Grand Designs

01st August 2013

We are excited to have been featured in Grand Designs' recent article, and here is how Charlotte Luxford relives our interview:

Design has always been in my blood, but my first industry-related job was during the school holidays stacking shelves for Habitat; then, when I was about 16, I worked in the studios there with my dad. Surprisingly, it was the work I'd done for punk band The Clash that ensured I landed my first real job in the industry. I was lead creative at branding consultancy Wolff Olios working with clients like Shell and Pilkington Glass.

When Habitat merged with Mothercare, my dad wanted me to work on the look of the brand - at the time Mothercare had the visual cohesiveness of a camping shop. We decided that we'd create a look based on German functionalist designer Dieter Rams'work for Braun. We also dramatically changed the production of pushchairs, inspired by ski equipment, which turned out to be hugely successful. 'I set up my own studio in 1985 and started designing cookware, working with chefs Ken Hom, Antonio Carluccio and Madhur Jaffrey, but in 1999 I took on Studio Conran, which had no real structure, and turned it into one of Design Week's top design companies. My father bought my business and I rented out my studio (still my current office) to Kelly Happen. About 10 years later I had the urge to be my own boss again - I didn't have time to be a product designer and I was craving my workshop, so I re-established Sebastian Conran Associates.

I've just launched the Universal Expert homewares collection, and we're also Designers In Residence at the University of Sheffield's science and engineering faculties, which is very exciting. We're looking at enhancing the quality of later life, which involves a lot of robotics, and working on pedal-powered public transport on monorails.

I really believe that there's going to be intelligent furniture in the future. For example: you're in bed and you want a bedside table to sit over you at the right angle and have a power socket for your laptop - like in Danish drama Borgen when Birgitte's always on her laptop in bed; it would be so much easier if she had one of those tables! I don't like humanoid robots though. You've got all these dystopian movies about robots taking over the world - it's not going to be like that.

I've always wanted to be a scientist - I studied the sciences at school. Apple's Steve Jobs said that there would be an intersection between the liberal arts and technology and I believe that. In Korea they've actually started a Ministry of Furure Creative Science. Creative subjects are currently bracketed under the arts, but what about all those Nobel Prize winners? You can’t say they're not creative.

Of my own designs I particularly like the Radius table, which is height adjustable, based on the mechanics of the bicycle seat tube. My first piece of art is being unveiled, too - it's a sculpture called Icon, inspired by the Concord nose. My son's favourite piece is the Aerofoil desk, so he's getting one as a moving-in present for his first flat.

If I could have designed anything it would have been the E-type Jaguar, or anything by Dieter Rams or Italian industrial designer Achille Castiglioni. More recently, I wish I'd designed my sister Sophie's Portmeirion range.

I'd say the Universal Expert range is my crowning achievement, and designing cookers for Belling was pretty excellent - I started cooking on a Baby Belling when I was a student. I really enjoy collaborating with people, like Rolls Royce - they wanted a car interior that felt like it belonged in a James Bond film. I guess Bond does epitomise Britishness. If I was in a Bond film, I'd want to be Q.

I was born on Hyde Park Corner and I've never lived more than five miles from London. I love the choice and access to culture - west London is so multicultural. It would be nice if we had LA weather, but if we did no one could afford to live here. I cycle when I can - I think my favourite possession is my Moulton bicycle, given to me by founder Alex Moulton. My house in Westbourne village has been totally redone since GDM featured it (October 2009). I've reordered the space, as there was quite a clumsy extension on the back-and I've tried to make it more open plan. One thing I like is having long sight lines; if you have the garden doors open you can see straight for 43 metres. Notting Hill was one of the cheapest places to live when I was young and I bought my first flat there, but it's all changed since then. My dream home would be one I'd build myself, completely modern in style and right in the middle of Holland Park.

I don't tend to buy a lot of stuff for the house; Freud would probably call it a displacement issue. However, I was given a lovely tea set for doing a lecture in Belfast from the ceramics department so I do treasure that.

The most inspiring place I've been was walking under Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate sculpture in Chicago. Of course I'd seen pictures, but to experience it was awe-inspiring.