There’s only one shop in the whole world that I can honestly say has been a part of my life from childhood and still continues to lure me in season after season, and that shop is Habitat. It’s quite rare to have a long-term relationship with a brand these days, but heck, when I’m in love I’m very loyal and I’ve been going steady with Habitat for almost as long as I can remember.
It was my mum who first introduced me to the wonder of Habitat when I was a little girl. She was an antique dealer and an interiors enthusiast (it runs in the family). We lived in a rambling cottage in the middle of Nottingham which was filled to the brim with antique furniture. As you can imagine, my childhood home was not a natural fit for a cutting-edge brand offering aspiration design at affordable prices in the 1970s. But one day, my mother brought home a white metal lamp with a dome-shaped perspex shade. The lamp was striking and modern and looked nothing like anything else in the house. From the moment I saw it, I was in love and I fondly called it The Mushroom Lamp.
The Mushroom Lamp was the beginning of my long and loving relationship with Habitat. Remember when I mentioned I was loyal? Well, I loved that lamp so much that I took it with me when I moved out of my mother’s house. And it still lives with me today!
“The Mushroom Lamp” still in pride of place after all these years in two of my different homes. Photos by Paul Wince Furness (left) and David Merewether (right).
I’m not the only one for whom Habitat ignites wonder and excitement. Though it’s easy to forget, Habitat was incredibly pioneering when it first began and it revolutionised the high street’s approach to interiors. Habitat was established by Sir Terence Conran in 1964 when he saw a gap in the market for great-looking furniture, lighting and homeswares for the everyman. Before he came along, cutting-edge interiors were for the elite and the rest of the population had slim pickings when it came to affordable and fashionable furnishings. Habitat changed all that and was one of the first companies to mail order products to customers, which meant everyone in Britain had the ability to get products from Habitat delivered right to their door.
Habitat was also part of the flatpack revolution in the 1980s. I still remember a long afternoon spent putting together bookcases with my mother. As we fitted pieces and huddled over the instructions, I learned for the first time about furniture construction and also learned some rather colourful words that I certainly wasn’t allowed to repeat at the age of 10.
A velvet Habitat sofa in my teenager's bedroom has introduced a new generation to the splendour of my favourite store. A trusty bedside lamp by Habitat shines bright in a Smartstyle bedroom. Photos by Daniella Exley (left) and Paul Winch Furness (right).
From my first student digs to my current home, there isn’t a single place that I’ve lived that hasn’t necessitated a trip (or two or five) to Habitat. I love an excuse to browse their shelves– always so full of temptation– and select the perfect pieces to make my home extra beautiful. Over the years, I’ve bought sofas, wardrobes, storage units, duvet covers, roasting tins, TV unites, lights (lots and lots of light) and so many delightful accessories for my home. Just this past Christmas, I finally get myself a set of matching plates from guess where… Habitat! Like all great relationships, Habitat just gets me. And I get it! Loads of it, as it turns out.
Three sets of Habitat Cherry Blossom lights twisted together to create a unique lighting feature in this open-plan kitchen and dining space. Photo by Paul Wince Furness.
Habitat doesn’t just feature in my own home, I also include their pieces in many of my designs for clients. As I flicked through my portfolio the other day, I was struck by how many of my design projects include a special piece from Habitat. In fact, when I first set out on my own as Smartstyle Interiors, I gave the Habitat Spin Table centre stage in my first client’s breakfast room. It was a beautifully made table with a carved oak spindle through the middle and was solid as a rock. I recently heard from that client and though she has since moved out of the house I designed for her, she and her Habitat table are now very happy in a new home.
The Peggy Throw comes in a super soft grey and green cotton and is perfect for curling up under while nurturing your green thumb.
Though Habitat pieces look great and last for generations, I can’t help but pick up a few new things from each collection to integrate into my home. Right now, I’m enjoying the romance of spring with some stunning goodies from the Habitat S/S17 range. It’s a pleasure to see that the brand is looking ahead and defining trends instead of looking around them to see what everyone else is doing. I already have my eye on a number of gems from their upcoming Spring/Summer collection, and was given the chance to have a play with a few of my favourite pieces to give you a little peek.
I’ve said it once, and I’ll likely say it again: I firmly believe that black metal is going to be working its way into our homes and ousting brass as the metal of choice. Habitat is already there with some brilliant black metal pieces, like the (insert product name) coffee table.
Colourful geometric textiles bring a cool retro vibe to their upcoming collection and their ceramics are beautifully crafted and sit so well with my vintage pieces that I almost felt as if Habitat had made them just for me! However, it’s their new mushroom lamp that brought back such happy memories for me. This modern take on my beloved classic lamp means that everyone can again enjoy the sculpture and beauty of it, and maybe even pass it along for generations to come!
The Elmer Blue & White Ceramic Vase sits nicely alongside ceramics old and new and will integrate nicely into any ceramics collection!
Though Habitat and I have had a great relationship for almost three a half decades (God I feel old!) our relationship, like all relationships, is about growing together, and Habitat has some big changes ahead. This year, the brand is settling into a relationship with their new parent company, Sainsbury’s. Great design will be even more accessible to everyone this year as mini Habitat stores will be opening in Sainsbury’s shops across the UK. Rumour has it that a few large stand-alone stores will be opening in some key areas, too, which goes to show how much work they’ve put into rebuilding their brand since the last recession when we almost lost them from the British high street. Because Habitat has always put fabulous product design at the heart of their company, they’ve been able to come back stronger and all of our homes are better for it.
What Habitat pieces will become the next design staples here at Smartstyle? Time will only tell but you can shop my favourites from the new collection in stores or online. I'd also love to hear what pieces you're excited about purchasing in the comments!
All Habitat photos taken by Kate Sims.