Totally Obsessed: Terence Conran Design for JC Penney

by Maxwell Tielman

When JC Penney rebranded a little over a year ago, I was skeptical—and I don’t think I was alone in that regard. Despite a shiny new logo and a refreshed store design, the trend of mass-market retailers suddenly promising a “high end” look has become incredibly prevalent in today’s market. Department stores like Macy’s and Sears have made attempts to capture a more design-focused clientele over the years and have witnessed varying degrees of success. JC Penney, however, had always seemed doomed to be associated with deep discounts and flash sales—not anything resembling “high” design. This is why, when JCP unveiled its new in-store design shops (with names like Martha Stewart, Jonathan Adler, Michael Graves, and Terence Conran attached), I was absolutely floored. As far as offering beautiful home designs at affordable prices, these little pop-up shops have gone above and beyond—I’m converted!

The Design By Conran shop, headed by the legendary British designer and author Sir Terence Conran, is particularly amazing. With an emphasis on soothing, monochrome palettes and natural materials, the objects in the collection defy the status quo of typical department store wares—they are simple yet considered, affordable yet beautifully crafted. I’m especially in love with the products that meld wood and white elements— like the Beep Table Lamp, the Pearl Accent Lamp, and the marble-topped Console Table. “Within the collection for JC Penney,” says Jill Webb, Conran’s design director, “we’ve tried to use materials that get better with age.” In a world where mass-market usually means flimsy, sticker-coated MDF, this comes as welcome, extremely refreshing news. As strange as it feels saying this—I gotta get me to JC Penney STAT. For more photos of this fabulous line of products, continue after the jump!—Max

1. Beep Table Lamp | 2. Candelabra | 3. Slate Wall Clock | 4. Bates Side Table | 5. Skipper Stool | 6. Candlestick Holder

1. Berger Side Chairs | 2. Lucina Table Lamp | 3. Pearl Accent Lamp | 4. Marbled Console Table

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  • Never EVER thought I’d be coveting something from JCP. Guess I know what to do with those gift cards I got from my aunt I was dreading!

  • I remember walking in there recently and being amazed that they had things I would actually want to buy. Now they’ve fired the CEO responsible for their rebranding, so I’m not sure what route the store will take.

  • They are really upping their ante….it’s beginning to show in their partnerships with designers for clothing too…and their recent TV ads are pretty chic too!

  • Big fan of quality design coming to supersized dept. stores! I always thought of JCP as more of a discount Macy’s. But, now you’ve piqued my interest!

  • I ordered the Cairns dining table and bench last night! I’ve just moved to DC from the UK so had no preconceptions of JC Penney – I trekked out to a store at the weekend to try to see them in person before ordering but no joy (and the store was errrrrrrr interesting!) I love Conran (one of favourite shops back home) so ordered anyway but I’m reassured that the range has the DS seal of approval. Can’t wait for them to be delivered!

  • Wow, I’m in love with that Beep lamp. The site only has it as a table lamp, although one of those photos show it in a floor lamp version. Are they going to sell that version??

  • Too bad JCP kicked Ron Johnson (who is responsible for this transformationn and rebranding) out in last month. Now they’ll revert back to their boring, unimaginative self. So sad, I was just coming around.

  • I agree, MPH. I really liked the new JCP. There is a store located close to my house and I’ve been there more times this past year than I have in my whole life. I’m really bummed that they fired the CEO and I don’t have much hope for the fiction the store is going to take. I understand they have already raised their prices and have revered back to coupons and sales.

  • You can go to the store, but you’ll probably only find small pieces of the Happy Chic collection and a few Martha/Michael Graves things that don’t take up much floor space. Very few stores have furniture, and the ones that do are still displaying mainstream stuff. It looks like the Conran and Happy Chic furniture will only be available online, and how knows for much longer since they’re bringing back the old team responsible for the Rooms To Go-esque lines they were selling before.

    It’s sad – they were just starting to win over the people with less mass market tastes. Hopefully the can maintain some of the momentum.

  • I love the new jcpenney look! There’s no way they will go back to the bland. So far the company’s future is looking bright!

  • We were looking for a new sofa and Adler’s and Conran’s JCP sofas were on our shortlist. But no stores close to us and could not find any reviews online. So we went with Room & Board instead. But love the looks and hope they continue with these styles and make more furniture available at more stores.

  • the design looks lovely, but i’m curious about the quality? is it a deal breaker?

  • I’m a little biased because I’m from north Dallas and get to hear gossip from around JCPs corporate office, but it seems to me like they’ve got an excellent handle on everything. They kept Ron Johnson around long enough to help with the rebranding process, and have brought back the old CEO to help incorporate all of these new elements with their old company values. Morale around JCP was not good while Ron Johnson was around–he couldn’t connect with the people that make JCP what it is today (& the fact that he was flying a private jet back and forth between his home in California and his job in Dallas each weekend also didn’t sit well with the hundreds of thousands of employees who were laid off during his tenure) But from someone who knows trust me these changes aren’t going anywhere anytime soon! Some of the brands will be temporary collaborations with JCP (ie the Neiman Marcus collection at Target last December), but they will be replaced with even more collaborations. They can only go up from here!

  • JC Penny has really stepped up their A game. I love the new store design (also love that Sephora is in it!), plus the JCP brand of clothes has so many gems. Definitely my go to for affordable basics as well! Love it.

  • I recently read that jcp stockholders have not seen their shares shoot up quite as fast as the would have liked since the whole rebranding took place and are in the process of replacing the current CEO. I fully agree with the majority of comments above and find that Jcp has completely stepped up their game and I personally enjoy shopping there now. I am planning on writing a letter of disappointment to jcp as should we all.

  • I had been looking at one of the Jonathan Adler sofas, super excited that I could perhaps see one in person….I happened to revisit the sofa again only to see that is went up in price by nearly $800!!! One very similar at Room and Board, whose reputation is undoubtedly stronger will be my choice when the time comes. It’s too bad that the rebranding (which is awesome) is unrealistic to the everyday style enthusiast who may not ordinarily be able to afford such high end prices.

  • I say this is a copy cat of Danish furniture. How can it be called a new design. PLEASE>>> the tubular style, and box style lack the grace and fluid design of the original mid century items that are being copied. People like this look, Penny’s thinks that giving their stuff designer names will impress people. It may, but giving some designer’s name to the items, means that Penny’s will have to pay for that name, and so does the customer. Buyer be ware..

    • robin

      i think conran is definitely inspired by that era of furniture, but i don’t believe those elements belong to- or are trademarked by- any particular designer. there was an entire generation of furniture designers working in that era (including terence conran himself), so i think he’s a part of that movement.

      if you have particular items you think he’s knocking off from specific designers please feel free to provide more information. i am always happy to look into an copying issues that people can provide details on.


  • Love it. I love all of it.
    If only we had access to it in the Middle East.

  • I am surprised that every JCP/Conran feature I’ve read applauds the partnership for it’s affordability. While I love Conran, and specifically the line he’s designed for JCP, I think we need to step back and reconsider whether these items are truly affordable to JCP customers. If we compare the JCP/Conran prices to say, Target/Too by Blu Dot, we’ll find the JCP/Conran prices are nearly triple the Target/Too by Blu Dot ones. In fact, the JCP prices rival Room & Board and Crate & Barrel, and are in line with what Conran sells their designs for in their UK shop. I wouldn’t be making this argument if “great prices” wasn’t a JCP brand pillar, as I also know affordability in the design world is all relative (especially since the high end can go, well, so high). But is this really the best they can do to bring niche designs to the mass market at prices that match what their customers can afford? I don’t think so.

  • Buyer beware. I liked the look of the Pearl Accent lamp and bought it for my office. About 3 weeks after having it, it started giving off a very strong acrid odor. Everyone at work thought it was the office walls or acoustic tiles, but an identical office right next to it had no problem at all. It tooks us days of working with Facilities to figure out the odor was coming off from the lamp since it was up on top of a cabinet. We had even used a fan in the room to see if it would dissipate and that only made the problem worse. It was bad enough that it burned my nose – and that was with using a compact fluorescent bulb that came with the unit. After removing the lamp, the off-gassing or whatever it is, has stuck to the walls and furniture. We need to prime and repaint completely. I tried to find out what materials were used in the lamp to try to confirm what it is that would cause this apparent breakdown of the materials and a rep from Conran said they couldn’t comment since it was sold by JC Penney’s. I have filed a complaint with JC Penney’s and the Consumer Products Safety Commission.

  • The dining table and bench I mentioned further up were delivered this morning (super-quick delivery, I can’t fault JC Penney at all!) and I’m really pleased. It has great lines which aren’t shown to their full potential on the JCP site and they go well with the eames chairs we shipped over with us.

  • I tried to find the Beep floor lamp pictured in the room set, but it seems they only went into production with the Beep table lamp? Any more info Grace? Also, with regards to the comment about knock offs, Conran really does have both the credentials and longevity to prove he is a design icon (hell he was Knighted for it), but clearly not that familiar to so many Stateside . . .

  • Picked up the Lucina floor lamp at JCPenney in Schaumburg today. Dealt with five staffers and all were greatly incompetent. Couldn’t tell me HOW to actually buy the item (“Just take it over to the register that way” “Uhm, sir, it’s got a solid marble base. It’s heavy”). Couldn’t find an outlet to plug the lamp into anywhere near the display. Couldn’t operate their portable POS systems (tried two cards twice, entered my 10% off coupon four times), and then had similar problems with the touchscreen table they ‘found’ a few feet away.

    Very nice lamp. Very, very doomed company. The guy I picked up the lamp from at the pickup window was the most competent of the whole parade.

  • Also — JCP is back to their old pre-Johnson tricks. Lamp’s price tag: $200 (probably from during Johnson’s regime). “New” price that they’re rolling out: $345. ON SALE NOW: $240. (these are the prices listed online)

    Smoke and mirrors. Pad the margins, make people believe they’re getting a good deal.

  • I got the Lucina table lamp. Since I bought it just 3-4 weeks ago, it has been on “sale” at least 5 different prices, some cheaper than what I got. Whatever you do, don’t buy at full price!

    The first lamp I ordered was defective and had to be returned in-store. Luckily, I am not too far from one. The replacement lamp is fine, although the wood base is paler, less honey colored, than the first.

    Also, it is a bit different than pictured. The white socket is quite visible peeking out under the shade, which includes a large black and white warning sticker that is impossible to remove. The pictures make it seem as if the wood runs up past the bottom of the shade. It doesn’t. Also, the bulb is visible if you keep this lamp at most standard table or buffet heights. The shade screws into the socket and doesn’t go very high. We moved the lamp to a tall bureau.

    Hope this info helps someone. I love Conran and am excited to see the collaboration.

  • Has anyone bought the Conran Brooke Sofa? Three on line coments and two were very very bad. And good ones out there. I love the design but also need confort and want it to hold up?

  • I also love the rebranding – but my local store looks basically the same and now is going back to weekend flash sales, which I hate. :(
    I drove to the neighboring bigger city and WOW, what a difference!! I am shocked. I got 2 Beep Lamps for 50% off and all the other collaborations were there – and on sale. This is fantastic!
    I am now worried that the flux in management may erase the welcome upgrades. This would be a colossal mistake.
    The J Adler, M Graves, CONRAN, M Stewart, etc make this newer JCP the hippest coolest mid-price store around. YEAH JCP!!

  • Bought a Byron love seat this year which has proved disasterous.The cushion slips off settee all the time.Have complained without success.Now I see it has been withdrawn,what is that saying? Disilusioned.

  • Bought the grey sofa with blue throw pillows as shown in above photo. Loved the color and contemporary design. It is so faded after having it a year. It does not receive direct sunlight, keep it near north facing windows. I’m looking for slip covers. Also bought a cabinet that is part of the same collection as the coffee table as the one in the photo with the couch. Very happy with the cabinet!

  • I managed to find the Beep Table Lamp at my local store, discounted to $9.99, but the screws are a little loose. Hopefully I can fix it.

  • I ordered 2 webbed dining chairs and 2 cafe tables with car portion pedestal. The website indicated they were sold out but when I called customer service they did, indeed have them in stock. I intended to buy more butthey took them out of circulation. Too bad. If they had advertised these Conran pieces, they would have fold in Dallas.