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The heirloom tray: designing Terence

The heirloom tray: designing Terence

‘Thirty years ago, we were lucky enough to have a wedding list at The Conran Shop,’ begins our creative founder, Emma Sims-Hilditch, wife of co-founder, John. ‘The Conran Shop was, for us, the place you went to get your cool, designed furniture or your cutlery or your glassware. Terence Conran was the master of that. And, from that list, we were given this tray.’

Spring forward three decades, and after a woodland stroll in the Wiltshire countryside, Emma and John picked out their Conran tray to gather together a foraged collection of hedgerow leaves and berries in order to bring them into the Neptune design studio. These would go on to inspire our autumn 2021 colour palette, but the tray itself caught the eye of the design team too. Could they create a Neptune tray that might also last 30 or even a hundred years? They set about designing one, incorporating into the corners strong, sturdy finger joints that promise longevity, while smoothly shaping the handles to be as natural and comfortable in the hand as possible.

Far more than a purely utilitarian piece though, as with everything we create, it was important for John that the tray would have aesthetic value too. ‘Beauty is the fundamental thing. We’re building to last a hundred years and, over time, utility changes, but it’s the beauty of something that will always have value, that will ensure it lasts.’ It’s why the team chose natural white oak for its characterful but not too knotty grain; why the sides are high enough to be practical but not so high as to appear inelegant, and are shaped to follow the curves of the handles; and why they decided to leave the finger joint detail on show as evidence of the craftsmanship.

Emma also knew that she wanted the Terence tray – named in tribute to its source of inspiration – to be more than just a tray, and that it would be able to sit atop the butler’s table legs we’d created as part of our spring 2021 collection. A fitting pairing, the oak and leather legs had already been through their own journey of refinement to be ‘just perfect’ and, together, the two would form a slowly sculpted, carefully considered whole. A worthy family heirloom for the future.

You can see the Terence tray and the butler’s table in more detail online as well as in our stores.