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LEADING LIGHT

Lee Broom

12th Jan 2015

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With a personal motto of ‘do your own thing’, Lee Broom is a one-man powerhouse, a British-born designer who creates beautiful and mouldbreaking lighting, furniture, interiors and decorative accessories. Winner of multiple awards and with a flagship store in Shoreditch, his products are sold in more than 30 countries worldwide. If ever you were looking for a name to fill Sir Terence Conran's massively impressive shoes, Broom is definitely one to watch.

Broom fell in love with design at a young age, while he was a pupil at theatre school. This early exposure to costume and interiors propelled him on a career path that has covered more than half a dozen different design disciplines. Earning his stripes as a teenager with an internship at legendary designer Vivienne Westwood, he was inspired to study for a fashion degree at Central St Martins. However, his mind was already elsewhere. Changing tack, he spent the next few years honing his talent for interior design and creating inspiring bar and restaurant environments. It’s an area he is still involved in – November 2014 saw the opening of Old Tom & English, an unashamedly decadent cocktail bar in Soho featuring a collection of Broom’s lighting, furniture and interiors, the perfect commercial gallery.

Today, Broom is best known as a product designer. He founded his company in 2007 after his inspirational designs began to attract international attention, in particular his lighting, which has won more than 20 awards. Among them are the Elle Decoration British Design Award for Crystal Bulb [a hand-blown, hand-cut, lead crystal version of the everyday light bulb, which has sold more than 10,000 units worldwide], and Designer of the Year 2011/2012 at the British Design Awards.

Now in his late 30s, Broom was a teenager in the late 80s and early 90s when recession-driven Britain was enjoying a new wave of music, fashion and design. Boundaries were broken and institutions smashed, as icons such as Westwood, Boy George and Philippe Starck took centre stage. It was a time of evolution and Broom rode the wave. There is still a certain homage to the 1980s in his work. Broom’s 2011 collection of Salon Lounge Chairs featured superb, sumptuous upholstery accentuated with punk-style stud detailing.

His latest collection, Nouveau Rebel, launched at 2014’s London Design Festival, uses his favourite crystal combined with Carrara marble in a series of beautiful, gently luminous lighting pieces. The new Quilt Chair crosses gorgeous fabrics with couture-style quilting techniques, while the Fulcrum candlesticks invite us to enjoy crystal in its most recognisable form.

A keen supporter of British manufacturing, Broom works closely with specialist traditional craftsmen from the initial concept to final production. It’s no surprise that The Times dubbed him “the pin-up of British manufacturing”, or that he has in no small part helped to revive the fortunes of the UK’s only remaining crystal manufacturer.

In 2013, the ongoing creation and production of new designs prompted Broom, together with his partner and business manager Charles Rudgard, to open his first ‘store’ [don’t call it a shop] in east London’s hip Rivington Street. Electra House is part store, part gallery, a living display of Broom’s work that has attracted international design professionals since it opened its doors. Some products have been so popular that they sold out within weeks of opening. For Broom, this is the pinnacle of success – he recently admitted to being delighted “to see people leaving, clutching our Lee Broom bags”.

It is this approach to embracing the more luxurious end of the interior design business that is currently driving Broom, and one that will see his products surely end up in the auction houses of the future, legacy pieces and antiques for generations to come. It may also be the driver in establishing a hotel, something he has described as the “ultimate project”, a place where every facet of his designs could come together. Take note, would-be investors…

With so much happening, it’s hard to imagine a moment in Broom’s day when his head isn’t filled with design, but this is one London convert who uses the city to its full advantage. He lives in a former fire station in Kennington with a retro cinema
in the basement, and the space and texture of the building provide the perfect environment for him to trial designs under the watchful eye of Charles. Broom is an avid art collector [a favourite piece is an original Keith Haring leather jacket with a white crucifix on the back], and a prominent figure at London’s galleries and museums, and, internationally, at Art Basel and Art Basel Miami. He also collects mid-century furniture and cites Atomic on Shoreditch High Street as the place to shop for original pieces, or Heal’s on Tottenham Court Road for new design. London’s street markets, in particular Portobello and Brick Lane, have also been a huge inspiration and where Broom first bought crystal decanters to try the idea for his Crystal Decanter Lights.

But it’s not all about retail. Broom is a keen runner and says that crossing the river and its bridges on foot opens his eyes to the panoramas, people and places around him. Every day is different and each location throws up possibilities which, for Broom, could prove to be the inspiration for the next big thing.

 

Lee Broom, Electra House, 93 Rivington Street, London EC2; leebroom.com