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London-based designer Lee Broom unveiled a modernist-inspired masterpiece at this year’s Milan Design Week in the form of a carousel packed with carefully curated products that he’s designed over his 10-year career. The captivating installation in Centrale Station in Milan was designed to mark the milestone, alongside his aptly named ‘Time Machine’ grandfather clock. Home & Design Editor Charlotte Luxford spoke to him about the project.
Culture Trip: Do you think the pieces in the 10-year collection have already achieved a classic status?
Lee Broom: Some of the pieces in the collection are more recognisable than others and I suppose have become design classics in their own right. It’s very difficult for me to judge that or even think about it. Other people tend to tell me whether they think something is a classic or not.
CT: Do you seek longevity when designing your pieces?
LB: Longevity in my work is hugely important to me as a designer. You have a responsibility when designing luxury furniture or lighting to create pieces that will withstand the test of time, sit in someone’s home for the rest of their life and even get passed down to the next generation.
CT: Where did the inspiration for the carousel concept come from?
LB: I was fascinated by carousels when I was a child and would often sketch them. In recent years I often thought a carousel would be an interesting way of presenting a collection as there is a certain nostalgia about merry go rounds, I thought it could look quite playful. When I saw the vault in the Milano Centrale train station I decided this location would be perfect to realise the idea. I wanted to create a very modernist interpretation of a fairground carousel that would glow like a beacon in stark contrast to the very dark and dilapidated atmosphere of the vault. The carousel also represents the evolving lifecycle the brand has journeyed in the last 10 years as it rotates. I think it was the perfect location to create the unexpected environment for the show and one I hope everyone thought was very memorable.
CT: What made you decide to create the grandfather clock as your centrepiece for the exhibit?
LB: I’ve always wanted to design a grandfather clock. My grandparents had one in their home and I loved its majestic appearance and its intricate mechanisms. Given our decade in design, it felt like the right moment to create one. Clocks are synonymous with the commemoration of a significant passage of time and that sentiment seemed very timely for 10 years.
CT: Marble features a lot in your work – why do you tend to gravitate towards this material in particular?
LB: I really enjoy working with marble. It is a very natural material and no two pieces are the same – it’s similar to wood in that respect. I love how the veins of Carrara marble can dictate how the final pieces will look, every one is unique. It is also challenging and you can really push the material. When we created the Marble Tube light, for example, which requires the marble to be milled down to a 5mm [0.2 in.] thickness, we were told it couldn’t be done, but persistence paid off. Our Time Machine grandfather clock was equally a challenge. It is wonderful to collaborate with craftspeople who have been working with their material for sometimes decades. We try and push the capabilities of the craftspeople and their machinery as much as we can, while learning all about their intricate craft. So in return, the craftspeople also end up learning from us. It is a great relationship.
CT: Which of all the pieces you’ve designed is your favourite?
LB: I would say the most recent pieces are probably my favourite but I do like the Crescent Light and also my Hanging Hoop chair.
CT: How do your travels inspire your work?
LB: I find it quite easy to get inspired, but particularly when I am travelling. I’m a city boy so find a lot of inspiration when I visit other cities across the world. I make a point of visiting galleries and museums of course, but I also just find walking around inspires me. Taking in the architecture, looking at what people are wearing, soaking up the street. My brain works very visually so if I see something interesting I store it away in my memory and then tap into it later on.
CT: What do you like about exhibiting during Milan Design Week?
LB: Salone is the pinnacle for international furniture and lighting design and I really love the buzz of Milan during Design Week. I don’t often get to see many other exhibitions or shows but it’s great to catch up with so many people over the week. I love the architecture in Milan and also the shopping, but the main attraction is the food. It is difficult to find bad food in Milan. My favourite restaurants are Convivium in Brera and Ceresio 7.
CT: Where do you see the company in another 10 years’ time?
See more of Lee Broom’s work on his website here.