Monthly Archives: May 2010

Conran: Our Creative City

The last few days reminded us once again of how great it is to be in London as the city continues on its path to being the most creative Capital in the world.

Holly-Anne Rolfe from our Brand Development team, Conran & Company, takes us on a short tour of two fabulous events she visited yesterday that could only take place in our great City.

First off a meeting near the Clerkenwell Design Week event meant I could take a look around the open-air displays and exhibitions and see lots of things I had been reading about since the Milan Furniture Fair last month.

I loved the branding for the Design Week this year, really fun, and it’s so nice to see a creative community ‘at work’.

Wandering past St John’s Square I was drawn in by a man on an old Routemaster and the Forest of Lights installation of giant floor lamps showcasing new illustrations from some of the most cutting edge illustrators around.

I recognised the ice cream cloud van from last year’s RCA graduate show – although this time they seemed to be without a vital ingredient.

The new Nissan cube on display also provided another Conran memory: our redesign of this classic automobile a few years ago.

I was desperate to try the ‘chairless’ after seeing pictures of people sitting cross-legged in these brightly coloured contraptions all over the blogosphere and reading about Natasha from Conran Contracts trying one out in Milan. The Vitra showroom on Clerkenwell Road was full of people looking slightly sheepish as they stepped up to the platform to try this deceptively simple device. It’s pretty good – after a bit of shifting around – and a must for summer festival going.

The Farmiloe building was impressive; a great ex-industrial space perfect for showcasing lots of interesting lighting and furniture. I particularly liked the FlexibleLove models in the courtyard space:  pieces that unfold like an accordion made from recycled materials that can be adapted for small or larger groups, great for impromptu gatherings in the garden.

The Design Museum had a selection of their designers in residence there too – I remembered Asif Khan’s Harvest chair from its time in the Design Museum tank on the riverside near our offices.

Next thing I was whizzing over to West London for the private view of SHOW 1 of this year’s Royal College of Art Graduate Exhibition 2010 sponsored by Terence’s Conran Foundation.

Trying to cross London in a humid rush hour is never fun – especially with no trains going Westbound on the Circle Line.

After an impromptu visit to Edgware Road and a hop on the no 27 bus I entered the RCA building underneath the bright vermillion ‘H’ and was immediately reminded of the last time I set foot in this illustrious institution – when CONRAN sponsored the private view of Show 2 last June which I helped organise. Slightly less stress on this occasion I’m glad to say!

Eleanor Bolton’s bold statement necklaces made from coiled up rope were absolutely gorgeous. A friend made a comment that you’d think could easily sum up these strange objects (‘noose’, I believe) but in actual fact they were delightfully light and squashy to the touch, like those large, spirally marshmallows.

The hybrid objects created by Jasleen Kaur as part of her ‘britesh’ range investigating the cultures of Britain and India were also very intriguing – like a weird 3d version of a consequences game knives and forks were topped or tailed with paint brushes or spoons; a smart pair of city shoes were crossed with flipflops – smart-casual taken to the extreme.

Terence had visited the show earlier in the day and had the following words of advice for our young creatives.

At a time when headlines seem endlessly made by MP’s expenses, bankers bonuses and a failing economy, we need our young artists and designers to shine more brightly than ever. We need you to be optimistic, brave and have a tenacious belief in your work because the creative industries are vital to the UK economy. We want you to be confident and help create a future that works, looks fantastic and has a very human centre.

Free beer this time too – thanks Terence!



28 May – 6 June, 11am–8pm daily, free admission

Ceramics & Glass; Goldsmithing, Silversmithing, Metalwork & Jewellery; Photography and Printmaking

Royal College of Art
Kensington Gore
London SW7 2EU

1 Comment

Filed under Conran & Company, Conran and London, Conran Columns: Tips for a great London weekend, TERENCE CONRAN

Conran: Sad Terence, Happy Terence

A couple of interesting bits of publicity this week regarding our Chairman.

Terence has been in the news again this week after writing a letter to The Times expressing his disappointment about the newly unveiled Olympic mascots.

Terence is incredibly passionate about his role as a UKTI business ambassador for the creative industries and regularly hosts discussions and events around the world to champion British industry so is very well placed to comment.

His letter got the bloggers tweeting, with first Andy Bloxham and thenTim Walker picking up the story from The Telegraph. But Terence really does have a point, how can a country that leads the way in global creativity and innovation accept such mediocrity as the symbols of the Olympics in London when the whole world will be watching us? In his government role as creative business ambassador for the UK what does he say as he hands out Olympic mascots around the world? As Arthur Nowr says in the feedback section, just tell them “it was not your eye, dear.”

But what makes Terence happy?

A while ago, the excellent Ideas Illustrated approached the press office asking Terence to contribute to their “Happy” issue.

Alongside luminaries such as Vic Reeves, Julie Verhoeven and Alan Yentob, he was asked to pick a playlist of ten songs that make him happy and Ideas Illustrated would commission an illustrator to bring it to life.

Terence’s “Happy Playlist” included What a Wonderful World, Mellow Yellow, On the Sunny Side of the Street, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, Louis Prima’s Buena Sera and The In Crowd by Ramsey Lewis.

The resulting illustration, by Jack Teagle, can be seen below and users of Spotify can listen to it here:



Conran: Architecture: Conran & Partners Paul Zara organises BrightBuild

Architecture Director Paul Zara from Conran & Partners has been busy again.

Fresh from helping out with with excellent performance piece ‘Before I sleep’ as part of the Brighton Festival, the latest hot event is – as he puts it  – ‘a very good architecture talk I have organised’ in Brighton on June 30th. Don’t miss out!

BrightBuild the third in a series of design talks organised by the Brighton branch of the South Coast Design Forum a not-for-profit organisation run by and for designers and artists of all disciplines.


Filed under Conran & Partners

Conran: Something for a Summer weekend in London

The sun is shining and you simply have to be outdoors. Enjoy our fine city by joining any of 54 free guided walks taking place across the capital and beyond as part of an initiative by Walk London, funded by Transport for London, to encourage people to walk more in the city. Details of times and starting points are available on the Walk London website, which also has downloadable maps of walks you can follow on your own at any time.

We especially love that you can search for walks that take you past specific points of interest – there’s even one that takes you past one of Terence’s favourite places listed  – Sir John Soane’s Museum. Lovely.

Leave a comment

Filed under Conran Columns: Tips for a great London weekend, TERENCE CONRAN

CONRAN: Terence’s blog from New York: The New Conran Shop and ICFF

The excitement this week was the opening of The Conran Shop in the Lower Level of ABC home on Broadway Manhattan.  A busy, bustling area, near Union Square filled with shops –  very different from our Bridgemarket site which suffered from very low footfall.  Here we are amongst the crowds and we have planned out our store to look calm and cool and spacious. Well done designers Conran & Partners.  The customers seem to like it and certainly have started purchasing enthusiastically.  This shop is a prototype of what to open throughout America.

A very busy launch night at The New Conran Shop New York

..with Sam Grawe, Editor of 'Dwell' Magazine

Paulette Cole, CEO and Creative Director of ABC Carpet and Home

...another satisfied customer!

We stayed at Ian Schrager’s Gramercy Park Hotel – very Rococo but with a lovely Danny Meyer Italian restaurant. Very professional, delicious and one of the best in New York.

The lovely Maialino Restaurant

Getting back via BA was the usual volcanic ash dust scenario, seven hours wait in the Concorde room at Kennedy which we designed in those happy days when Concorde crossed the Atlantic so you arrived before you left.  I did discover how nervous people who fly are.  The leather of all the Conran Shop club chairs in the room was deeply scratched just below the top of the arms where people had dug their nails into the leather probably in frustration of yet another delayed flight or maybe the fear of terrorism or maybe just excitement.

Off to Bermuda next week for my daughter’s wedding to nice Nick – I’m certainly looking forward to a sandy beach but I don’t suppose I’ll find many new products in Bermuda. But you never know.

What other people are saying:

Welcome back Conran! on

Terence at the New York Furnishings Exhibition (ICFF)

Just a short blog about the New York home furnishings exhibition which is large and fills the entire exhibition hall.  It has improved immeasurably since I last saw it two years ago and now has a feel of Maison & Objet – it’s not quite as good yet but is a distinct move forward.  Huge displays of German and Spanish design – even Austrian – but no British display despite a number of small British exhibitors.

If British creativity is so important to our economy, and it is vital, surely it then justifies a presence as large as Germany and should be planned for the future.  Let’s have something wonderful and as exciting as he Tom Heatherwick in Shanghai.  We are, so we are told, the world’s top in creativity in the UK so let’s shout about it. Not much else to shout about.

1 Comment


Conran: Paul’s Postcard from Brighton

A little artistic inspiration this week from Conran & Partners Director Paul Zara…

Members of Conran & Partners Brighton office have assisted leading theatre company dreamthinkspeak in their amazing theatre installation ‘Before I Sleep’.

Described by The Guardian as ‘a journey into a surrealist Narnia, where Turkish delight has been traded for Russian melancholy’ the show is inspired by Chekhov’s Cherry Orchard and converts four floors of a derelict department store in to an extraordinary series of events.

We have advised them on sourcing loan furniture, on photography and on designers for their shop windows.  It also features some of our architectural models and architecture brochures, so some great free publicity. It has been hugely successful and the run has been extended, so if you are down in Brighton why not try to see it?




Wednesday – Saturday

Timed entries between 6.30pm-9.30pm

Saturday matinee

Timed entries between 2pm-4.30pm


Timed entries between 5pm-8.30pm

The Co-operative building            £15 (limited capacity)

BRIGHTON                                          BOOKABLE IN ADVANCE ONLY

Entry via the loading bay               BOX OFFICE: 01273 709709

London Terrace BN1 4JP      


“Before I Sleep is the most mesmerising, atmospheric,

visually exquisite piece you are likely to see

at this festival, or indeed anywhere.”


“The cumulative effect is extraordinary. Unforgettable.”


“Marvellously atmospheric”


“Tremendous” “Fabulous”           “Trust me, go..”

OBSERVER                  IOS                                TELEGRAPH

1 Comment

Filed under Conran & Partners

Conran on London: The Skyline..(and a good thing to do at the weekend)

Skyscrapers back on the horizon” – a piece in the London Evening Standard on April 30th about the revival of skyscrapers on the London skyline caught our eye.

Developers, it seems, are pushing forward with schemes worth a total of more than 9 billion because of a shortage of office space and a growing demand for residential space.

We asked our resident Conran & Partners postcard writer Paul Zara for his take on the sudden resurgence of the skyscraper:

The suggested resurgence of towers on the London skyline is as surprising as it is amazing. Just when we all thought the new Towers of London were shelved forever (or at least for a decade or two) while we crawled our way out of recession, they have reared their heads again, so soon after the world collapsed.

The London skyline has changed so much over the last century, and not always for the better, but, as any architect working in this city knows, it’s now so hard to get a big proposal approved that by the time a scheme gets the green light we should have no concerns about the level of scrutiny it has experienced.  What other city has three planning authorities to satisfy? Tall Buildings have to go through the local planning authority, (whichever London Borough they sit in), plus CABE and the GLA.  (If you don’t know what these initials stand for try Google).

CABE and English Heritage have guidelines on how to assess tall buildings and Boris has his own views (less supportive than Ken’s of these huge erections). And we have a choice. Say yes to them as long as they demonstrate their appropriateness and quality, or say no and stagnate.  And stagnate we surely will if we reject change. London does not have to be a leading financial centre, but it ought to be. We can compete, and with buildings of the highest quality by the best architects we show the world that design matters.  At Conran this is a core belief in our business, and the London skyline can be part of that.  This silhouette of London now contains the London Eye and the Gherkin (It’s nothing like the shape of a gherkin).  Let’s keep that change happening and demonstrate to the world that London truly is its design capital.

Conran Columns: Tips for a great London Weekend

Can you believe it? Tate Modern is 10! Head down there this weekend for a fun-packed few days of family fun and art events for all!

Leave a comment

Filed under Conran & Partners, Conran and London, Conran Columns: Tips for a great London weekend

Conran Picnic range now on sale!

Tchibo are a cult German coffee house brand with a difference. They’ve been going for over 60 years and have 1000 stores in Europe and beyond selling everything from coffee products to shower curtains.

They work in a pretty unusual way offering, as they put it,  ‘A new experience every week’.

That’s right: Every week a new range of product. Get it now or it’s gone!

It’s one of those places you pop into for a latte and come out with a shopping bag full of things you never knew you needed. How could you have lived so long without those tablelcoth weights and that nutmeg grinder?

Conran have been designing exclusive ranges of product for Tchibo for over 3 years.

Last summer you could get a brand new compact barbeque, pre-planted window box and fun outdoor lights for fabulous al fresco feasts, whilst come Christmas our collection of colourful festive bowls and candles adorned tables all over Europe.

Our  kitchenware ranges have been some of Tchibo’s most successful – so much so that they launched our ‘Hi-tech’ kitchen range earlier this year – complete with award winning digital scales and sleek stainless steel storage jars.

If you’ve missed out so far the good news is our brand new CONRAN PICNIC range has just gone on sale!

Tchibo have recently launched their first year-round collection and it’s designed by CONRAN. The ‘Coffee Competence’ collection has already been so popular most of the products have sold out and they’ve had to order more…

UK customers do not need to be disappointed – Tchibo products are also available online via the European website.

Buy the ‘Designed by CONRAN’ picnic range now. Only available for 1 week!

(scroll down to check out the CONRAN section!)

Carlos Queiros from Studio Conran is Senior Designer on the ‘Designed by CONRAN’ product ranges for Tchibo. He’ll be putting together the first of our “Sketchpad to Shopfloor’ columns talking about how we develop product ranges such as these….check it out next week…

Leave a comment

Filed under Conran & Company, STUDIO CONRAN

Conran wins more awards…

Another day, another awards ceremony and another Lifetime Achievement gong for Terence. Mat Riches, Terence’s PR man tells all…

The occasion last night was the Tatler Magazine Restaurant Awards, held in the grand space of the Langham Hotel’s Ballroom, where Terence was honoured for his outstanding contribution to the restaurant industry.

David Hesketh, Managing Director of Laurent-Perrier UK, who had been doused with Champagne from the flute of a certain Conran employee moments before going on stage, presented Terence with the award, which he called an “absolute pleasure.”

Terence told the packed crowd of movers and shakers from the restaurant, and PR, industry: “I’m not sure why I am getting a lifetime achievement award as I feel like I’m only just beginning – it makes me realise I have still got an awful lot to do.”

Hear hear!

Other winners last night included Nicolas Clerc of Le Pont de la Tour for wine list and sommelier and ex-Orrery chefs Chris and Jeff Galvin who won best restaurant for Galvin La Chappelle.

As you can see from the picture of Terence receiving his award, the Conran team were at the heart of the crowd with a great spot to enjoy the evening.

Whilst we are talking Conran restaurants…

The excellent Clare-Dwyer Hogg from the Independent on Saturday magazine wrote a piece last weekend about the secret history of the Quaglino’s ashtray.

Clare suggests that Terence “just thought the patrons of his restaurant were unlikely thieves. But he was forgetting that they were flocking to Quaglino’s precisely because the restaurant’s reputation was synonymous with design.”

That’s not quite the whole story, explains Mat Riches again; as always ‘Sir’ knew exactly what he was doing.

Each of the Conran restaurants had its own ashtray, which captured the character and personality of the place but, in my opinion, the Quag’s “Q” just happened to be more beautiful and covetable than most. But whenever I sit in an interview with Terence and he is asked about the pilfering of Quaglino’s ashtrays he chuckles to himself and says that it was no surprise he has always taken it as a huge compliment:

“A great deal of time and effort went in to designing them and we had great fun. Although we would have preferred customers to buy them from behind the bar, we always knew full well that a good amount of them would make their way in to people’s handbags and pockets so it was not as if we were looking at it naively. They were a great, if expensive, marketing tool!”

Clare quite rightly quotes that by the time the restaurant was 10 years old, more than 25,000 of Quaglino’s ashtrays had gone “missing”. What she doesn’t mention is that by Quag’s 10th birthday 2.5 million customers had been served, 220,000 bottles of champagne had been poured and 75 tons of oysters and 30 tons of chateaubriand had been eaten.

And don’t tell Terence, but I’ve got two of them at home – one for salt and pepper and one for smokers!


Filed under Conran and London, Conran and Restaurants, Conran Awards, TERENCE CONRAN

Conran Columns: This weekend- Blue Patch the Elephant comes to town…

We have a saying here at CONRAN that we design everything, from matchboxes to skyscrapers.

Terence’s latest project however might be a little unusual, even for us.

If you’re London-based you may have noticed legions of eclectic elephants have suddenly appeared, standing, sitting or sunning themselves on many of our major thoroughfares and around popular landmarks.

Elephant Parade is a social enterprise founded by father and son Mike and Marc Spits. Through their exhibitions, they aim to raise support for the Asian elephant, which is threatened with extinction. The benefits of the Elephant Parade are donated to the Elephant Family, the largest elephant charity in the world.

Keep your eyes open for Blue Patch designed by Terence and team..he’s showing off his patchworked  flanks somewhere in the west of London.

We’ll give you a clue…he might be near a famous shop well know for its design-led homewares and quite frankly brilliantly merchandised windows…


Also well worth a look this weekend…

Dulwich Festival

8-9 May & 15-16 May 11am-6pm

All throughout Dulwich over 100 local artists and galleries open their doors and show their work in a domestic or studio-setting. Work on display will range from oil paintings and photographs, sculpture and ceramics to jewellery and furniture. Details are in the Artists’ Open House catalogue available from the Dulwich Picture Gallery, Festival Box Office and local shops and cafés.

Check out the website for more details

While you’re in that part of the world take the opportunity to check out the critically acclaimed Paul Nash exhibition at The Dulwich Picture Gallery – it’ll be your last chance as it closes on Sunday.


Filed under Conran and London, Conran Columns: Tips for a great London weekend, TERENCE CONRAN