Lee Broom is a rising star in the product and interior design world. His elegant style has earned him critical acclaim, with many voices in the press and public singing his praises. Hospitality Interiors’ Katie Sherry speaks with Lee about moving from fashion to interior design, working with some of the most prominent names in the industry, and his view on being dubbed “the pin up of British manufacturing”.
One glance at Lee Broom’s biography is enough to see his innate ability to design. At the tender age of 17, Lee won a design competition that led him to working with renowned fashion designer, Vivienne Westwood. This sparked a passion for design that has carried him ever since – from his completion of a fashion design degree at London’s Central Saint Martins to setting up his eponymous brand in 2007.
“I’ve always been creative as far back as I can remember and designing has always been such a strong passion of mine,” Lee enthuses, “so to be able to do this for a living makes me feel very lucky. I think that the most rewarding part in the creative process is the beginning and the end, the inception of an idea and then seeing the final piece.”
So, with a career mapped out in the fashion industry, what made Lee make the move into interiors? “It’s the same kind of discipline,” he says. “When training, you have an idea, you do your research, you build a prototype and have a finished product. Whether that’s a garment or a chair or an interior, it’s the same process.
“With my fashion background there was more training to experiment with your style while having an overarching look. I think product design has given me the ability to consistently evolve, not stay doing the same thing.”
“Designing has always been such a strong passion of mine, so to be able to do this for a living makes me feel very lucky”
Lee’s design style is still very much informed by fashion – “I read a great deal of fashion magazines” – which perhaps explains the brand’s ability to evolve at a relatively fast pace. Lee describes the brand’s overall aesthetic as “a synergy between the modern and tradition, and the combining of the two in a contemporary way”.
This formula has obviously worked its magic. Lee’s furniture and lighting collections are retailed in over 30 countries; he has designed over 40 contract interiors; and he has won a plethora of accolades, including being named the British Design Awards’ Designer of the Year 2011.
Lee’s exquisite furniture and lighting and – thanks to the recent launch of his sculptural Fulcrum candlesticks – accessory collections is enhanced with numerous collaborations. These include partnership with prominent names such as design brand, Deadgood; renowned whiskey, Ballantines; and prominent furniture retailer, Heal’s.
“These collaborations have been key in building up our brand over the years,” Lee says. “We take a very considered approach to these collaborations as it’s important to work with the right partners that align with your brand and ways of working.”
“Product design has given me the ability to consistently evolve, not stay doing the same thing”
In terms of interior design projects, Lee has completed a range of contract venues including Mark’s Bar, an innovative space located in Selfridges’ men’s shoe department – one of Lee’s favourites, and “a great place to enjoy a cocktail whilst shopping”. Other London hospitality projects include Nightjar, Lost Society and The Arts Theatre Club.
So, what draws Lee to the world of hospitality design? “In one aspect you have more freedom than a residential project,” he explains. “You can take more risks, be more avant-garde and impose your own vision. On the other hand, however, you are constantly barricaded by restraints – particularly when it comes down to durability and the health and safety requirements that come with designing a commercial space.”
Lee also created the interior concept of his own London showroom, Electra House. The design of the space -“which features modern lines and clean colour palette – reflects the drama and opulence of Lee’s products, which are displayed in custom-made, 2m-high bell jars and rotating turntables.
Another recent highlight is the design of the Christian Louboutin retail space at Harrods, which – following the tradition of the brand’s stores – is heavily influenced by its location. This proved to be an ideal project for Lee, who – in addition to his link with the fashion world – was already very inspired by the city of London. “I work in East London, which is a very creative area,” he explains.
“London has a really strong street culture so you only have to step outside of the studio to get inspired; the people in this city are very inspiring. I also tend to get very inspired by architecture and art galleries in London.”
Although the quality of Lee’s work speaks for itself, there has been no shortage of good reviews. He has been labelled “the pin up of British manufacturing” by The Times and “to furniture what Marc Jacobs or Tom Ford are to fashion” by The Guardian.
It would be understandable if Lee were to develop a bit of an ego in the face of such praise. However, he remains steadfastly professional and modest in his response: “It takes a lot of dedication and hard work to put our collections together, so it’s a great feeling when you hear that people are responding well to my work,” he says.
One of the best things about Lee’s story is that it has only really just begun. Some exciting plans are on the horizon – including a glassware collection launch at Spazio Pontaccio, Milan – and I for one can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.
Given the choice
Lee Broom lists his favourite:
Time of the day: Afternoon
Moment in history: The 1970s
Inspirational figure: Alexander McQueen
Drink: Old Fashioned
Fashion garment/accessory: Anything by Kenzo
Item in his house: Original painted Keith Haring jacket
Song: Knees Up Mother Brown
Film: Little Miss Sunshine
Quote: “Just Do It”, Nike