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Athena Calderone & The Symmetry of Space

With a new collection for Beni Rugs, the Morocco-based maker of customizable rugs that blend modern design with heritage quality, designer Athena Calderone—the lifestyle impresaria and creative engine behind the award-winning lifestyle site EyeSwoon—is once again flooring the world of contemporary design.

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Designer, Tastemaker and Founder of Eyeswoon, Athena Calderone Beautifies Her Brooklyn Townhouse With Designs From Her Latest Collaboration With Beni

It is a world Athena Calderone continues to infiltrate with a growing platform that also includes lifestyle books (including the best-selling interiors tome Live Beautiful), the blog More Than One Thing, and collaborations with like-minded brands The Wooden Palate and Beau Rush Ceramics. Her latest line of handcrafted floor coverings for Beni—the Swoon-worthy Broken Symmetry—was born after Calderone discovered the brand in Morocco, where she was sourcing pieces for her then-new home.  

That home, a Greek Revival townhouse in Brooklyn‘s historic Cobble Hill section, is nothing if not symmetry itself, a reflection of Athena Calderone’s effortlessly harmonious style. Of course, the breed of undiluted design that Calderone has perfected for her cult following on EyeSwoon and ventures beyond is lightyears from easy—it merely appears that way, as if created by magic. So it is with the entirety of her townhouse. With its meticulous textures, tamped-down palette, and highly nuanced use of space, it is the ultimate expression of Athena Calderone’s eye and the result of her longstanding courtship with decorative tension. It has her confidence, the best of her abandon. 

It is also something of a miracle considering that, as a rule, the typically narrow townhouse does not lend itself to the openness where Athena Calderone’s aesthetic flourishes. Undaunted by the prospect of what a project of its scope might require (and indeed what awaited her), Athena Calderone embarked on a full-gut transformation of the space conducted over three years.

She did what she could to retain the house’s history, which had been largely stripped, salvaging, among other hard-to-relinquish elements, original mantels, and an elaborate ceiling medallion that frames a fantastic chandelier, while simultaneously retrofitting it for modern living. She had walls removed to create spacious, breathable exposures for entertaining, for example, and graced the space with a kitchen that kills. This one featuring open shelving, a la an exquisite Paris apartment, and a glass-doored entrée to an outdoor terrace fit for a sunny West Coast aerie. And she daringly lined her bathroom in white marble with pink veining, pulling it off as one of the space’s many masterstrokes. 

Despite a few curvaceous forms in the space, there is little by way of exaggeration, and no excess at all. Good taste is pervasive. Athena Calderone did not here—and seemingly does not ever—miss a beat. The lady loves a good light, with a flair for the sculptural, and paired audacious contemporary pieces, like a fabulous living room cocktail table by Apparatus, with an array of intriguing vintage selects, many with French roots. The mix is modern meets classical, with nods to tone and texture, and an eternal elegance brought to bear by a modern hand.

In this fastidiously finished milieu, Athena Calderone’s Broken Symmetry floor coverings make for a beautiful and inspiring addition, highlighting the space anew for those looking to freshen up their floors. The newly launched line of high pile Beni Ourain styles consists of 12 geometric designs in custom dyed, sun-faded shades of sienna, sage, fawn, desert rose, and bone, and speaks to Athena Calderone’s influences and fascinations. None more fundamental to this collection than her love of authentic and natural materials. She also drew patterns and forms from the architectural shapes and palette of master Mexican Architect Luis Barragán, the irregular repetitions of abstractionist painter Agnes Martin, and thrusts of color by artist Ethan Cook. 

“I love to create symmetry and then break it,” Athena Calderone says of Broken Symmetry, whose genesis traces back to her fateful trip to Morocco, where Beni’s team of female weavers now handcrafts her designs.

“I love repetition and order, but I also love to resist the obvious. Somehow there is common ground and a sense of balance in those very imperfections. How I designed this collection follows the same vernacular.”

Flaws for her are not defects, but a delivery system for more interesting, dynamic design, an ethos she shares with Beni, along with a passion for Morocco’s rich craft traditions. Both appreciate seeing “the hand of the maker.”

But what of that celebrated eye? One look at Athena Calderone’s sophisticated space in Brooklyn, with the fruit of her latest collaboration lavishly underfoot, and finds it easily, if not extravagantly. Everything is in its place, a paeon to order and the age-old, but filtered—sometimes playfully, always boldly—through a fresh point of view. You can’t take your eyes off it.

Athena Calderone | athenacalderone.com

Photos: Simon Watson

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