15 Feb 2013

Habitat and the democratisation of design

There are many reasons, why I like Terence Conran. One is the importance of his work to England and Europe.  When he opened his first interior design shop, Habitat, in London in 1964, he revolutionized interior design in Britain. 

Terence Conran and the directors of the first Habitat, photographed for the Sunday Times by 
Terry Donovan in May 1964. I particularly love the hairstyles.

Terence was in the right place at the right time. The political and economic stability in Europe created opportunities for new markets. 

Habitat, Montparnasse, the first shop in France, September 1973

The business expanded quickly, in less than 10 years there were 18 branches of Habitat around the UK and with those he single-handedly brought stylish internationally influenced furniture and accessories to the high street, making them affordable to more then just the wealthy. 

The Charles and Ray Eames Chair became a classic. It was introduced in 1971.

Habitat transformed millions of homes in the sixties and seventies. Its interiors were much simpler than hitherto, with Scandinavian, French and Japanese influences. Some design furniture that Habitat introduced became classic pieces like the Robin Day Forum Sofa and the Charles and Ray Eames Chair.

The Japanese Paper Lantern was introduced in 1967 and became very popular. 

These days Habitat doesn’t belong to Terence Conran anymore and last year, it almost disappeared from our high streets as 30 of its stores went into administration. Consumer habits changed and the retail brand failed to keep up. 

Simple product advertising that ran to The Times diary page.

However, it is impossible to deny the impact Habitat caused in middle class homes in earlier days. Habitat democratised good design. 

Pictures from the book Terence Conran, A sort of autobiography

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