Heritage Boy, Lee Broom – The Future Gallery

Following on from the first post about London Design Festival here are some thoughts about Lee Broom’s pop-up showcase.

High Voltage Vanity, Lee Broom, 2007

High Voltage Vanity, Lee Broom, 2007

For starters it was a completely unintentional visit. I happened upon it while wandering about waiting for a friend – it seems that out of habit, when I wander near Covent Garden/Seven Dials/Leicester Square I always gravitate towards the space where The Photographers’ Gallery used to be and it this space that housed the collection.

What enticed me in was a piece called ‘High Voltage Vanity’ – a mirror in a high gloss white laquered frame finished with a neon light surround.

The light strenthens the silhouette and draws attention to the part of the object which can be missed in favour of the pull of ones own reflection. The placing of the neon lights actually cast a shadow over my face rather than illuminating it indicating that perhaps the form is given priority over the function.

Tile Table, Lee Broom, 2009

Tile Table, Lee Broom, 2009 (side view)

The mirror formed part of the 2007 Neo Neon collection. The 2009 collection is Heritage Boy and, according to the lovely man who showed me round, involves “carpetry, parquetry and tiles”. I hope that’s on his business card. Lee Broom is all about fusion (who isn’t these days?), his particular fusion concept is ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’. You might as well not bother writing that on any art blurb anymore because it’s pretty much a universal constant. That said, there are ways of doing it well and ways of doing it terribly. Lee Broom does it well.

The Heritage Boy collection takes traditional UK production methods, gives them a modern and minimal colour palette, then applies them to furniture in unexpected ways. The tiles for the coffee table are made by the same company who make tiles for the London Underground. The top surface is a completely smooth single tile with the decoration being reserved for the sides. The heaviness of the whole thing is balanced by the clean and modern Scandinavian blue colouring.

Carpetry sideboard, Lee Broom, 2009

Carpetry sideboard, Lee Broom, 2009

Elsewhere were pendant lamps where the inner surface of the shade was lined with carpet and beautiful sideboard also covered in carpet. The carpets, in keeping with the traditional British industry theme, were 100% wool and woven on Wilton looms. The design was based on Persian rugs but incorporated the Tudor rose and British crown jewels. Rather than the heavy reds, browns and greens of the past he used the Scandinavian blue with cream and beige for a lighter feel. The sideboard was wonderfully tactile with rounded edges and press-and-pop opening mechanisms for both drawers and doors. Something very much for people not battling against sticky toddler handprints and spilled Ribena.

The parquetry section was the least interesting to me. Parquetry is parquetry and modern lines are modern lines. I could see where he was going with it and that the furniture is meant to be seen and appreciated from multiple viewpoints but beyond acknowledging that I really couldn’t get any further into either the table or the lamps.

Lee’s collections, past and present, are fascinating at their best and well made at their worst containing a coherent set of thoughts on heritage and the journey of tradition. I wandered out wondering if I should have asked for a quote for one of the sideboards but decided that a) whatever the sum of money, I really don’t have it and b) I am as likely as any toddler to spill Ribena on something nice.

For anyone who missed it and is annoyed about it you might like to follow @leebroom on Twitter – his last tweet says he’s oganising a private view for the end of Oct.

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