Elegant design is Athena Calderone’s area of expertise and her aspirational lifestyle brand, EyeSwoon, is a window into her creative genius. It is no surprise that Broken Symmetry, her recent collaboration with Beni Rugs, perfectly embodies her thoughtful approach to design, which is bolstered by patience and integrity. We recently spoke with Calderone about the creative process behind the collection and her advice for young designers looking to find their niche.
What is the earliest memory that affirmed your calling to become the multi-faceted visual storyteller you are today?
“Definitely witnessing my mom as a child—she would rearrange furniture on a weekly basis in our modest ranch-style home in Long Island, New York. It wasn’t always big changes either, most of the time they’d be smaller tweaks to improve the space visually and she was always experimenting with different styles. Sometimes I’d walk into a room to see she had completely flip-flopped the floor plan or embarked on an entirely new direction. I’m certain that these transformations, both big and small, inspired my own love of aesthetics. I learned so many valuable lessons, one being to trust my instincts and allow it to be my guide as I move through a project from concept to fruition.”
What was the creative process like when you began working on your collaboration with Beni Rugs?
“It was a career highlight to collaborate with the Beni Rug co-founders, Robert Wright and Tiberio Lobo-Navia. We both have a deep affinity for handiwork and the perfectly-imperfect beauty that Moroccan rug weaving creates. In fact, it was this beautifully flawed sentiment that inspired the Broken Symmetry designs—I’ve always been drawn to that juxtaposition and the tension it creates in a room, so it was a natural extension to bring it into the rug design. The creative process itself felt really natural and fluid to both of us. We both leaned into our love for the craft and the process, alongside the unknowns and the imperfections that Moroccan rug making celebrates.”
What is the fondest memory you have while you were bringing this collection to life?
“Definitely shooting the collection in Mallorca, Spain and seeing the designs come to life. It was the first time seeing all of the rugs together and we couldn’t get them open and rolled out fast enough.”
In your design book Live Beautiful you write, “we live in such a visually saturated time, our eyes feeding our creativity and recording everything that intrigues us.” Have you ever felt overstimulated by all of the online noise? How do you usually decompress from the social media overload?
“Yes, all the time. I am a visual creature at heart so I love to submerge myself in aesthetics, but it can overwhelm me if I don’t find moments of quiet. The mornings are so critical for me, it is when I set aside those peaceful moments before the busyness of the day demands my attention—it is truly vital to my mental and physical health. Also, devoting time to self-care has really been the silver lining of this past year. Previously, it wasn’t something I was very good at prioritizing but I soon learned that it’s an unsustainable way to live, and that creating boundaries around work, family, and personal time means you can be present for all of them (although, not all at the same time!), I began to find the ‘balance’ we all seek.”
What is your advice to creatives who are trying to find their voice as designers?
“Experiment, play, and test different styles, eras, and textures until you land on something that truly makes your heart sing. And don’t be afraid to take it slow, honing your eye takes time. Soak yourself in the rich history of our design greats from architects to furniture designers and read up on their process. Seek out destinations where you can witness great architecture in person and see how that translates into your own work. I keep folders of imagery, both digitally and physically, that I return to later to see if there’s a common theme—this can be very helpful in determining the styles you naturally gravitate toward but might not be consciously aware of.”
Where and when do you feel the most inspired to create?
“When I’m traveling! There is nothing quite like the inspirational feeling of being in another country, immersed in the rich culture, food, and architecture. This visual tapestry always leads me down the creative path. If I can’t travel, then a walk through Brooklyn’s urban streets or the wilderness of Amagansett always clears my headspace and serves as the optical food I crave to kickstart my creativity again.”