Monthly Archives: April 2010

Conran Columns: Tips for a great London Weekend

Unsurprisingly we are massive supporters of British design, skill, talent and manufacture.

Benchmark, Terence’s furniture factory in Berkshire, is all about specialist woodworking with each product handmade to order. And Content by Conran has recently moved all it’s upholstery production back to the UK to the heart of the British furniture industry in Long Eaton.

This week a new exhibition at Fortnum and Mason celebrating the best in british craft opens showcasing stunning handmade items from a selection of designer-makers. We definitely recommend a visit.

Plus being at Fortnums there is the added bonus of being able to enjoy the splendours of a knickerbocker glory after enjoying the splendours of the handmade.

Talking craft  – this week Brand Development Director Jill Webb was present on the selection panel of Origin, the Crafts Council’s London Craft fair, which will be held this year from Sept 23rd- 29th in Spitalfields market. It’s always crammed full of fabulous unique pieces and is always worth a browse.

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Conran loves the East London Line

Emma Weber, one of our graphic designers here at Studio Conran inaugurated the new overground East London Line yesterday morning and took a couple of pics…

East London Line

I usually cycle into work but I got a flat tyre last night cycling home so the opening was perfect timing. The train was practically empty and sooo clean. Amazing. The only downside was the colour and patterns of the seats… Check for yourself. Definitely not my cup of tea!

I started the journey at Haggerston, changed at Canada Water onto the Jubilee line and got off at Bermondsey…all in under 30 minutes!

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Conran & Partners on TV…and other news

It’s not often anyone gets to be on tele, let alone twice in less than a year, but Jane Lawrence of Conran & Partners can now officially adopt this claim to fame.

Last year BBC1 aired Mary Queen of Charity Shops, where Conran & Partners created the interiors for Save the Children’s retail shop in Orpington, helping Mary Portas take on a seemingly impossible challenge: dragging this humble, forgotten, unloved charity shop into the 21st century. After five long months a remarkable, lasting transformation was achieved.

Earlier this week the BBC revisited the shop, and there she was again, presenting our concepts to the shop staff.

Why not take a look – it’s on BBC iPlayer till 10pm on 3 May – if you can’t watch the whole thing you can see her from 24.50-26.45 and you can see the final solution from 31.55-33.00:

Jane L on the BBC

Conran & Partners Seeks new Marketing Assistant

Our Architects and Interiors team are looking for someone to help them out with marketing – this is a great opportunity to join a thriving and friendly team.

Click here for more info

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Studio Conran: Designers on the look out..reports from Light & Building and Milan fairs

Earlier this month, Studio Conran dodged the ash clouds to visit the Light+ Building trade fair in Frankfurt. Shannon Smith, a Senior Product Designer reports:

L+B is a biennial event, covering a diverse cross-section of the lighting, electrical engineering and building automation industries.We continue to work with Yamagiwa in Japan and are currently working on a range of beautiful lighting control panels for a Finnish company so, thought it an ideal opportunity to lace up the sensible shoes and wander through eleven halls of the imposing Messe Frankfurt. With over 2000 exhibitors, there were plenty of inspiring innovations worth mentioning, however as we reflected wearily on the flight home, there were a couple of cleverly beautiful design solutions that stuck clearly in our minds.


Once we stopped gaping at the eye-catching exhibition stand complete with waterfall, rainforest and a battalion of iPads, we realised that the comparatively unassuming design of the Occhio Piu lighting system was actually rather good. Every interchangeable component in the modular spotlight assembly was laid bare for public scrutiny, expressing not just a great functional versatility, but incredible aesthetic attention to detail. Although Occhio Piu was cleverly designed to suit various light sources, it was clear that Occhio, along with vast the majority of exhibitors at L+B, viewed high performance, energy efficient LEDs as the way forward.


A dazzling highlight of the Luceplan stand, and indeed the entire L+B show was the Hope pendant light, designed by Francisco Gomez Paz and Paolo Rizzato. Hope is a lightweight, refreshingly contemporary take on the traditional chandelier, constructed from a series of thin, polycarbonate ‘fresnel leaves’. Each leaf has a highly polished outer surface, and a textured inner surface of concentric micro-prisms that reflect and refract light much like crystal. Assembly is dead simple, with each ‘stem’ snapping easily into a central steel armature without the need for tools.

Image courtesy of, and

More from Milan

Carlos Queiros, another Senior Product Designer here at Studio Conran was also out and about at the Milan Design Fair last week and was Lorraine’s travelling companion on that long overland journey home.

You’ve heard the story but we couldn’t resist these pictures:

“An extra night in Milan usually sounds great…but not at the prices these hotels were charging.

We needed to find a way out of the city. Maximus, the Italian Taxi driver was our chosen chauffeur. After calling his wife of 25 years to tell her he was going to be ‘late for dinner’, we set off stopping off first for some much needed sugar treats….next stop Nice”

Maximus: (shame he doesn't look more like Russell Crowe)

...still working...honest

Still working...honest...

...Paris Darling

Lorraine keeping stylish throughout!

Carlos is the Senior Designer on our exciting and ongoing collaboration with cult German coffee and retail brand Tchibo - our new range is due to launch on the 12th May – more nearer the time!

Here’s some stuff at the fair he loved:

“Milan was full of thought provoking products; the bit that I always most enjoy is the attention to detail from some of the Italian big furniture manufactures.

As a fellow designer it’s always interesting to meet other designers at Milan to discuss their designs. On this occasion the designer who stood out was Thomas Heatherwick.

He explained and demonstrated his fun new chair SPUN, which he’s designed for Magis…

Thomas Heatherwick's SPUN Chair designed for Magis

The Concrete table by Arflex also really stood out – it’s great that it’s made from concrete – no wastage.”

More about Carlos and Tchibo next week.

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Hugo Eccles joins Studio Conran as new Creative Director

We are very excited to annouce that Hugo Eccles has joined us as the brand new Creative Director of Studio Conran. It’s his first day and he’s already a very busy man.

Hugo has just returned from judging the International Design Excellence Awards conducted in the Henry Ford Museum just outside Detroit – apparently a collection second in size only to the Smithsonian in Washington DC. This is the second year he’s been asked to judge the awards.

Hugo studied at the RCA and has over 15 years of professional experience working with influential European, Asian, and American companies on projects ranging from furniture and interiors to consumer electronics and concept cars.

He joined the innovation consultancy IDEO in 1995 and won an IDEA Bronze Award for Design Exploration, amongst others. After three years of working with IDEO and Ross Lovegrove, he founded Baionik, a London-based design studio servicing an international clientele including Honda, Nike and the Ford Motor Company.

In 2003 he relocated to the US to join Fitch Inc. as US Director of Product Development, where his team won 9 awards in three years including an IDEA Gold, the consultancy’s first in a decade.

On leaving Fitch, Hugo was offered the position of Creative Director of Habitat, a position previously held by Tom Dixon, but seeking different opportunities, he chose to lead the Arnell Group’s Innovation Lab. working with Fortune 500 clients including Home Depot and Johnson & Johnson.

60seconds with Hugo:


Terence Conran, and the group of companies he has built over 50 years, continues to be a force in British and worldwide design so the chance to be part of that, and in a significant way, was an opportunity I naturally jumped at.

What excites you most about your new role?

The sheer extent and scope of the potential. We have a great team, great clients and the remit to make some big waves.

Design Heaven?

Intelligence and simplicity.

Design Hell?

Anything styled vs designed. Unfortunately, there’s an awful lot of it about.

We are all really looking forward to working with him.

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Conran Columns: Tips for a great London weekend – 23-25 April 2010

Somerset House really is the place to be at the moment – last week we recommended taking a look or rather a listen of Bill Fontana’s River Sounding.

This weekend the Pick Me Up, the UK’s first contemporary Graphic Art fair, will be held in that same auspicious location, bringing together the most exciting graphic artists working today and giving people the chance to buy quirky, affordable, one-off pieces of illustration and design.

If you dont fancy either of those simply go and soak up the sun on their riverside terrace – divine. It’s heading on up to 20degrees….!

Read more about it on Eye Magazine’s blog

A New Face at Studio Conran

Last week we talked about Studio Conran, the product and graphic design studio here at CONRAN.

Well, we are delighted to announce that from next Monday Hugo Eccles will be joining the studio as the brand new Creative Director fresh from New York and stints at Fitch and Arnell Group’s Innovation Lab. Very exciting.

We managed to grab him before he starts ‘officially’ and ask him a couple of questions about why he’s joined CONRAN.

Click back on Monday or subscribe to our emails or feeds to find out and keep up to date about what’s going on.

Marrying Miss Last

Massive congratulations to Izzie Last, our fabulous Senior Receptionist and general oracle. She’s off to get married next weekend. If ever a wedding was planned in more beautiful detail we want to know about it.

We wish her and new husband Jason all the best!

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Terence’s Milan Report 2010

As promised….a report from the man himself

Milan 2010 blog

Unfortunately, as the week progressed the main topic of conversation was not about the design or quality of furniture but about how many hundreds of thousands of visitors were going to escape Milan and find their way home with mainland Europe paralysed by clouds of volcanic dust from Iceland.

No planes, trains fully booked and no hire cars.  The only slightly impractical solution seemed to be horseback or Hannibal’s elephants.

We took the soft option and persuaded our excellent driver Davide in his Audi A6 to take us to a delicious Hotel near Nice called La Colombe d’Or where we stayed for the weekend with classic old school French food, a pool and some sunshine, plus famous pictures and sculpture by Matisse, Calder, Leger, Miro, Utrillo, Braque and many others and warmed the bed reserved for Michael Winner and his fiancée.

The show was good, lots of very thin furniture influenced by the elegant carbon fibre table by Established and Sons from a couple of years ago, taking us back to the 50’s and 60’s.  I remember welding up very spindly furniture made from ½’’ metal rod myself.  Unfortunately there did seem to be lots of gimmicky humorous furniture of not much practical use.  The joke wears thin rather quickly I fear.

However our buyer found an excellent collection of affordable products which will appear on the shop floors over the new few months.

There was an excellent display by Vitra with stylish room sets that looked really liveable alongside beautiful, exquisitely detailed furniture by other leading manufacturers. If you want to talk about trends there was nothing memorable but what was noticeable was how staggeringly expensive everything was, partially the fault of the Euro/Sterling currency situation.

However the outside exhibitions at Ventura Lambrate design district by students from the RCA and Arnhem had real originality and the show at Rossana Orlandi

with lots of exhibits off a cafe courtyard with an upholstered VW Beetle and a flea market of 60’s furniture and elegant shelving from Artek was certainly worth the detour, as was Rinascente’s show of British furniture at their New Design supermarket.

Rolf Sachs’ art show of painted upholstery and light sculpture was certainly extraordinary and exciting, halfway between design and invention and real art for the future.

But will I ever get home or are we destined to spend the summer in the South of France?
I’m already beginning to miss the office.

Thanks to for the photo of the Beetle….

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Conran Shops Galore: At Home and Abroad!

Official launch isn’t until May but yesterday The Conran Shop New York opened the doors of its new home in the wonderful, eclectic environs of ABC Home on Broadway.

It’s already causing a splash in cyber world and hasn’t even opened officially yet!

Check out our full report from the opening including words from Terence here in a couple of weeks time.

Returning back across The Pond this Thursday 22nd April, Terence will be at The Conran Shop‘s Summer Party at our Chelsea store in Fulham Road to celebrate the launch of ‘In the fresh air’, the summer furniture and accessory collection inspired by the big skies, wonderful food and relaxed atmosphere of the Ile de Re off the west coast of France. Magnifique!

Come along and check out the exciting new product and get 10% off all purchases in-store (except our Well Considered range – that’s already too much of a bargain!)

April 22 2010 – 6.30–9.00pm

The Conran Shop, Chelsea

81 Fulham Road



If you do fancy coming along don’t forget to let us know: ..and tell us how many of you there will be.

Exciting news also that during the event Jasper Conran will launch his stunning new book ‘Country’ in the Library.

We have a copy of it in the office somewhere but looks like it has already ‘disappeared’ – the photographs are amazing.

There will also be demonstrations and a selection of wines and cocktails to slake your shopping thirst.

Buy selected items from ‘In the Fresh Air’ on-line at

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Conran: Carry on around Europe; no planes, but plenty of trains and automobiles…Part 1

Well, thanks to that volcano, this year’s Milan Furniture Fair brought more adventure than most of our Conran staff out there had bargained for.

11 hour train journeys with no food or water, queues 4 hours long, 4 hour taxi journeys across borders…

Last week we introduced you to Conran and Company’s Head of Business Development, Lorraine Brennan. 2 days later than planned, she did better than most and is finally back in the UK.

I have friends still stuck out in Milan. It was absolute mayhem, but at least it was very stylish design led mayhem!

As soon as we found out about the flight ban we immediately booked another hotel for an extra night. Prices were just going up and up. The train station was chaos, Italian style. We tried to hire a car but there were none available and as well as that they had put an embargo on any hire cars leaving the country. In the end we seriously haggled with a very charming cab driver to drive us to France.

With the exception of reversing down the motorway at high speed as well as u-turning in front of three lanes of  on-coming traffic he was fantastic. We shared hairbo’s, stories and some driving tips.

It took 4 hours to get to Nice and then the queues at the station were incroyable! We were told….

aucuns trains à Paris – no tickets, no trains, no way.

We said bouf! to that, threw caution to the wind and bunked on the next train anyway……………

11 and a half bone rattling hours later we arrived at Gard du Nord. Another queue incroyable et aucuns trains à Londres, until Wednesday.

By this time we had nothing to lose and we wanted to get home! Ignoring all the announcements saying there were no tickets left we waited in line onland were finally told we could get on the next train leaving at 1.40 that afternoon, so we managed to get two tickets on the next Eurostar out of Paris. Jammy.

Photos to follow…!

We’re going to let Lorraine have a breather and hear more about the actual show in a couple of days time.

The continued fine Spring weather may mean cancelled flights and travel mayhem throughout Europe but, on a lighter note, does mean the rooftop at Boundary which has just reopened for the Summer months is nice and warm, the perfect place to enjoy the sunshine and those fine volcanic-ash sunsets!

Better than a European getaway!

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Conran columns: Tips for a great London weekend

As we said, we love London. Every Friday morning we recommend some good stuff to see and do throughout the capital this weekend.

Situated as we are a mere 1 minute walk from the Thames the river plays it’s part in our daily working lives whether by providing a relaxing outlook on a sunny lunchtime or making us late because the bridge is up and we are stuck in traffic on Tower Bridge Road.

American artist Bill Fontana’s new exhibition at Somerset House takes you on a journey down river through the medium of sound. Over several months, Fontana collected hundreds of hours of audio and video from above and below the surface of the Thames, from Richmond to remote locations in the Estuary, to reveal the hidden stories and sound-worlds of the river in a brand new public artwork.

Find out more about it here.

Until 31 May, 10.00-18.00

Also in exhibitions we cannot help mentioning the Brit Insurance Designs of the Year award at The Design Museum, always great value and hugely interesting.

Some of us were lucky enough to be among the first people to see the eventual winner of ‘Design of the Year’ award, the Folding Plug by Min-Kyu Choi back in May last year when CONRAN sponsored the private view of the final show at The Royal College of Art. The plug certainly caused a stir on the night and it’s great to see the work getting the credit it deserves. Go and see it and other breakthrough designs like it at The Design Museum until 31 October

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