Habitat is 50: Competition to Win a Chair

habitat archive
habitat catalogue covers

In May 1964, Habitat opened its doors for the first time. A press release was sent out saying that of the 2,000 items available in store there was one pervasive theme: good practical design. Elizabeth Good, a journalist on The Sunday Times, wrote of the new shop: “Don’t make the mistake of thinking that Habitat, or its campaign to make shopping fun is not eventually going to affect you.”

True words indeed. Habitat is part of the fabric of our nation. I remember clearly as a child being taken to visit the Cheltenham branch every once in a while. At Christmas there would be a huge table near the front with lots of small toys and fun things to browse through. My mother would wander off to buy saucepans or those tall glass jars for storing spaghetti (a new and luxurious foodstuff in the 1970s) and I would happily browse that table. I remember buying a pair of kitchen scissors for 15p (that’s how old I am).

habitat catalogue
catalogue spreads from the 1980s

Then one Christmas, I remember coming downstairs to find a duvet (or continental quilt as it was often called back then) under the tree. They had only recently arrived in the UK (read how Terence Conran discovered them after a fling with a Swedish girl here) and my mother had bought one for herself a few months before Christmas. Hers was filled with feathers though. Mine was synthetic “in case you’re sick on it or something”.

The duvet was just one of the new items that Habitat found for its customers; the wok and the chicken brick were others. Both of which came with instruction manuals and recipe guides.

In his book Conran and the Habitat story, Barty Phillips wrote: “People were enraptured by Habitat – so stark and brash and breaking all the rules of conventional furniture shops. Gone was the chintz and linoleum, the rows of sofas and reproduction furniture – here was a bright emporium for the home.”

modern habitat
modern habitat

The staff all wore fashionable Mary Quant outfits and had their hair styled in the fashionable Vidal Sassoon bob and soon this previously down at heel part of Chelsea was swinging. Film stars, rock stars and nobility all wanted to see what this new upstart brand was about.

“The Duke of Kent got his foot stuck in a fish kettle… Kingsley Amis and Elizabeth Jane Howard did their courting in the basement; David Niven was found fighting to get in one day as the doors closed,” wrote Phillips. And when the Rolling Stones visited, the store was mobbed by fans and they had to hide in the rug department.

Today, 50 years on, Habitat is still in the game, it has had to reinvent itself and there was a moment when we thought it was going to disappear, but it’s back and as strong as ever.

To celebrate that Mad About The House is thrilled to run a competition offering an armchair worth £350. I know! Great prize isn’t it? To enter just follow the instructions



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tags : Habitatobjects of design
Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.


  1. I would love to have it in Ivory which goes best with my favourite design style, shabby chic.

  2. I do like the red one, bright and colourful which would make it a real centre piece in a room – I love a splash of colour here and there to brighten things up 🙂

  3. Would love this chair for my student daughter to have something beautiful in her shared home.

  4. I got married in 1974… that’s how old I am! And a friend had a new sofa from Habitat. I was so jealous. It was modular, covered in soft thick brown cord. Looked a mess after it had been sat on but the height of groovy!

  5. I’d love the grey fabric chair because it would match my living room furniture 🙂

  6. My first ever sofa purchase back in 1979, was from Habitat. I cannot remember its name. It was very cool to have it back then and very cool if I still had right now!! I would love to win the chair, it would be perfect for our work area in Rachael’s Sewing Room.

  7. I have been looking for a chair for my new office and this is perfect! I would love to win this competition and thank you so much Kate for sharing this post, really enjoyed reading it

  8. I would definitely go with the teal. It’s the perfect luxurious shade and would look perfect in our new forever home (if we ever move)

  9. In the Croydon branch there was a cafe which served french style crepes filled with grated cheese and tomatoes, which as a 17 year old student of the Art School I considered an exotic lunch. I also made dresses from the furnishing fabrics. HAPPY BIRTHDAY Habitat.

  10. I would love to win the grey fabric chair because being a neutral colour it will fit in with most colour schemes meaning I can redecorate without worrying about the chair looking out of place. Thanks for the wonderful competition.

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