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A Matter of Form

Working across all mediums, London-born, New York-based designer Anna Karlin creates interiors, furniture and light fixtures at the crossroads of art and design.

“I’m always interested in the connection between the natural and the man-made and how we manipulate natural materials into objects for human consumption albeit visually,” says designer Anna Karlin. “I think there is something very powerful when you manage to create an object that resonates with both the act of the human hand and nature, and/or humanity itself. It’s this tension that I find so interesting, and if you can capture it in the work it makes for a successful piece.”

Originally from the UK, Karlin studied visual communication at Central Saint Martins and the Glasgow School of Art before becoming a self-taught product designer. Currently based in New York City, she renovated a burned-out two-story building on the Lower East Side. The designer took the structure—which was formerly a print shop—and transformed it into a multipurpose workplace. One of her objectives was to give “people a chance to experience firsthand the types of spaces we can create,” she explains.

Karlin’s projects range from art direction and fashion shows to interiors, set design and fine jewelry. For her, “all forms of design should tell a story,” which is exactly what she aimed to achieve through her newest pieces of lighting and furniture from the “Subverting Domestic Familiarity” collection.

“We have a fundamental need for familiarity or to be surrounded by natural forms,” says Karlin. “Where there is fragility, there is strength. Where there is disequilibrium, there is balance. Where there is vulnerability, there is support. The works are a visual interpretation of these emotional paradigms that exist in our everyday lives.”

Karlin’s creative process always starts with sketches, and consists of eliminating and expanding simultaneously. “Then when I find something I feel has legs, I unconsciously keep going and going re-drawing, remodeling an idea—by that time I know it’s something I want to explore more and the work develops from there.”

Pushing further the concept of usable sculpture, Karlin’s soft-toned pieces are poetic and visually strong at the same time. “I develop, test and explore as I need to for each work. The colorways are approached in the same way as my material usage. There is always a right answer and that unfolds as the design does," she adds.

A few months ago, Karlin revealed the 11 model apartments she designed for One Manhattan Square, a luxury residential building located in her adopted city. Each unit tells the story of the unique characters who might someday inhabit the space. A blend of vintage, designer classics, and custom furnishings are paired with textural elements, creating intimate and stylish environments.

Portrait by Chris White

Images: Courtesy of Anna Karlin