran. Photo: Getty
Terence Conran. Photo: Getty
Terence Conran, a renowned designer and restaurateur credited with modernising British retail and decor, has died aged 88, his family says.

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 big hit with the public.

He went on to become chairman of the Storehouse Plc retail group which included other well-known British high street shops such as Mothercare and British Home Stores.

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. His restaurant interests also ultimately stretched from Paris to New York and Tokyo.

"Terence Conran was instrumental in the redesigning of post-war Britain and his legacy is huge," said Tim Marlow, director and chief executive of London's Design Museum, which Conran founded.

"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.

All about design

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 Q&A for the Design Museum's website, crediting his mother a major inspiration.

"The restaurants, hotels and bars we have designed or operated, the shops, the interiors, the buildings, the 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 and in 1990 he stepped down as chairman of Stonehouse which sold the loss-making Habitat chain two years later to Swedish rival IKEA.

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

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