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Inside a Tribeca penthouse that captures the New York State of Mind

For the design of this Tribeca penthouse, London-born designer Lee Broom brings Manhattan’s industrial-urban setting indoors

By House & Garden South Africa | January 27, 2022 | Architecture

Text by Jessica Ross.

Something of a cliche in interior circles, the idea of ‘bringing the outside in’ is all about transplanting nature into the home to suitably verdant effect. But what do you do when your outside is Tribeca, Manhattan – an industrial forest of concrete behemoths, red-brick apartments snaked with steel fire stairs and lustrous skyscrapers? For celebrated industrial designer Lee Broom, ‘bringing the outside in’ meant embracing New York’s ubiquitous lines.

‘I was really inspired by the architecture around here,’ says the London-born designer from his cloud-like living room, a neutral space that’s bright, airy and distinctly clean-lined. ‘There is an incredible brutalist skyscraper, the Long Lines building, with no windows, no doors. It's almost apocalyptic looking, and people either love it or hate it.’ Lee fell firmly into the ‘love it’ camp, and brought the outside in using features from the minimalist monolith. ‘I took details from the building and brought them into the elements of the furniture in the living room,’ he explains. Take the fireplace and plinths, for example, which have deep grooves that mirror the building and the drops of curtain with undulating pleats. Even the Carousel suspension lamp is on theme.

Picture: Lee’s spherical lighting pieces including Lens Flair pendant and Crescent table lamp offset the strong lines. Photo by Stephen Kent Johnson

‘I like that I was being influenced by the architecture, while working within the constraints of the room.’ Most of the pieces you’ll find in this apartment were designed by Lee in a new collection aptly dubbed ‘Penthouse’ (you can find the designer’s work locally at Crema Design). So, what came first, the chicken or the egg? ‘When I got the penthouse, it forced me to do a furniture connection. I’ve not really designed in that way before,’ says Lee. ‘When I'm designing pieces on their own, I'm focused on shape, silhouette, materials and just ideas. In this case, it’s very site specific. The sofa needed to have a certain footprint and sit in a certain configuration. The materials needed to reflect the surroundings.’

Picture: Lee’s first sofa in 10 years, the outsize White Street Sofa is upholsteered in a tactile Ivory Bouclé. The Tribeca coffee table is cantilevered to add to the sense of floating in the space. Photo by Stephen Kent Johnson

Offsetting the strong lines are Lee's signature spheres, predominantly in the lighting fixtures. This is the brightest zone in the home - and if anyone knows how to work with light, it’s Lee, whose bold concepts have put him on the map as one of the world’s foremost lighting designers. Here, he accentuated the natural light using a white and ivory palette differentiated by textures such as ash wood, beige travertine and very soft bouclé that you can’t resist brushing with your fingertips as you walk past. Owing to this and also the custom furniture that – beliing their size – seem to float off the ground, there’s a palpable sense of weightlessness in the living room.

Yet despite all this restraint, the home’s still injected with a serious dose of drama, an attribute that the designer credits to his past life in the theatre and fashion. ‘I see my work as a kind of performance, so if I'm creating a hanging Hoop chair, it demands attention when you walk into the room, everybody wants to sit in it.’ Notably, Beyonce and daughter Blue Ivy swung in this very chair in her visual album Black is King.

Picture: The study, Lee’s go-to zone for creativity, features his personal collection of art and artist Keith Haring’s original leather jacket with a signature artwork painted on its back. Photo by Stephen Kent Johnson
Photo by Stephen Kent Johnson

Each room feels a little like a set, and while these spaces could be considered little distinct vignettes, nothing feels out of place. ‘I think, to strike that balance creates something with longevity that's not trend driven and that you can pass down to generations,’ Lee explains.

The dining room clad in a tactile deep blue moiré wallpaper is full of retro glamour, conjuring images of 1970s New York. One of the stand out pieces here is a 1980s room divider by Steve Chase for the Chase Residence in Laguna Beach, which had to be carefully airlifted in. It works harmoniously with the orchestrally influenced Musico dining table and chairs. This room leads out to an open-air terrace where jaw-dropping views of One World Trade Centre and the Jenga-like 56 Leonard skyscrapers abound. From the bedroom - a sophisticated yet retro space featuring a standout 1960s bed that takes pride of place - you’re treated to vistas of the Empire State building.

Picture: The bedroom features an original postmodern 1970s brass and stainless steel bed, and leads out to a terrace with views of the Empire State building. Photo by Stephen Kent Johnson

The only area in the home where you’re given a visual break from the city’s urban skyline is Lee’s study, which has almost no view outside, just prized pieces from his personal art collection peppered throughout. ‘Although it's a study so you immediately connect that with work, it's a space to create and to design. It means getting lost in my own thoughts and ideas,’ he explains. With such strong vertices defining this home both inside and out, this is the one zone that offers the designer a true sense of escape. ‘It's very therapeutic.’

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