Destinations | Perfect Weekend

Terence Conran’s Berkshire

The designer, retailer and restaurateur turns 80 in October. Recent projects include a home range for Marks & Spencer, furniture for Ercol and an urban regeneration scheme in Tokyo.

August 05 2011
Nicole Swengley

“Saturday usually starts around 8am with fresh orange juice, muesli and tea at my home near Kintbury, west Berkshire. My mood varies with the weather.

I like to sit outside drawing or writing in the morning but retreat to the conservatory or my study if it’s too cool. I don’t consider this as working because it’s not office work or figures: designing and writing is a pleasure, not a chore, for me.

At 10am I have coffee and the day’s first cigar – something I find very soothing. My favourite is Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No 2, which I buy direct from Hunters & Frankau. I’m writing a book with Stephen Bayley called Luxury by Design and we’re finding that luxury usually means simplicity, or easy living, rather than things that cost a lot of money. Cigars come into this category.

My home is a manor house, built in 1782, which I bought around 35 years ago. It was derelict but had every quality I wanted, with plenty of land, a walled garden and a river running through it.

I recently made a new study in a sunny corner of the house where I do a lot of drawing – mainly furniture, as I’m designing ranges for Marks & Spencer, Benchmark, the Conran Shop and Content by Conran. Benchmark’s factory and showroom occupy some of our old farm buildings and I’m currently giving my stepdaughter, Hattie, a hand with an upholstery and curtain-making workshop she has set up here.

Kintbury is a quarter of a mile away so I pop into Bastable Brothers, a very good butcher, to buy local beef and lamb or homemade sausages, free-range poultry and eggs. They also have terrific cheeses. My wife, Vicki, makes lunch using herbs and vegetables from the garden, and Sean Sutcliffe, Benchmark’s co-founder, and Hattie usually come over to eat. I’m passionate about burgundy so we have a bottle from our cellar where Vicki, who is a letterpress printer, keeps her press.

In the afternoon we go into Hungerford and browse around a wonderful junk shop called Below Stairs. I’ve bought an amazing 1930s fan heater with louvred sides, a book press, garden tubs and ceramic pots here. Later, I go and sit by the river in our grounds. We recently had a rill put in to make the river flow faster – the trout like that – and the sound of rushing water is incredibly peaceful.

Around 6.30pm I watch the Channel 4 news and listen to jazz or classical music. Vicki makes supper, sometimes using fresh trout and crayfish from our river, and the evening winds down gently to bedtime at around 11pm.

On Sunday morning I listen with pleasure to the bells from Kintbury but don’t go to church. If the weather is good we have breakfast outside, and I read the papers there or by the wood-fired stove in my study. Then I look round the vegetable garden and greenhouses to inspect the planting and progress of seedlings.

Sunday is a children and grandchildren day and we usually have some of the family over for lunch. Depending on how much wine we drink I may have a nap or do some drawing in the afternoon. I get enormous pleasure from creating a design, tackling the huge complexities of getting it made, then seeing it in its final form. It’s the same with the restaurants:

I love seeing what I’ve conceived being used. One of my greatest pleasures is going to the Boundary and seeing it packed with people enjoying themselves.

Sunday evening starts with a whisky and soda. I get The Conran Shop sales figures by phone at around 6.30pm, and this either puts me in a good mood or not. We’re doing a certain amount of entertaining in connection with fund-raising for the new Design Museum so we may have guests for dinner. If not, I usually watch a bit of TV. Poirot is a favourite because of the wonderful period detail and I like watching the Grand Prix for the car designs. And so Sunday moves seamlessly into Monday morning when my secretary appears and the working week begins.”

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