Culture Trip speaks to design darling Anna Karlin about her new showroom in Manhattan’s Lower East Side and how she transformed a former burned-out print shop into a sculptural world of her own.
From interior projects for Fendi and adidas, to Art Deco-inspired typography for New York’s Metrograph theater, Anna Karlin has done a little bit of everything. Now, the London-born designer has opened a new studio and showroom inside a former burned-out print shop in Manhattan, and brought more than a fresh coat of paint. While some may see endless potential in the tabula rasa of a move-in ready space, others aren’t afraid to dig deep into a heavy restoration project – even if they’re only the leaseholder.
“One day there was a big ‘for rent’ sign and the door was open. My teammate walked in and started talking to the landlord, and step by step, it became a reality,” she tells Culture Trip. Karlin and her team took on the bulk of the renovation, installing new ceilings, plumbing, electricity and even a boiler. “The place was a burned-out shell,” she says. “It wasn’t a functioning space.”
Still, she saw its potential, regardless of its construction challenges. “It’s a million times more work, but the idea of a white box has just never appealed to me. It had really good juju – as soon as you walked in.”
Every New Yorker can sympathize with the impossibility of finding the perfect space, whether it’s an apartment or a new showroom. And the energy of a space, like its cost and location, plays a significant deciding factor before signing on the dotted line. But finding this perfect match and building a dream on a gut feeling can be risky business.
“I was also terrified. To want something – and I almost didn’t want to want it – so badly,” she says. “It was a lot. It was a lot to take on.”
Karlin recovered archival documents on the building, hoping to restore the storefront to its initial state. The original storefront had been ripped out in the 1980s (“which was an absolute crime,” Karlin remarks), and after researching old tax records with photographs, she set out to restore it back to the original mid-century period – correct proportions and all.
“Now it has a lovely, almost black, very shiny, storefront,” she says. “You walk in from the hustle and bustle into something that’s very, very calm. It’s almost like a sculpture gallery. A beautiful sculpture gallery.”
Creating the mood of the interior space was a different, more intuitive task compared to the historical reconstruction. Her design approach, like most of her work, was a balancing act between the familiar and the unfamiliar. “There’s a lovely contrast between the expected and the unexpected. You can’t push too far in one way,” she says. “You gotta dance that line and then the space becomes delightful.”
Karlin kept the original walls, cleaned between every single brick and then installed handmade brass light switches. “It’s that contrast between the really shiny finish and the raw. That balance happens all the way through,” she says.
She also installed a full kitchen with Shaker cabinets, and instead of desks, she built dining tables as workspaces. “I wanted our design studio to feel like you were working at a kitchen table. That to me was a place of creativity, sitting around a kitchen table scribbling away,” she says.
“It has lovely touches that feel like they’ve been there forever and ever. And then some other interventions that surprise you, delight you and lead you somewhere else. I think the space has a real pace. It’s sort of moody as you walk through.”
Anna Karlin’s new studio and gallery is located at 108 Eldridge Street. By appointment only.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.