My favourite antique: Sophie Conran

Sophie Conran on why she couldn't resist her antique butter dish and her earliest memories of the Conran household

I collect 18th and 19th-century dairy ceramics and this butter dish is a favourite. When I was young we lived next door to a farm, and I used to go to the local farmer to collect the milk fresh from the pail. I would always scoop the cream off the top.

My nickname is ‘dairy queen’ because I love butter and cream. I didn’t start collecting dairyana because of the name though. I just love very pure objects. The bowls are so simple and the jugs are generous and white. Everything was designed to be sterile and clean.

This dish would hold about 3lb of butter, though I have to admit I don’t use it for that. I keep it in the bathroom filled with cotton wool. My white ceramic bowls are also displayed in the bathroom with soap in them and the jugs get used for flowers.

Find an antiques fair and I’ll be there. I bought this butter dish at Battersea Decorative Fair – it’s one of the best fairs on the circuit. I also go to Petworth a lot and to Lorfords Antiques in Tetbury. I love Below Stairs of Hungerford too. It was the first place I went antiques hunting. The first thing I bought was a milk jug.

My kitchen is more of a shed than a kitchen. It’s where I have all my tools, as well as my utensils. It’s painted bright pink and there is stuff everywhere. It’s very hard to be unhappy when you’re in there.

We grew up with lots of exciting things going on. My brothers and I were immersed in our father’s (Terence Conran’s) business, which was revolutionary in the 1960s, and is still so successful. We featured in the catalogue and there was always furniture coming and going from the house. Unfortunately, my father hasn’t held on to many of his early pieces. He is always looking to the future for the next thing to improve.

It’s not that it was inevitable that we went into similar industries, but it piqued our interest. People from The Conran Shop offices would come for dinner and we were asked to do little jobs. I helped design childrenswear for Mothercare aged 12! Some designs even made it on to the shop floor.

My earliest memories are from my grandmother’s house – picking lily of the valley with her and making pastry. My first recollection is of being in the vegetable garden in summer and walking into the asparagus bed.

I collect Mochaware folkloric jugs and all sorts of kitchenalia, from hand-carved spoons to enamel storage jars. When I see things I like, I just pick them up. The pure shapes of the dairyana, for example, has informed the aesthetic of my own collection of Portmeirion ceramics.

I could not live without a nice hot bath. I sit in the tub and look up at my dairy pieces. It’s my personal haven.

0843 227 1461; sophieconran.com

Interview: Alice Hancock
Portrait: Niall McDiarmid

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