When the interiors and product designer Lee Broom won Product of the Year at the British Design Awards 2013 for his now-iconic ‘Crystal Bulb’, he had no idea quite how successful it would be.
Five years after he won Designer of the Year, and 30,000 units later, Broom is riding high, known for showcasing his furniture and lighting collections in Milan, New York and London in innovative, theatrical ways.
I meet Broom in his top-floor studio where he sketches. He’s relaxed, approachable, engaging, stylishly dressed today in all-black. Windows flung wide to the exposed brick and rubber plants, the entire studio is decked out in his furniture, so it feels like a home from home.
The drinks trolley is prominent. All very MadMen? “I love mid-century, but I also love postmodern, especially the architecture,” Broom says. “I’m definitely influenced by what was around me growing up.”
Broom appreciates a well-made martini, so the fact that he’s created a set of martini glasses suddenly makes sense: they are a part of his world, which encompasses a passion for fashion, a creative mind and a flair for business.
His business nous has taken him from Shoreditch to opening a store in SoHo, New York. His sales are up 50 per cent in the US but he admits that launching a satellite business has been challenging.
However, he recently returned from New York Design Week with 10 new dealers in major state capitals. “There are more interior decorators in the States than there are in Europe. Over there, among the affluent, it’s an absolute must,” he says.
His first collection, in 2007, was limited-edition neon furniture. “My intention was always to start at the very high end, afterwards you can do more accessibly priced pieces. I compare it to the fashion brands – not everyone can afford a Chanel handbag but you can afford a Chanel lipstick, and it will be the best lipstick you’ll ever buy. Our crystal lightbulb is a similar thing.”
Read more: Highlights from Clerkenwell Design Week 2017
Quality matters to Broom. When he works in marble it’s Carrara, and the lead-crystal lightbulbs (£135) are hand-cut. His factory is in Bow, which only adds to Brooms’ marketability as an established designer with London cred.
Broom says his brand is luxury, contemporary, conceptual yet with nods to tradition and craft, formal yet fun, something he values in, say, fashionable department stores, such as Liberty and Bergdorf Goodman, the store on Fifth Avenue for which he recently designed the window displays.
“That was one of the proudest moments of my career – it’s the holy grail for people in New York.”
He acted at the National Theatre when he was younger, but says he was just as fascinated by the set design, the lighting and the costumes – the whole production. And this is what drives him – making things and putting them out there as a performance.
For the upcoming London Design Festival in September he is already dreaming up a theatrical showcase. “People see a lot of shows in that week, so in my presentations I also want them to feel.”
Lee Broom, 95 Rivington Street, EC2 (leebroom.com), online at leebroomstore.com
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