Sir Terence Conran has died.
I knew him vaguely – he once put the phone down on me during an interview because he thought I was being rude. Probably rightly. He did not suffer fools, such as me, lightly.
It comes to few people to change the lives of a generation and more. We all make fun of Habitat – “Shabitat” – but much of our stylish furniture, when we were first married 35 years ago, came from there.
Conrad understood that when people have more money, as in the early 1960s, they want to improve their lives in ways that cannot be measured economically. They want a better environment, better design, better stuff around their homes. The pleasure of a piece of furniture that does not look like it was owned by their parents.
He provided goods, for the home, that were far more aesthetic and pleasing than the drab, grey utilitarian rubbish that endured in the 1950s and the early 1960s. A touch of Scandinavian/Mediterranean light and colour to enliven the lives of a generation that were about to discover the same, at least in the Med, at first hand.
You have to have lived through those times to understand how important that was. The awful food, the drab streets, the sense that nothing in your home could ever be a statement of your own personality and be the creation of designers working through traditions not your own.
Conran grasped instinctively, not through some business plan but like all great retailers do, not just what his customers wanted but what they didn’t know they wanted.
RIP. That Habitat furniture has moved on elsewhere. But we felt better for owning it.