In a time when all of lower Manhattan seems to have been overrun by big-box stores and Equinox gyms, the West Village studio of legendary illustrator Maira Kalman seems almost mythic — a romantic, unfussy, and deeply “New York” vestige of what the area used to be; something that one would expect to find in movies, but never in real life. Housed just a few floors down from the apartment she has called home for over 30 years, Maira’s studio is everything you want a studio to be and more. Homasote-covered walls are bedecked with handwritten quotations, inspiring bits of ephemera, news clippings, and photographs of Maira’s children. Tools of the trade — from brushes and watercolor palettes to pigment-covered paint rags — cover workspaces, just as beautiful and interesting as the pictures they create. A Frank Gehry cardboard chair sits in the corner, surrounded by books. With a feeling that reads more “club house” than “office,” the whole space pulsates with a nearly palpable creative energy.
Like Kalman’s own work, which toes the line between the naive and utterly genius, her studio’s charm comes from its imperfections and personalized touches. It’s a functional space, but one that bears the markings of time, labor, and love. Although each item within Maira’s studio seems to hold a special significance to her, like reminders of specific events or people, an outsider might look at it as something of a treasure trove. Despite its small size, this is a space you could get lost in. —Max