We should be grateful for Terence Conran’s revolutionary influence on our homes — despite his flaws

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

When the authors of a biography wait until the subject has died to publish it, you know it’s going to be a juicy read.

Terence: The Man Who Invented Design written by Stephen Bayley and Roger Mavity, covers Conran’s rages, hubris and womanising extensively.

But the chapters on the man as a design revolutionary are, in fact, the most interesting.

In grey, post-war Britain, three-piece suites and utility furniture still ruled. The first Habitat shop on Fulham Road kick-started the modern age in 1964 with cool, young staff in Mary Quant uniforms arranging piles of red enamel coffee pots.

By bringing a spirit of youth and Continental sophistication to the high street, Conran was as ground-breaking and influential on the way we design our homes as the Beatles were on music.

As one of the authors Roger Mavity puts it: “Terence invented a new way of thinking about the home, he made people aware that it can be a place of visual joy and got them to think differently about living.

“Young people no longer looked like they were in training to be old people, they suddenly had personalities, desires and ideas of their own and express themselves in their own way.”

In an age of Instagram interiors trends and endless “lifestyle” one-upmanship, it’s easy to take for granted, even resent, the idea of projecting our personalities on our homes.

Without Conran’s open-plan vision, the book suggests, we’d still be living box-like lives in box-like rooms.

We all owe a debt to Terence Conran, I’m just glad I never had to work for him.

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