As an art director, Anna Karlin has built a career around designing graphics, exhibitions and installations for clients such as Todd Snyder, Thompson Hotels, Swarovski Crystal and U2. For the past few years, however, Karlin, a London native who moved to New York City in 2010, has also been quietly working on an elegant line of furniture and design objects that she debuted at the beautiful abandoned hotel 5 Beekman Street earlier this month.
Karlin initially struggled to identify the right aesthetic for the collection. In an effort to create a line that stood out, she found herself designing pieces that were self consciously modern and loud—and made from materials she didn't have a connection with. "I realized I needed to gain the confidence to go 'OK, this is my taste,'" she says. "My brief to myself became, 'Would I want it in my house?' And if I didn't want it in my house, then why am I making it?"
Simplifying her material palette to ash wood, brass, ceramic, and glass helped Karlin create a collection with a palpable visual harmony, united by simple shapes like circles and cylinders and other graphic detailing. "Rather than a group of disparate objects that have no relation to each other, I wanted this grouping of stuff to work together in a space," she said. "And then my natural leaning is quite eclectic, and I wanted that to be in each of the pieces."
The collection's signature piece may be the Beauty Bar, a cylindrical vanity that looks like a modest side table when all its parts are tucked away. Opening its doors and flipping up its top reveals three beveled-edge mirrors held together by brass hinges and 11 drawers with inlaid brass numbers. Those brass numbers make another appearance on the six sliding drawers of Karlin's dining table, which she modeled after an old work bench.
Other highlights of the collection include a set of four brass-plated Chess Stools and the delicate hand blown glassware. "They are really pleasurable pieces because you've got different textures — the way the different textures respond to the light," Karlin said. "They're really human pieces."
Everything in the collection — from the Beauty Bar's hinges to the spindles of the Spool Top Stools — is handmade in and around New York City. Karlin sees the decision to support local craftspeople as both logistically practical and a wise investment in quality. "There are so many amazing craftspeople that are massively underused, and it's going to die if we don't celebrate this and nurture it," she said. "If you're actually employing someone fairly for the skills that they are so amazing at, that is a really worthwhile thing to spend your money on."
For information about purchasing, visit Karlin's website.