June 2011

Urban inspiration

Nature has always been a source of inspiration for designers – plant and animal forms, in particular. Think of the organic skeletal shapes of Santiago Calatrava’s bridges, the swirling naturalism of William Morris patterns, or Arne Jacobsen’s Swan and Egg chairs.

But cityscapes throw up surprising riches. This photograph, taken in King’s Cross station when it was recently being revamped, is by my daughter. The peeled wall, with its smeared colours and vestiges of lettering, is really pleasing to me.

Duvets and chicken bricks

Friday’s news about the closure of all but three Habitat stores was sad.

Habitat was ground-breaking. With its launch in the early 1960s Terence Conran transformed British attitudes to home design and furnishing. Simple glassware, brightly coloured enamelled mugs and coffee pots, flatweave rugs were displayed en masse in tempting visual displays, along with such exotic imports as the ‘continental’ duvet and the chicken brick. It took my family a while to give up sheets and blankets, but we did have a chicken brick.

I remember visiting the Tottenham Court Road branch in my early twenties and being amazed at the range of paints they then sold – really delicious colours that weren’t available anywhere else.

Later I bought four red wooden slatted folding chairs (three are still going strong), a sofa bed that was so well-made that it only gave up the ghost last year, along with other bits and pieces. When Habitat decided to reissue Robin Day’s iconic polyprop chair in the late 1990s I bought six of those too (in pale translucent blue).

End of an era.

Spaghettini in a paella pan

Eye for detail

Essential reading

I’ve been extremely privileged to work with Terence Conran on many of his interior design books, including four of his house books: Terence Conran’s New House Book, The Essential House Book, The Ultimate House Book and Eco House Book. 

So I was thrilled to spot the spine of Essential on SamCam’s shelving. You can’t make it out online, but in my print version of The Guardian, where the photograph was published as a double-page spread, it can be clearly seen fourth book along on the bottom shelf.

Terence has a fantastic eye and an unerring sense of taste. Working with him over the years has taught me an incredible amount.

Blue window

My first blog — very exciting! I’ve chosen an image for my header that sums up the type of design that attracts me. Simple, strong lines, bright colour and a little bit intriguing. And, of course, it’s blue. I love blue.

So is the sky today.

Here’s the uncropped image.

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: