Poetry in Motion: Athena Calderone

by Melissa Goldstein

THE DOSSIER: NAME: Athena Calderone. TRADE: Partner at interior design firm Rawlins Calderone, and creator of the blog Eye Swoon. VIBE: Modern elegance meets Brooklyn Flea. ABODE: DUMBO duplex, Brooklyn, New York.

Interior designer Athena Calderone is going through a blue period. "I don't know how it happened," she says. "But almost all of the art we own is in this blue or teal theme." She traces the trend back to the Lucien Smith painting that dominates her living room: "It's really soft and dreamy, but also impactful." The same could be said of Calderone: A culinary-obsessed former actress, who uses the word 'swoon' so much it inspired the name for her engrossing lifestyle blog. The striking beauty fell into design when her friend and mentor, designer John Rawlins, recognized her intuitive knack while collaborating with her on the interior of her Amagansett house, and suggested they start a firm together. She and her husband, music producer and deejay Victor Calderone, moved into their current Brooklyn apartment with their ten-year-old son Jivan less than a year ago--it's their "sixth--maybe seventh" residence in the neighborhood, having made a hobby-slash-habit of designing, renovating, and selling.

SUCH GREAT HEIGHTS The family was lured to its current home by the architecture: "The drama of the double height ceilings is pretty spectacular," Calderone notes. The Lucien Smith shares the expansive wall with two glitter-encrusted oil pastel works by artist William J. O'Brien and a graphite drawing by Wes Lang; the collection hangs over a tufted midcentury Edward Wormley Dunbar sofa, an eBay find selected for its sophisticated appeal. "I wanted clean lines and timeless pieces," Calderone says of the driving aesthetic direction. She filled the space with modern classics; from a bespoke bronze coffee table commissioned from Vallessa Monk of Monk Designs, to a pair of Arne Norell rosewood and brown leather Safari Chairs. Talking pieces also abound, such as a chunky, jewel-like kiln fragment picked up at the Brooklyn Flea to a bronze lantern purchased in a riad in Marrakesh.

MATCH POINT "I really believe that you can elevate things by customizing them," Calderone says, and her bedroom backs up the claim. When she realized that the custom bed of her dreams was actually very close in design to Ikea's Malm Frame, she opted for the budget option and painted the piece to match her walls for a tone-on-tone effect. "Why does there have to be a rule that you can't find a really inexpensive piece that has beautiful lines to it?" she asks. "I wanted to bring the skyline in, so I made the bed the same bluish-grey color as the walls, and it just disappears." (She employs the same trick in the kitchen, where a pair of brass-lined Thomas O'Brien light fixtures are painted a slick matte graphite to complement the cabinetry).

ROOM AND BOARD Her son Jivan's room is a punched-up counterpoint to his parents' tranquil oasis, complete with a mural by graffiti artist Adam Razak, who was guided by Jivan's input.  Mom's affinity for treasure hunting is evident in a menagerie that tops a vintage African wood stool: a collection of sea shells, rose quartz, a starfish, a Keith Haring yoyo, and a jade Buddha. "I introduced him to the idea of a puja, or an altar, as a place to honor the things that you love," she explains. An installation of 20 dayglow skateboards flank his bead, making a case for Calderone as world's coolest mom, who, while zen, is still, in the end, a designer. "I bought them," she says, then confesses, "I had to buy them because I had to control the palette!"



Sofa, Edward Wormley for Dunbar
Table Lamp, Laurel
1st Dibs
Dining Chairs, Niels Moller
Sofa Upholstery
Black Telephone Table, Antique
Modern 50
Coffee Table, Custom
Valessa Monk
Safari Chair, Arne Norell
1st Dibs
Yellow Desk Chair
Painting, Lucien Smith Rain
Oh Wow Gallery



Photographs: Justin Coit




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