For the Observer Magazine of 6 December 1981, the designer Terence Conran, who died last month, was the subject of ‘A Room of My Own’. Pictured in his country house lounge, Conran was sitting on a long, thin antique table with a snooker table underneath it and an Anthony Caro artwork on top. There’s what looks like a globe drinks cabinet (which turns out to be a 21st-birthday present from his mother). Apart from the Arc floor lamp vaulting over a low coffee table (one of Conran’s own designs), and the light and space, it’s far from being a shop window for Habitat.
‘He bought a huge, dilapidated house in acres of ground in the country… and has created a magnificent country residence,’ wrote Angela Levin.
‘It is awfully difficult to be your own designer,’ Conran admitted, ‘particularly when you have to make decisions on behalf of your own family and spend your own money.’ His favourite room in the 18th-century house was this ‘80ft by 25ft living-room that runs all the way along the front’.
‘White isn’t white,’ he explained, referring to the light in the room. ‘It is all sorts of tones of grey and cream… And at night when we pull the creamy white curtains, the undulating areas of light, dark and shade are beautiful.’
The only things designed by him were the sofas, coffee tables and shelves. The rugs are from India and Afghanistan. ‘The fact that he travels all over the world for Conran and Habitat,’ wrote Levin, admiring the mix of antique and modern, ‘means he is well placed to pick up anything he likes for himself en route.’
The most interesting item isn’t a design element at all but a framed letter on a shelf. It is, said Conran, from ‘the Lord Chief Justice of England to my great-great-great-grandfather, furious because his son had eloped with the Lord Chief Justice’s daughter’.