You may have poured over one of Rebecca Atwood’s design books, admired her beautiful wallpapers and fabrics, or even stopped by her NYC showroom. Now, the designer has some big moves on the horizon—literally—as she prepares to locate to Charleston, South Carolina, after living in New York for over a decade. As part of our series, My Design Journey, we spoke with Atwood about her decision to pursue textile design, the process of launching her own company, and her favorite collaborations thus far.
On Her Path Into Textile Design
“I didn’t know I wanted to focus on textiles, but I did know from a very early age that I wanted to focus on art and creativity,” Atwood says of her career journey. She completed her undergraduate degree at the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design, where she studied painting. Toward the end of her program, she discovered her interest in textiles.
“I took a few textile courses and it felt like there was a freedom there because it was outside of my major, and I didn’t feel the same pressure from the critiques,” she says.
Atwood realized that perhaps there was a future for her in the textile industry. “As graduation neared, I began to think that a job in the textile world might be the closest thing I could do to painting every day that would pay the bills,” she says. “I worked on a portfolio and focused on application sketches showing how my paintings could be used as a rug, a fabric, a dress. At that stage, it was all about showing I could connect the dots from fine art to something more commercial.”
Atwood’s jobs post-college significantly informed her understanding of the field. “I really knew very little about the industry prior to graduating, and most of my knowledge about textiles came from my work experience,” she explains.
Looking back at my childhood interests, I can see what a natural fit home was. Home was very much tied with the idea of creating.
Now, Atwood feels that her specialty—designing textiles for the home—all makes sense. “Looking back at my childhood interests, I can see what a natural fit home was,” she reflects. “I loved my dollhouse and built one with my grandfather. I remember saving up my allowance for wallpaper, wood floors, and little pieces to go inside. I grew up surrounded by antiques, and my mom sewed the curtains in our living room. Home was very much tied with the idea of creating.”
Still, the fact that she launched her company while still in her twenties wasn’t something Atwood ever planned. “If you told me at 22 years old that I’d be living in New York and have my own business in six years, I would have had a hard time believing that.”
On Working as a Design Consultant and Shaping Her Knowledge of the Textile World
Atwood’s first role after college was at Anthropologie, and she then moved to a small design consultancy agency. “I worked on private label collections for all levels of the market—think Amazon and Bed Bath and Beyond to Bloomingdales and Kate Spade—which I enjoyed because I got to think about different customers and how to create something special at different price points,” she explains. “I also got to see how many different companies worked, traveled to India and Europe for factory visits, and was given a lot of responsibility and ownership. I worked on textiles as well as hardgoods and learned so much on the job- this was where I started to gain a bigger picture view.”
Her company also assisted an international trend forecasting agency that was focused on fashion. “My work was about helping them with how it would translate trends into home,” Atwood explains. “I enjoyed this work because it could be more conceptual, and I liked expressing how one idea could be taken different ways depending on the customer, price point, and product category. Home and apparel are very different, but they’re connected, too.”
On Her Path to Launching Her Own Company
“At the time, I was just looking for a change,” Atwood says of the decision to go out on her own. “I grew a bit tired of developing product for companies the way I was, thinking about ‘trends’ in this more commercialized way.”
Atwood started small at first. “None of the companies I was interested in working for in NYC were hiring, so I thought I’d continue to do design consultancy work independently,” she says. “I started my line as more of a creative project—I wanted to create designs that I really loved and were my own personal viewpoint. Of course, this ended up taking on a life of its own.”
Quickly, Atwood realized that she wanted to move forward with her own designs. “My first collection was just 60 one-of-a-kind pillows, and I could see from the beginning that there was a real connection,” she explains. “But, I wasn’t treating it like the business it is now. I was looking at each small step and taking it as it came.”
I am learning every day. It’s been a process of constant education and small improvements, asking for feedback, listening, and finding my own voice and direction.
Atwood decided to enroll in Holly Howard’s course, ‘From Plan for Growth: From Artisan to Entrepreneur.’ “This was a real turning point as it gave me a framework for analyzing, structuring, and creating my business,” Atwood explains. “I became much more intentional after that.”
Atwood worked extensively to shape her company into what it is today. “The business itself is its own creative pursuit,” she explains. “I am learning every day. It’s been a process of constant education and small improvements, asking for feedback, listening, and finding my own voice and direction.”
When it comes to her business today, Atwood has seen great success. “I am most proud of the culture we’ve built,” she reflects. “I’m proud of my team—past and present—as they all taught me lessons, helped us grow, and inspired. I’m proud of the letters we receive from our customers about the designs, how they feel about our product in their home, and also their customer service experience. We pay attention to all of these details.”
On Her Two Books, Living With Pattern and Living With Color
“It still feels funny to say I’ve created two books,” Atwood says. “I am proud of them, though. I really see these more as guides on how to use color and pattern than they are about my own work. I really believe that creating a home, a living landscape, that reflects who you are and what you like has a positive effect on how you feel.”
The book writing process itself was ‘intense,’ Atwood shares. “I had no idea what I was doing when I agreed to do the first one,” she adds. “I learned so much that I felt I should use that knowledge again. That’s a whole story in itself. My big advice is to work with a wonderful agent—like mine, Kim Perel.”
Atwood enjoyed the research process and behind-the-scenes work involved in producing both texts. “I have loved being able to visualize concepts and share ideas about pattern and color that are helpful for people,” she says. “One of the things I enjoyed the most was meeting people through the books. Visiting people’s homes, learning how they decorate, how they think about their homes.”
On Her Favorite Types of Projects to Tackle
“Collaborations are always a fun way to get outside of your day-to-day,” Atwood says. “In some ways, it’s going back to what I did as a design consultant—but through the lens of my aesthetic and point of view. I do like that it’s a conversation. I am learning about their customer, product capabilities, and perspective on marketing. There’s always more to learn.”
Recently, Atwood launched two collections in partnership with home giant Pottery Barn. “The team at Pottery Barn is really wonderful and that’s one of my favorite things about collaborations—it’s a chance to work with new people and create something together,” she says. “I especially enjoyed getting to work in product categories I hadn’t in years—like bath and tabletop, with pieces like the Rebecca Atwood Calm Bathmat and the Rebecca Atwood Lemon Cork Placemats. As my own business has leaned more into fabric and wallpaper, and to the trade, I’ve enjoyed this chance to make more finished goods that are accessible to a wider audience.”
On Her Next Moves
Atwood will soon be relocating her family to Charleston, South Carolina, where she will open a new studio, too. “I’m excited and nervous for this move,” she says. “We’ve been in NYC for 12 years and I do love it here. I’m thankful for the chapters I’ve had here, especially as it relates to building my business, making connections in the design community here, and the creative, buzzy energy. There are so many wonderful things about this city, and I’ll be back fairly often.”
So why Charleston? “Charleston has a lot to offer: a creative community, great restaurants, warm weather, beaches—and my parents and older sister, Grace Atwood, moved there recently,” Atwood explains. “I’m not jumping into anything new immediately but carving out more time for my own creative practice. I’m giving myself time to deepen what we’re already doing. I’ve been really inspired by this deeper, thoughtful, sustainable growth as opposed to all the exciting growth stories. I’m making more space in my life.”