Anna Karlin’s New Collection is All Sculptural Forms and Sophisticated Whimsy

There was no definitive starting point for Anna Karlin’s new collection, no big moment, but rather a gradual becoming over a stretch of time. “The way that I work is essentially all one long conversation,” Karlin says. Some pieces are the result of an experiment from years back, set on the backburner until it finally makes sense in relation to something else. “I think about pieces in dialogue rather than in isolation, and a language develops.” It’s a call and response: a curve begs for a clean line, a futuristic turn hankers for heritage. And Karlin listens. “Once it gets to a point where every piece has bounced off another and the circle closes, then that’s the collection,” she explains. “It sort of decides itself.”

This particular collection of lighting, furniture and objects — translated through organic sculptural forms, elegant curves, meticulous handcraft, and sophisticated whimsy — has begun to solidify Karlin’s design language. “It’s a magic feeling,” she says. “I feel like now I have this alphabet at my fingertips that I can just keep writing with.” Her more poetic pieces include the Mulberry Floor-to-Ceiling Lamp that suspends an illuminated orb of stretched silk from a slender wooden arm; the Mulberry Cone Floor Lamp that bows down and blossoms into a trumpet shade; and the Sketch Pendant, which gracefully twists from the ceiling. The Lantern Stack strings fiberglass glyphs together to make a glowing totem; the Ceramic Bar Cabinet — inspired by antique Swedish stoves — is embellished with abstract clay forms, and the Urn Sconce sees a candy-striped glass teardrop ballooning from the mouth of a gold Grecian urn.

While she’s designing, Karlin has a world in her head where every piece feels at home. She thinks about them within a living space, and can get quite specific: “It’s a Georgian house with beautiful moldings,” she says. “Even though my pieces are contemporary, I imagine them in old settings. Some of the more traditional-looking work I see in contemporary settings. It’s the tension between the two that I find exciting.” It was only upon moving to the States that she realized the impact of growing up amidst London’s architecture. “The Georgian row houses are so special and I think they train your eye in a really beautiful way that I took totally for granted until I left Europe,” she says.

The Anna Karlin showroom, studio, and workshop is down a busy Lower East Side street in Manhattan. There’s no signage on the glossy, deep-plum storefront except a little brass plaque and a brass bell. Pieces of sculpture are displayed in two boxed windows but you can’t see inside. Stepping into the showroom is another world; low lighting, bare bricks, a signature scent, and music playing. In the studio in the back, the team works around big dining tables, inspired by the familiar comfort of working at your kitchen table. Downstairs all the lighting is assembled in a full floor workshop. It’s a world of Karlin’s making—like the worlds she pictures for her collections. Here, one thing leads to another, and it can’t be rushed.