A few weeks ago, when stay-at-home orders were still quite strong, we heard from the London-based lighting designer Lee Broom. At home, he was catching up on movies that emphasized costume design, reading a book on architecture, and pondering his upcoming monograph.
Whitewall spoke with Broom to hear more about what he’s working on now, and what surprised him about working in isolation.
WHITEWALL: How are you doing?
LEE BROOM: To be honest, I’m actually okay. And after six weeks of staying home, I feel I have adapted very quickly to this new way of being. I’m lucky in that I often work from home, particularly when I am designing, and I am very used to working on my own.
Without question, the situation across the world is terrifying, and if you had told me three months ago what was about to occur, I would have completely panicked—worrying about family, friends, loved ones, and of course my business. So, I decided to simply take each day as it comes; to be in the present moment and recognize you have all the resource and the know-how to cope with difficult situations as they happen, rather than project your mind into the future and create panic and fear.
WW: What are you listening to, reading, watching, or listening to?
LB: I’m reading A History of Architecture in 100 Buildings by Dan Cruickshank. I am not keen on reading fiction, and I have a short attention span when reading, so this book is ideal with a new building every few pages. It is a perfect intro into the history of architecture covering some very acclaimed, and some less obvious and surprising buildings.
I am also watching Mrs. America starring Cate Blanchett. It’s a part of American history I had little knowledge of, and the styling is just superb. Having studied and worked in fashion before becoming a product designer, I am always drawn toward films or TV shows that have an emphasis on costume and art direction.
WW: Are you cooking anything of note?
LB: I am a hopeless cook. I had a stab at making bread whilst in lockdown and royally screwed it up, so I won’t be repeating that exercise again any time soon. I do, however, know how to make a mean cocktail, so my domestic role in the household is not redundant. Favorites are a classic gin martini, an Eastern standard, or an old fashioned.
WW: How are you staying connected?
LB: The team is all working from home, so there are a lot of Zoom calls, and same with friends and family. Thank goodness for modern technology. I can’t imagine how difficult this would all be without it. To a certain degree, I have been connecting a lot more with friends and family, and have more conversations over the phone, which I rarely did before now. We have all found ways to stay more connected and I hope this stays with us beyond COVID-19.
WW: How are you staying creative? Are you able to make work at this time?
LB: I have certainly had a lot more time to create. I decided that I wanted to use this time to get something done that has been on my list for a long time but never got any attention. So, I started to work on a book, something I’ve been wanting to do for many years.
For a designer, a monograph is all about your past work and your design ethos. This means a lot of looking back, something I am not entirely used to doing being so focused on new projects all the time. This unique period in a sense has been a perfect time to look back and reflect so that’s what I did. It’s been a cathartic experience.
WW: Where are you finding hope or inspiration?
LB: Something good always comes out of a bad situation, even if it is only minor, and focusing on any positive changes that could occur as a result of the past few months is essential. One thing for me is that I have always worked at full speed and have never been a position where there has been a mandatory slow down. I am still working, as is my team. We are being productive and being creative, but what I have noticed is how much we are getting done very effectively.
Having more moments to simply take a breath has allowed to us to work smarter rather than harder. I had never imagined any other way of doing this and it is somewhat of a revelation. I speak with friends and colleagues and they also say the same thing. So, if I could see a positive from this to carry forward, I would say it is to stop for a moment and appreciate where you are. Take your foot off the pedal just slightly and it will still get done.