Habitat turns 50
Posted on May 11, 2014
Having lounged on Habitat furniture as a kid, to taking my kids today, Habitat has been a great part of my interiors experience growing up and helped shape my own sense of style as a young adult. I am happy to celebrate this iconic British store and hope it has many more years of success.
Launched in 1964 by Terence Conran, his wife Caroline, Editor of Queen magazine, businessman Philip Pollock and fashion model Pagan Taylor, Habitat introduced the idea that shopping for post war furniture could be cool, beautiful and affordable. 1960’s fashion was creating a storm and interiors were pretty drab in comparison. The Habitat team had the vision to revolutionise interiors shopping with colourful, stylish and affordable furniture for a new brave generation.
Terence Conran 1664
In 1966 the first habitat catalogue is born. Hand drawn pieces from pepper grinders to tables are drawn beautifully by Juliet Glynn Smith and are a fun way to showcase the designs in store.
In 1971shoppers no longer have to wait for deliveries of furniture. Habitat allows shoppers to walk away from the store with items and creates a new buzz about buying for the home. Shoppers inevitably think of new ways to take their products home. Shopping feels more engaging. A new relationship blossoms between consumers and furniture stores as shopping becomes more hands on.
Habitat commissions art and starts selling prints from artists such as David Hockney, Peter Blake, Robyn Denny and Richard Smith for £2.99. Walls around Britain start to look a little more sophisticated and ‘affordable art’ gives consumers access to great works of art at a great price.
1974, Habitat now has 14 branches and its catalogue is full of photos capturing whats inside them. Selected pieces from France to China appear in the stores bringing a more travelled feel to what’s on offer.
Habitat starts to develop as a brand and is more lifestyle and editorial based. Photo’s of fashionable women lounging by pools on large cushions emerge and the notion that men can make beds while women look powerfully into camera mirroring the shift in gender responsibilities connect well with consumers who start to relate to Habitat on a whole new level.
1975 and a nation in recession threatens spending. Habitat launches its Back to Basics range providing great designs at fantastic prices. Simplicity is style is the new mantra.
The 1980’s inspires consumers to use colour and get creative. Modular sofa systems provide a rainbow of design scheme opportunities and shoppers start going wild by splashing paint on their walls and furniture stencils are encouraged. The 80’s also brings out some terrible haircuts and shoulder pads almost compete with the size of furniture, but its all good fun and the new money inspires everyone to go wild and drink a lot of champagne.
1983/84 Habitat reflects the exotic element of its customers who are travelling to exotic places and trying new things. Tempura is brought to the shelves and a nation of sophisticated foodistas emerges. Dinner parties become more exciting as Britain starts experimenting with many different ways to cook.
City living becomes the height of cool in 1985 and Habitat launches its ‘City Living Collection’. Elegant, stylish and sophisticated consumers go crazy for dark wood and chrome.
The 1990’s employs some different designs from citrus in 1997 which is very summery
to organic Japanese shapes and simple style.
In 1999 20th Century Design classics are introduced from legendary designers such as Verner Panton, Pierre Paulin and Robin Day. Habitat goes back to its roots collaborating with contemporary designers to launch re-editions of beautifully designed furniture. Exciting and accessible, interiors around the country reflect great design at affordable prices.
In 2004 the VIP range hits the stores. 22 designs from famous names such as Helena Christensen, Carla Bruni and Philip Treacy and others from film, fashion, architecture, business and philosophy. The Daft Punk table and Manolo Blahnik products are huge sellers and endorse how cool their buyers are and reflect a love of celebrity culture in Britain.
In 2007 Biba makes a comeback. Barbara Hulanicki designs a range for Habitat. ‘Every product tells a story’ is communicated to customers through a series of podcasts. The concept of talking to customers and listening to them starts to build within social media at a slow pace as brands start to value the importance of marketing and communicating on a much more intelligent level. Habitat starts selling a mini range in Homebase in 2012, Widening it’s reach. Technology allows customers to order goods online and the spirit of shopping takes a new shift. 30 more mini stores are planned before the end of 2014.
Habitat plans to celebrate its 50th year with ‘Friends United’ inviting designers such as Tord Boontje, Claire Norcross, Simon Pengelly, Shin Azumi, Sarah Campbell and Aaron Probyn to design a range of products across furniture, lighting and textiles. for Habitats AW14 range. I am looking forward to seeing what these designers create in collaboration with Habitats creative director Polly Dickens.I feel quite nostalgic looking back through these eras, so thank you habitat for the timeline! We have come so far in shaping our homes into relaxing, stylish and luxurious spaces to wind down and recharge, live and laugh.