The Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini was known for his intensity and remarkable ability to conduct from memory. Of course one of his suits is proudly displayed as art in the home of Maira Kalman.
Kalman's dear friend and long time neighbor, designer Isaac Mizrahi quizzes her about her particular approach to home decor. Images and excerpt from the April 2013 issue of New York Magazine.
I have been around you for many years in this apartment, and I notice that it changes a lot. A ladder goes in, a ladder goes out. I don’t like anything permanent, I have to be able to flee. You have to be able to flee at a moment’s notice [laughing].
The apartment’s like a laboratory or something. How would you describe it? Actually, it’s very … I love that idea. It would be pretentious to say Bauhaus, but, there, I said it. But it would be like some kind of school where you keep changing things. Or an exhibit. I feel like this apartment is like that to me: a different kind of exhibit each time, and weirdly it feels like it is lit. Like that suit of Toscanini’s is lit, but it’s not. I think if I had a shop, it would change every day.
You got that suit at a Doyle auction, right? One person was bidding against me; my heart was beating so much that everybody around me thought that something horrible would happen if I didn’t win, so I paid $800. And now he hangs in the room and I talk to the jacket all the time, thinking of people [who have touched it]. There are a lot of people here in the room with me.
There is a lot of DNA on that jacket. Which object in this apartment do you like the best? Which means the most to you? I still do have the little lunch bag that my mother made out of a towel and embroidered with my name on it for when I went to kindergarten. And it’s this big. I think she gave me five sandwiches and three apples, it’s huge! But if I had to choose one thing that I love, there is nothing. I am very sad to think about having stuff, and not having stuff. There is a sense about wanting to have nothing, and then there is a sense about having everything and not giving anybody anything and keeping it all. But the things that I have keep changing and go into different rooms. It is always a conflict.
But does it come from a joyous place when you choose things, or does it come from a critical, mean place? I think it is like starting fresh. Every Monday morning is new hope. And I just like the idea that the set changes. It is a set. That is my home.