Anyone who has attended Milan Design Week in recent years will remember the spectacular installations by Lee Broom at the FuoriSalone, from evocation of an American department store with echoes of the Pantheon, passing through a truck that reproduced Kubrick-like environments inside.
The latest project by the British designer continues this line in which surprise meets history , in a constant game between refinement and theatricality.
It is a penthouse located in the heart of Tribeca in New York, a hybrid place where Lee Broom resides during his long stays in Manhattan but which becomes a showroom during his absence.
The bright apartment occupies an area of approximately 280 square meters on the fifth and sixth floors of a nineteenth-century building on White Street, which is accessed via private lift.
In addition to the large living room and dining room, there are two kitchens, two bedrooms, a dressing room and a study, as well as two terraces with views breathtaking.
From every corner you can enjoy unique views of buildings that tell the story of New York architecture, a fortuitous coincidence that has influenced the choices of an interior design that creates a dialogue between inside and outside.
The building that houses the penthouse has recently been refurbished with particular attention to the value of the past and sustainable processes: in fact, around 80% of the materials have been recovered or restored. It is an attitude that combines American vision and European spirit, an aspect that has aroused the interest of the new landlord.
“The penthouse represents the first sustainable restoration of a historic building of its kind in New York City,” Lee Broom tells us exclusively.
“The wood used inside the apartment has been recovered and the marble chosen for the bathrooms and kitchen surfaces is local and comes from the largest underground quarry in the world which is located in Vermont.
Besides the space itself, the sustainable aspect of the building really impressed me when I tackled this project. It was very important that some specific elements that had been so painstakingly installed remained in the apartment and that my decorative elements emphasized them.
When I created the interiors and designed new products for this space, all finishes should complement the existing ones. When I design an interior, for me this is always the starting point: I let myself be influenced by the architecture of the space and the surrounding environment".
And the dialogue between public and private space, between the history of the city and that of the interiors, becomes a key element in understanding this special New York apartment. Broom continues: “I was very inspired by the space itself and in particular by the views of the house.
In the dining room, for example, the view from the terrace of the skyline certainly helped create the blue color palette for this room.
There is a certain moment of the day when the color of the sky is a deep blue and all the lights of the World Trade Center light up. I wanted the same experience from inside this space, which is why there are many materials such as glass and steel”.
An imposing staircase leads to the master bedroom on the upper floor, dominated by a postmodern bed from the 1970s in brass and steel.
From the room terrace you can enjoy a breathtaking panorama of the Empire State Building, completing the series of historic buildings that can be admired from here.
“The living room has a view of the Long Lines Building,” continues Lee Broom, “which is a tall, windowless skyscraper designed by brutalist architect John Carl Warnecke in 1974.
He is not loved by everyone, but I love him. It has a monolithic structure, so I created all the furniture in the living room to reflect that, like the sofa, tables and fireplace. All of these share design codes with that building, albeit more warmly and with some rounded details".
In fact, the inauguration of the penthouse coincided with the launch of a collection of products that look above all to the American market and which pay homage to the tradition of overseas furniture.
Among these, the White sofa Street certainly stands out, the protagonist of the living room with its symmetrical and continuous lines, between Déco touches and gentle curves typical of contemporary digital design.
In the apartment there is no shortage of Lee Broom's classics, among which we can recognize the Carousel lights and Orion, the Hanging Hoop Chair that hangs from the ceiling of the living room like a swing and the sculptural Grandfather Clock in white marble, right next to the stairs.
We also find several vintage furniture from the designer's personal collection, such as an original eighties bar cabinet designed by Steve Chase for the Chase Residence of Laguna Beach. The space is completed by a series of works of art from the 20th century, underlining the eclectic spirit that has always distinguished the work of the English designer.
Among these, an original leather jacket that belonged to Keith Haring painted and signed on the back. As the designer recounts, “the apartment is a modernist space, but I've added some maximalist touches here and there.
The style is also very masculine in some parts and feminine at the same time. I tend to collect a lot of art and sculpture from the mid-century, so this period also shows in the design, as well as the early 80s, which complements the lighting elements.” The result is a place with a high level of theatricality, lively and warm but at the same time full of distinct views, settings with different flavours, small sets in which to stage one's life.
Does one of the two dimensions prevail over the other? Does the house win or does the theater win? Lee Broom has very clear ideas on the matter: “It's both for me, I don't feel comfortable in a space without drama. I like to entertain, but what would it be to entertain without theatrics? We will change the space as I create new pieces and that will of course mean new artwork and a slight change of direction here and there which is healthy.
We open our doors for special events from time to time, such as NYCxDESIGN, allowing clients and colleagues to privately tour the penthouse and giving them the opportunity to view my work in my own space, in a residential environment rather than in commercial spaces or design fairs. It's still my home, but my home will always have a theatrical side to it."