Anna Rabinowicz is the lady behind the luxury home collection Anna New York by RabLabs. With a background in the medical sector designing prosthetics, her journey to luxury homeware designer is a fabulously interesting one. She talks to The LuxPad about her latest collection and why she loves working with natural materials…
How did you first get into the design industry – is it something you always knew you wanted to do?
Ever since I was a child, I loved art, sculpture and nature – I used to spend hours drawing the fern that grew in a big brass pot in our living room, and documenting the insides of flowers with careful diagrams. I was fascinated by sculpture, and worked with clay to create unusual vases, and organic sculptures. This childhood love turned into my professional path on a trip to Barcelona when I was in college. I visited Antonio Gaudi’s unfinished church, Sagrada Familia. While climbing up the spires at sunset, watching the setting sun glint off of the sinuous, tiled forms of the turrets, I lost my heart to design, and never turned back.
What was the inspiration behind your latest collection for RabLabs?
I am most inspired by the forms, structures, and textures found in nature. As part of my academic research (one of the nicest parts about being a Professor of Design), I investigate the behaviors, history, and structure of organisms. It is incredibly inspirational to realize that what appears so magical about nature to us as humans is also a mechanism for survival, for the animals and plants themselves.
I keep bins of inspirational artefacts in my studio – gems from a trip to the Minas Gerais region of Brazil, a knobby gourd from a pumpkin farm in New Jersey, even a hand-carved elephant from New Delhi.
I combine gemstones with other natural materials like wood and glass, and metals. This mixing of seemingly disparate materials has evolved into our signature style. I look for ways, through design, to bring different natural materials together in ways that create either visual tension, or visual cooperation. The criteria that I employ when evaluating whether to use a material include – will this material last forever, or will it change over time? Does it have natural qualities that will make each piece unique?
How long does it take to create one of your designs – is working with precious materials a time consuming process?
Our designs take varying amounts of time from idea to final piece – anywhere from three months to three years. Often the simplest designs take the longest to create –a simple aesthetic which appears effortless is often the most complicated to do! Many of my designs blend multiple sorts of materials together; in these instances, we’ve gotten very used to manufacturers and artisans telling us that the pieces simply can’t be made. I never take no for an answer, though – and work very hard to find alternate solutions to ensure that our pieces come to life. Also, I’m a perfectionist when it comes to our designs – every detail must be well-thought-out and executed, down to the tiny, sculpted brackets that hold photos in place on the back of our frames. That’s another reason that our designs take so long to make.
Can you tell us a little bit about your work in the medical sector designing prosthetics and devices for cardiovascular surgery, do you miss it?
A love of nature, research, and biology – those are the cornerstones of who I am, and what the DNA of this company is. I always wanted to help people in my career, and I wanted to do it with a connection to nature. Designing medical devices was a wonderful experience – it brought together my love of biology and my desire to help others. But on the aesthetic side, there was something missing for me. When I saw an opportunity to combine my love of nature, research, modern design, and ancient materials in order to create pieces that live in people’s homes and enhance their daily lives – AND could last forever – I felt that this brought together all of my interests, and my goals as a designer.
How does the process differ from designing for the medical sector to working on products for the home?
My process for design is similar in both – I research, explore and understand the needs of the patient or hospital or products people want in their home. Medical design is significantly more precise and requires extreme attention to detail – it’s also less about the aesthetics. Both are emotional and connect me to an end user – whether it be through something to help them physically or to create an atmosphere in the home.
You teach courses on design and social entrepreneurship at universities – what do you find is the most rewarding aspect and most challenging of teaching others?
The most rewarding part is working with the next generation of designers. They’re going to shape the world, so to have an influence on them has been incredibly exciting and satisfying. The challenging aspect is time! Having a company that’s growing requires you to be readily available and travel very often – making sure I’m present for my students requires a lot of time management. I always find a way to make it all work.
What’s the best advice any one has ever given you?
Never to take no for an answer. And to follow your instinct.
How would you describe your own interior style and what is your most treasured home accessory or piece of furniture?
I’m influenced by lush textures and forms, and the way that they juxtapose with stark modernity to create tension and visual interest. In my designs, I create pieces with this tension – this means deliberately contrast ancient, organic materials with cutting-edge forms and design.
My most treasured home accessory is an inlaid metal box which my father made – it’s made of three different kinds of metal, with a gorgeous organic form, and an extreme attention to detail.
What does luxury mean to you?
For me, luxury is synonymous to heirloom. Luxury means specially crafted, unique objects that we connect to, and thus feel valuable. Whether it’s because of its beauty, its process of making, or how one received it – one feels emotionally invested in the item or experience. The luxury object then takes on meaning, and its value increases – and ultimately it transforms into the sort of piece one wants to pass down from generation to generation.
What is your favorite way to spend a Sunday?
If I’m in San Francisco, I love driving north to Pt. Reyes with my husband and children, stopping at Cowgirl Creamery along the way to pick up delicious brie and baguettes – and hiking out through the nature preserve to have a picnic lunch on our favorite fallen tree trunk.
If I’m in New York, I love going to the new Whitney Museum with my kids, exploring all the floors (including my favorite, the one with Calder’s Circus) then going for a walk on the Highline and getting delicious shaved ice. Or taking the train out to Coney Island and playing all of the carnival games – popping balloons with darts, going on rides, eating hot dogs!
Shop Anna’s stunning Home Collection now and bring natural glamour to your interior.