In Conversation with Designer Lee Broom Ahead of Australian Tour

  • Photography -
  • - Luke Hayes
  • - Beth Davis
  • - Arthur Woodcroft
  • est living lee broom 10 year  750x540

    Est caught up with highly-acclaimed, London-based furniture and lighting designer Lee Broom ahead of his Australian design tour and landmark exhibition ‘Park Life’ in collaboration with Space Furniture.

    It all began with the infamous Crystal Bulb in 2012 which set Lee Broom on a fast-tracked course to becoming a household name. Since then, English-born Lee has become respected for his immersive and surreal installations and admired for his classic, yet opulent craftsmanship.

    You can only imagine our excitement when we heard Space Furniture was bringing Lee out to Australia to create one of his most significant landmark exhibitions to date. The large-scale installation entitled ‘Park Life’ will be showcased for two weeks in March in Sydney alongside a series of Design Talks both in Singapore, Brisbane, and Melbourne, coinciding with Singapore Design Week and Melbourne Design Week.

    Known for his polished and contemporary (yet undeniably quirky) approach to design, est was delighted to chat with Lee to discuss everything from his home in a converted fire station to his favourite London drinking spots.

    est living lee broom portrait
    Eclipse Pendant and Table Lamp | Lee Broom
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    Time Machine - Salone del Mobile | Lee Broom

    You come from a multifaceted background. What did you study and what path led you to launch your first Lee Broom product design collection in 2007?

    Lee Broom: I originally trained as an actor and was a professional child actor until I was 17 so my original career path wasn’t design at all. As a child I loved design and my dad was an artist, so I was always sketching and drawing when I was younger. I particularly liked architecture and also fashion. When I was 17 I entered a fashion competition called The Young Designer of The Year which was judged by Vivienne Westwood and I won. This then led to me working for her in London and Paris for around 10 months before going on to study fashion design at Central Saint Martins.

    My plan became to start my own clothing line once I had graduated however, living and studying in London is expensive and so to support myself I would offer décor advice for a number of independent bars and nightclubs across London which cemented an organic move into interiors. I used to make mirror frames and curtains and upholstery, and this soon turned into a small business.

    Just after graduation in 2000, I was commissioned along with my friend and colleague from Central St Martins, Maki Aoki, to work on a 9-month long project for the design of what was to become London bar ‘Nylon’. After the project was nominated for the Evening Standard Bar of the Year Award, we set up an interior design practice called Makilee Design which created interiors for independent bars, clubs and restaurants across London. We did this very successfully for around four years. After Maki moved back to Japan, I decided to launch a furniture and lighting brand under my own name in 2007.

    It’s a background with many twists and turns, however my ultimate goal was to always have my own label or my own brand. Whether it be fashion, interiors or product, that was the focus.

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    Carousel Pendant Light | Lee Broom
    est living lee broom 10 Year Crystal bulb
    10 Year Anniversary Crystal Bulb | Lee Broom

    In 2012 Your Crystal Bulb light was met with global acclaim. Would you consider this to this to be a turning point in your career?

    Lee Broom: I think so yes, up until the Crystal Bulb I was known in the design industry, but this piece caught the attention of a wider public. It was definitely a watershed moment in my career.

    We designed and produced the Crystal Bulb in eight weeks ahead of our 2012 show at Milan design week. The idea actually came to me in a dream and it then became the product we were most synonymous for. It’s received a lot of support and recognition – we were lucky enough to win four awards in three consecutive years for the Crystal Bulb in the British Design Awards and it now hangs in the London Design Museum’s permanent collection next to the Edison bulb.

    I wanted to create a design which was more affordable then some of the pieces I had released at the time, yet didn’t comprise on its quality or craftsmanship. I think it also resonated with people because it combines two things that we are very familiar with; the industrial light bulb and hand cut crystal. The two hadn’t been combined in this way before but the result was very appealing and became an instant classic.

    Does your own home in London define your individual style as a designer?

     Lee Broom: I live in a converted fire station 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. It has a central atrium which is my favourite space and I tend to use this for entertaining and having friends around. The atrium is the central room that all the other rooms in my house lead from and provides lots of natural light through a central skylight. Whenever I have new pieces or prototypes, they will often be brought into this space for me to try out, so it’s always evolving.

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    Crescent Light | Lee Broom

    You are well known for creating large-scale, experiential installations. What is the inspiration behind your latest landmark exhibition ‘Park Life’ in collaboration with Space Furniture? 

    Lee Broom: The show is set within the underground carpark of the Space showroom. I like the idea of taking this as the theme but turning it on its head. So we have taken the urban surroundings of the car park and created a contemporary interpretation of a traditional garden park instead. Visitors to the show will be taken around a maze which will feature hidden passageways, with tableaus and vignettes which will have our lighting, furniture and accessories on display. All of which will be presented in a modernist way, like a garden of the future.

    The exhibition takes inspiration from the pleasure gardens of the 18th century which were laid out with mazes and miniature waterways.  This was a period of high culture and the pleasure garden became the place to see the latest in art and music or firework displays and shows. The most famous pleasure garden in London around that time was the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens and this is where I live. Although it no longer exists, it has always fascinated me that this happened on my doorstep. In the same way that visitors were entertained in pleasure gardens, I hope that Park Life captures that essence and creates the same sense of escapism, amusement and drama as they did centuries ago

    est living lee broom 10 year hanging hoop chair
    Hoop Chair | Lee Broom
    est living lee broom 10 year decanterlights
    Decanter Pendant Lights | Lee Broom
    est living lee broom 10 year fulcrum candesticks
    Fulcrum Candlesticks | Lee Broom

    Lastly, what are you most looking forward to seeing or doing during your time here in Australia?

    Lee Broom: I don’t get a lot of time to see things when I am travelling for work, but I love Australia so will try to see as much as I can in any spare time I have. I would like to see something at the Sydney Opera House. I like Opera and Classical performances so if I can squeeze this in that would be ideal. Other than that, just soaking up the city. I love Melbourne for its bar culture so will try and visit a few hidden gems if I can.

    est living lee broom 10 year
    10 Year Anniversary Collection | Lee Broom

    Insider’s Guide to London:

    Where do you live in London and what do you love most about it?

    Lee Broom: I live in Vauxhall/Kennington area of London, so besides being a big inspiration this year for our Sydney show, it is also a great area to live in London because it is so central. My morning run takes me to the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. I love feeling so close to the centre of a city.

    Favourite places to eat?

    Lee Broom: My favourite restaurant in London is The Chiltern Firehouse. The food is incredible, the drinks are fabulous, and the atmosphere is great. It’s a classic London restaurant encased in this amazing building. The Caesar salad is the best.

    est living lee broom 10 year optical floor lamp
    Optical Floor Lamp | Lee Broom
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    One Light Only Collection | Lee Broom

    Favourite places to drink?

    Lee Broom: The Bar at The Connaught. The Martini trolley is a brilliant touch, they will make a martini to your exacting specification right in front of you. A good bar should always be judged on their martinis and this is the best.


    Favourite places to shop? 

    Lee Broom: LNCC in Hackney is a superb store. The interior by Gary Card is really quite innovative and the edit of clothing is very good. Their online store is also great. The last thing I bought was a pair of sneakers. For design and interiors, Alfie’s Antique market is a treasure trove of amazing things. I love the Italian or American mid-century pieces. The last item I bought was a Willy Rizzo smoked glass coffee table.

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    Orion Horizontal Pendant Lights | Lee Broom

    ‘Park Life’ Exhibition will be open to the public 14th March – 22nd March 2019, 10am – 5pm Daily at Space Furniture, 84 O’Riordan Street, Alexandria, Sydney, NSW 2015.

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    Optical Table Lamp | Lee Broom
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