Lee Broom: industrial architecture and working with Vivienne Westwood
Lighting expert Lee Broom talks Vivienne Westwood and Wedgwood
Style icon Lee Broom has made a name for himself by creating innovative designs with a respectful nod to tradition.
With a background in fashion, theatre and interiors, he's now best known for his contemporary lighting – including the inspired Crystal Bulb – and has won a raft of prestigious awards. He started out as a child actor and later studied fashion at Central St. Martins, before launching his first product design collection in 2007. Last year he celebrated a decade in the business with Time Machine, a retrospective show of his work at Milan Design Week. He has expanded stateside with stores in New York and L.A.
Who has inspired you most in your career?
Vivienne Westwood. When I was 17, I entered and won a fashion competition called The Young Designer of The Year which was judged by Vivienne Westwood. This led to me working for her in London and Paris for around 10 months before going on to study fashion design. Vivienne showed me how she was influenced by tailoring and pattern cutting from centuries past and how we can learn from techniques of the past and make them relevant for the modern day. That is something that has definitely filtered down into what I do now as a product designer – I look to traditional manufacturing and craft techniques from the past and reshape them for now.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
The Salone del Mobile 2017 show was a special moment. It was our largest exhibition to date, celebrating a decade in the industry with our furniture, lighting and accessories all reimagined completely in white.
Which of your designs are you most proud of ?
I’m very proud of my collaboration with Wedgwood. The idea was for me to create a prestige range of limited edition vases using their iconic Jasperware. Jasperware isn’t something which has been touched by many designers over the years so I was really excited at the prospect of creating my own interpretation of something we all know so well. I spent many days in the archive and visiting the factory in Stoke-on-Trent. It was fascinating working with the team to understand the craftsmanship involved in making the pieces and to be a part of their history.
Where do you live and what is your home like?
I live in a converted fire station in South London so there are a lot of industrial architectural details to my home which I love. I would say it is very much the embodiment of me as a designer. I have a lot of my own designs in the space, but I also have a number of mid-century pieces. It has a very modern layout with lots of stairs and different levels. There’s a central atrium which is my favourite space and I tend to use this for entertaining and having friends around – it’s the central room that all the other rooms lead from and provides lots of natural light through a skylight.
What are the golden rules for lighting?
Lighting is so important to an interior space, it can be a focal point or it can be a subtle part of the whole scheme and can change the ambience in a room, making it tonally warm or cool. It can help bring a room together or help create separation. The right lighting is vital whatever outcome you are looking for within the space. I often design my interiors focusing on the lighting first rather than at the end. It shouldn’t be an afterthought.
Words by Susan Springate