Terence Conran

Chairman, Conran Holdings Ltd.

Nationality: British.

Born: August 4, 1931, in London, England.

Education: Attended Central School of Arts and Crafts, 1949–1950.

Family: Son of Rupert Conran and Christine Halstead; married Brenda Davison (architect), 1954 (divorced 1955); married Shirley Ida Pierce, 1955 (divorced 1962); married Caroline Herbert (writer), 1963 (divorced 1966); married Victoria Davis (design-business manager), 2000; children: five (second marriage, two; third marriage, three).

Career: Rayon Centre, 1950–1951, textile designer; Dennis Lennon Studio, 1951–1952, interior designer; Conran and Company, 1952–1956, freelance furniture designer; Conran Design Group, 1956–1971, director; Habitat, 1964–1971, director; Habitat Mothercare Limited, 1982–1990, chairman; Conran Roche Architectural and City Planning, 1982–1993, director; CD Partnership, 1993–1999, chairman; Conran Holdings Ltd., 1990–, chairman.

Awards: Duke of Edinburgh Awards for design management, Royal Society of Arts, 1968 and 1975; Design Medal, Society of Industrial Artists and Designers, 1980; Bicentenary Medal, Royal Society of Arts, 1982; knighthood, Queen's New Year Honors, 1983; honorary fellow, Royal Institute of British Architects, 1984; President's Award for outstanding contribution to British design, Design and Art Direction (DA&D), 1989; Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres, government of France, 1992; Design Award, House Beautiful , 2002.

Publications: The House Book, 1974; The Essential House Book: Getting Back to Basics, 1994; Terence Conran on Design, 1996; Terence Conran Q&A: A Sort of Autobiography, 2001.

Address: Conran Holdings Ltd., 22 Shad Thames, London SE1 2YU, England; http://www.conran.com.

■ Terence Conran became one of the most successful and influential figures in the design world in the latter half of the 20th century. His business empire encompassed a furniture-making business, an architecture and planning group, a design company, a book publishing company, a hotel, and restaurants. He sought to create a wide range of accessible products whose simple forms would be both pleasing to the eye and a reflection of their function, and he used his various endeavors to expound this design philosophy.


Conran was born in 1931 in London. In 1952, after studying textile design in London and working at the Rayon Centre, Conran established his own furniture-making business, Conran and Company. In 1953 he opened his first restaurant, Soup Kitchen. He founded the Conran Design Group in London in 1956 and Habitat furnishing stores in 1964.

Conran was perhaps best known for the Habitat stores, an offshoot of which was the more upscale Conran Shop chain. Habitat's streamlined, functional designs had wide international appeal, making high-quality, modern furniture, and housewares affordable to the middle class. His other retail holdings included the Mothercare shops, selling clothing for mothers and babies, and Hepworth stores, specializing in men's wear. In 1986 Habitat and Mothercare merged with British Home Stores; the merged entity became known as the Storehouse Group. Conran retired from Storehouse in 1990, and the Habitat stores were sold to Ikea. The Conran Shop chain, however, continued into the 21st century.


In 1982 Conran cofounded Conran Roche Architectural and City Planning. In 1993, with the incorpation of several interior designers, this business morphed into CD Partnership, and in 1999 the entity changed its name to Conran and Partners. The Great Eastern Hotel in London, a joint venture between Conran and Wyndham International, opened in 2000.

Following his retirement from Storehouse Group, Conran founded Conran Associates, which became one of the largest design consultancies in Europe. Through this entity, Conran expanded his design empire to encompass clothing, office products, and graphic design projects. Both Conran Associates and Conran and Partners were subsumed under the umbrella name Conran Holdings, of which Conran was chairman.

The designer incorporated his interest in cooking and fine food into his career by opening a series of restaurants in London and other major European cities. Following Soup Kitchen were restaurants including Bibendum, Mezzo, the Zinc Bar, Bluebird, and Alcazar.

To reach an even broader market for his design concepts, Conran published his first of many books, The House Book , in 1974. Originally intended as an in-house training manual for Habitat employees, the work evolved into an influential manual for planning and designing the modern home. Following its success, Conran wrote several more design books before founding Conran Octopus publishing in 1983. His books covered a broad range of topics, from home decor to gardening to cooking, and gained him a measure of celebrity. Conran also wrote an autobiography, Terence Conran Q&A , chronicling his lengthy, multifaceted career, in which he describes himself as a "hard-working hedonist."


Conran's contributions to design and architecture won him recognition from numerous professional organizations and governments. He received awards from the Royal Society of Arts, the Society of Industrial Artists and Designers, and the Association for Business Sponsorship of the Arts, among others, and was honored with a knighthood in 1983.

sources for further information

Bailey, Stephen, ed., Conran Directory of Design , New York: Villard Books, 1985.

MacCarthy, Fiona, "The Emperor Strikes Back," Guardian , July 8, 1995.

Nadelson, Reggie, "Terence Takes Manhattan," Vogue USA , December 1999.

Phillips, Barty, Conran and the Habitat Story, London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1984.

Williams, Alex, "Welcome Back, Conran," New York Magazine , http://www.newyorkmetro.com/nymetro/realestate/urbandev/features/1592/ .

—Lisa Wolff

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