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26 July 2010

Go Fug Your Room – Sebastian Conran


Or, when designers don’t decorate.

I opened my new copy of Livingetc with some excitement as the front cover promised me an ‘at home with Sebastian Conran’.  I knew he had one of those huge Victorian wedding cake houses in Notting Hill and this would surely provide some great material for a ‘Go Love Your Room’ post.

For those of you in the US who may be unaware of them, the Conrans are pretty much design royalty in the UK.  Designer Sir Terence Conran founded the Habitat chain and the Conran Shop, has published a series of seminal works on interior design and owns a string of beautifully-designed, fabulous food-serving restaurants in London. He almost single-handedly dragged Britain out of the chintzy Fifties into the fab Sixties interiors-wise and has been a giant on the UK design scene ever since.

His children from various marriages are also successful designers and foodies in their own right – fashion designer Jasper, Notting Hill restaurateur Tom, interior designer and foodie Sophie and product designer Sebastian.

Sebastian is well-known as a product designer, probably most famously as the design brains behind Nigella Lawson’s Living Kitchen range, though as you can see from his website he has a number of great products to his credit.






And there’s no denying that he’s got some great STUFF.  Wink chairs, Le Corbusier lounger, antique rugs, Arco lamp, interesting art, iconic Sex Pistols  and the Clash poster artwork (designed by Conran as a student).




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AND there’s no denying that he has, as you’d expect, paid a lot of attention to detail. The units, for example,  are painted in a colour Sebastian created from a gouache of stainless steel, “I wanted a shade that had the same tonal value as the metal to give cohesion to the mix of materials”.  A lot of remodelling has been done – hallways widened, door frames raised, huge French doors installed at the back and the sightlines adjusted to make sure the vistas through the house were perfectly aligned.




And yet, and yet, I can’t help feeling that this looks a bit like a student bedsit, with white walls, mismatched chairs, posters on the walls and rumpled rugs (albeit a student with access to a phenomenal amount of money).

Everything seems somewhat haphazard and studiously UNdecorated – no interesting curtains or cushions (except in the bedroom and you can bet they belong to the stylist), no unifying colour scheme or much colour of any description, no flashes of wit, no striking arrangements, no interesting light fixtures. It’s the home of someone who celebrates form and function over everything and as such seems both curiously sterile, strangely uncohesive and not particularly comfortable.

What do you guys think?


{All images and Sebastian Conran quotes from Livingetc August 2010}


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I think this could have been a really nice home. But for some reason it isn't. I believe it might have something to do with the fact that I don't like any of his chosen design classics, they all seem very nineties to me. ( I really hate all of the lounge chairs pictured!) I also think the photos are quite boring, another photographer might have had more interesting angles and lighting.

All in all, it looks like this home was decorated 20 years ago, and not updated at all since then.

As usual Paola, you have hit the nail on the head! I didn't really feel that this house was interesting enough to be magazine worthy. Emma, I agree, the nineties is what I see too......

I actually like it. It's delightfully unfussy, and the art, rugs and furniture are able to shine. But I do love the way you write about it anyway!

Ooh, interesting that this is proving to be a controversial one.

Emma, I think you're right about the '90s vibe, Conran is now in his 50s I believe, so maybe he's subconsciously harking back to his heyday. And yes, the design classics/photography are ugly/boring.

Sara, I think it's interesting mostly for who he is - and that someone so steeped in the world of design can produce something both so 'design-y' and yet strangely undesigned at the same time (if that makes sense).

Becky, it looks like a lot of people agree with you. And yes, I think he is probably the most unassuming of the Conrans and would just like to do what he does quietly and without fuss. Still think he's terrified of colour and interior textiles though.

i'm 100 per cent with you. it left me completely cold - such a disappointing issue!

'It’s the home of someone who celebrates form and function over everything and as such seems both curiously sterile, strangely uncohesive and not particularly comfortable.'
Having met SC a few times while working in the design sector, I can testify that you have hit his INCREDIBLY awkward personality on the head right there. Whether you were talking about the house or the boy-geek-not-quite-grown-up that is SC, he certainly adheres to your description...
Money? Tick. Nepotism? Undoubtedly.

Helen, HOW interesting and how very 'Through the Keyhole' of me.

(For US readers it's a show on British TV when a panel tried to guess a celebrity by looking at their house. I loved it and it was often hugely revealing).

I think it's simple and elegant. I think it feels peaceful to live there.

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