Monthly Archives: May 2012

Good enough to eat in

Are kitchens the purely functional places they once were? Jared Mankelow doesn’t think so.

Rather, as our formal rules of dining have broken down, kitchens have become social hubs, folding in the dining room and living room, too.

To that end, Conran Studio‘s Senior Product Designer has written the following piece on the evolving role of the kitchen – and what that means for kitchen design.

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The Conran Shop’s Friday Tip: Cheer up Shoreditch, give us a smile…

Turn those carefully-curated hipster frowns upside down, Shoreditch: we have some tips to cheer you up this weekend, courtesy of Jess, Ayo and Will, AKA The Conran Shop marketing team.

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Design crimes at Clerkenwell

Bad design is an inevitability, and and in one way designers should be thankful for it: for good design to be recognised as such, we need bad design.

But, for those of us who believe well-designed things make the world a slightly better place, encountering bad design can be painful.

What’s worse is when bad designs come back to haunt us. For example: weren’t NHS spectacles bad enough the first time?

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Filed under Clerkenwell Design Week, STUDIO CONRAN, TRADE SHOWS AND EXHIBITIONS, Uncategorized

Fakes: fought.

The Conran Shop launched the Get Real: Fight the Fakes campaign a few short weeks ago, in support of Michelle Ogundehin’s Equal Rights for Design e-petition.

Get Real: Fight the Fakes

It’s an issue that’s long been close to our hearts: at The Conran Shop, we sell the work of hundreds of designers; designers whose work we love. We think the second-rate copyright protection they have erstwhile enjoyed chills the climate for design in Britain. It’s also bad for consumers: fakes and copies are seldom as well-built as originals, nor do they hold their value.

Well, there’s good news: yesterday, the Government announced that UK copyright laws for designers are to be amended to be in line with those currently granted to artists, writers and musicians.

Until now, product and industrial designers have benefited from protection for only 25 years from the date at which the copyright is issued, in stark contrast to those afforded to the other creative industries, whose art is safeguarded from unauthorised copies for 70 years after the death of the original author.

As our Chairman, Terence Conran put it:

“By protecting new designs more generously, we are encouraging more investment of time and talent in British design. That will lead to more manufacturing in Britain, and that in turn will lead to more jobs – which we desperately need right now. Properly protected design can help make the UK a profitable workshop again. We have the creative talent – lets use it.”

The Conran Shop will continue to champion the protection of design classics by only working with licensed manufacturers and by informing our customer’s about the value of investing in design classics.

Let’s crack out the bubbly!

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Pinterest has been adding a healthy dose of pretty to our office lives for a while now. We love its clean, simple interface and great use of portmanteau.

So far we’ve been quiet observers, but today we’d like to introduce Conran on Pinterest. We have experts in branding, products, interactive and digital, architecture, interior and retail, and our boards are curated by all of them.

Conran on Pinterest

Conran Studio are hunting out their favourite brands, and Conran & Company their favourite products. Conran Singh and Conran & Partners are picking the best from the worlds of digital design and architecture.

At the moment, Vicki Conran is at Chelsea Flower Show (read more about her Artisan Retreat here), and she is kindly sending through her Chelsea highlights.

More to come soon – including a board of Terence’s personal picks…

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Filed under Conran & Company, Conran & Partners, Conran digital, STUDIO CONRAN, Vicki Conran

The Conran Manifesto

Terence talked to the Times last week, outlining his vision for a property-based path out of recession.

Conran Bricks & Mortar piece

Terence was interviewed off the back of an open letter to the Government (published in the Friday Times Letters section), which called for a revival of the “vision, ambition and pride” that dragged Britain out of the post-War slump. He cites new council housing and VAT exemption for the refurbishment of derelict buildings as key starting points.

“I truly believe we can build our way out of recession. There is a massive bubble of demand and one day that must burst and kickstart growth. But we need the Government to provide the pin-prick.”

Conran and Partners is currently working on 2,500 homes for house associations across the country.

EDIT: here’s the full text of Terence’s letter to the Times:


After working in design and business for almost 60 years I am currently enduring my sixth, and without question, worst recession. During the last recession I built Europe’s largest restaurant in Soho, because I believe the way through difficult economic times is to be bold, seize opportunity and create.

At the end of the 1970s there was a housing surplus. I wouldn’t say the stock was all good quality but if somebody needed a home they stood a good chance of getting one.

That was down to the ambitious postwar political desire to transform this country and improve lives. In 2010 we built the fewest homes since the end of the Second World War.

We need that vision, ambition and pride again because I truly believe we can build our way out of recession.

Banks need to lend, developers need to commission architects, plannes need to approve projects quickly and efficiently and we need to build. There is a massive bubble of demand that must be burst to kick-start growth. We need government to provide the pinprick.

Grant Shapps, the Minister for Housing and Local Government, throws out soundbites and tweets with Blairite fervour, but doesn’t appear to actually do much.

According to the charity Empty Homes, there are nearly one million UK properties vacant, a scandal that tweeting won’t help.

Housing starts are at near record lows and Mr Shapps can’t keep blaming “the last administration”. The coalition has been in government for almost two years now and excuses have worn thin.

— Sir Terence Conran, London SE1

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Holly’s Friday Tip: Dulwich Artists’ Open House

Once upon a time on this blog, we drew from the rich wellspring of London knowledge at Conran Towers to bring you a weekly London tip. Then we got nervous about giving away all our best secrets and stopped.

Recently we put our heads together and decided that, so long as you promise not to tell too many people, we’re willing to share once more.

So, here goes. The first of our new Friday Tips, from Holly-Anne Rolfe, Brand Development Project Manager for Conran & Company.

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Down at the bottom of the garden…

We’ve gone a bit shed crazy this spring. Why? Sheds are for tinkering and for making. They are functional and informal — all of which appeals to our sensibilities.

They are also ripe for design. We think design isn’t about prettifying, but about the marriage of form and function. Sheds are functional spaces, but they needn’t be as spartan as they have traditionally been. Moreover, you can do bolder things with a shed than with bricks and mortar.

To that end, Vicki Conran, celebrated interior designer and wife of a certain Chairman, has designed an Artisan Retreat for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

She’s sent over a photo of the retreat-in-progress:

Vicki’s retreat will be inspired by the idea of childhood dens and hideaways, and for adults, a need for space. The interior of Vicki’s retreat will recreate a Bookbinder’s studio, full of interesting materials, papers, textiles and beautiful hand tools. There will be a selection of books in varying stages of binding and casing, together with a library of reference books. For the retreat Vicki has chosen a predominately green palette, to bring the outdoors in, and as green is a restful colour for jobs involving close scrutiny.

Read more on the RHS site.

Not to be outdone, The Conran Shop are at it too: their new Chelsea window displays (below) feature some very special sheds, and they are having a book signing with Jane Field-Lewis, author of My Cool Shed, from 2-4pm on Saturday, 26th May.

Chelsea window sheds 1

My Cool Shed celebrates sheds from the modest to the lavish, from artists’ studios to beach huts, and the diverse ways in which owners are styling them. It features 35 beautifully-photographed sheds, small cabins, garden rooms and beach huts.

Chelsea window sheds 3

So there you have it: we are very well shod.

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CEO speaks: in defence of risk

We live in a risk-averse world. As time rolls belligerently onwards, less and less of the things we do and the decisions we make are risky. Playgrounds are safer; we have health insurance and smoke alarms.

This is mostly good news – where we sacrifice nothing, reducing risk is common sense. For example, few would argue that the addition of airbags and crumple zones to our cars has been a bad thing.

But risk has benefits, too. Doesn’t dating lose a frisson of excitement if we have found out everything there is to know about our date online beforehand? Would skydiving hold the same appeal if the sport wasn’t inherently dangerous? From marriage proposals to angel investments, the riskiest decisions are often the the most lucrative. They are also often the ones that change the world.

Over the years, companies have spent more and more money on market research, the so-called science of probing the hopes and dreams of the consumer through polling, panelling and psychological profiling. Their objective is the reduction of risk.

No doubt, the techniques have become more subtle over the years, but the success of market research – or ‘consumer insight’, as it is now more sexily known – is at best sporadic. A quote attributed probably apocryphally to Henry Ford illustrates the problem:

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” 

The point is this: consumer behaviour tomorrow cannot necessarily be inferred from consumer behaviour today, because people don’t know what they want.

Roger Mavity, Conran CEO

Roger Mavity, CEO, Conran

At Conran, we think there are serious limits to what market research can do. In fact, to designers, market research present its own kind of risk, because the work of a committee seldom has the spark of the work of an individual. The product that is rigorously research-tested may well end up inoffensive to everyone, and brilliant to none.

Our CEO, Roger Mavity, spoke on this very topic at the Cheltenham Design Festival last month. Taking to the stage with Stephen Bayley, co-author of his bestselling book Life’s a Pitch, Roger gave a passionate defence of risk.

As John Steinbeck put it, “the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world”.

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Filed under CEO Speaks: Roger Mavity, TRADE SHOWS AND EXHIBITIONS

Shop and change

We gave you a little preview of the new-look Conran Shop the other day, but, well, those snaps were taken after a glass or two of fizz.

So here are some more. Head to the Conran Talking Shop to find out all about the new Flagship Collection – or go and see for yourself

EDIT: and here are a few more. Rather handsome, we reckon.