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Athena Calderone in front of moodboards

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Athena Calderone practices what she podcasts. Back in 2020, the EyeSwoon founder offered up a sage piece of advice on Domino’s Design Time: “I would say to anyone who is about to start a renovation, they should really understand the light.” True to form, four years later, while touring Brooklyn’s Industry City warehouse complex for a future office space, Calderone’s top request centered on that very thing. “I know that a lot of people say that for photography, northern light is really important,” she says, “but I love harsh shadows and dramatic light, so I knew I wanted a southern-facing space.”

At 1,200 square feet, the winner was slightly larger than Calderone had initially envisioned, but it had a wall of windows facing the right direction and would allow the multihyphenate to carve out zones for the many sides of her business, from product development to interior design. Sold! Or, we should say, leased. It’s a rental, so Calderone would have to get creative to make the concrete ceiling, exposed pipes, and bright white walls work without any permanent changes. “The home is at the crux of everything I do; I wanted the space to feel homey,” she explains. Here’s how she did it.

Curtains as Walls

Athena Calderone walking in her office

Lowell Tweed Curtains, The Shade Store.

The office was a true blank canvas—one big, empty space. At first, Calderone explored building walls to create a spot for storing product samples, but she couldn’t justify the steep cost when she knew her team wouldn’t be there forever. Thinking outside of the drywalled box—“I wholeheartedly believe that sometimes financial constraints can force you to become more creative,” she says—Calderone turned to drapery. A lot of it. 

Creamy ripple-fold curtains from the Shade Store stretch from wall to wall and floor to 15-foot ceiling along a simple track. “They not only add a softness to the space, but that undulation offers a little bit of elegance,” Calderone notes. Not to mention, she can take them with her when they eventually move out.

Dual-Purpose Desks

travertine desks next to wall moodboards

Revival Console Tables (sold out), Athena Calderone for Crate & Barrel; Nixon Office Chairs, EQ3.

Who says your desk has to be a desk at all? Instead, Calderone brought in her since-sold-out travertine console tables, part of her Crate & Barrel furniture and decor collection. She purposefully designed them to be a height of just under 29 inches so they can flex as shallow workstations in smaller spaces. It’s the same but different with Calderone’s own desk; it’s actually a vintage Angelo Mangiarotti dining table that used to live in her townhouse.

Vintage to Warm Things Up

workspace with oval table and stools

“Everything felt so bright and so new and so slick that I really felt like a few vintage pieces would offset that and give some visual intrigue,” Calderone explains. In just one corner, a bronze candlestick, a floor lamp, a barrel chair, stools, and a wood screen at her desk are all antiques discovered at auctions and flea markets. “Found pieces are imbued with somebody else’s energy that you’re bringing into the space,” she says. “I love to think about where that piece’s story came from and how I am carrying on its legacy. It’s an emotive part of bringing in vintage.”

Balancing Big Box With Artisanal 

sage green sofa in office

Angolare 3-Piece Sectional Sofa, Sassolino Burl-Wood Nesting Tables, and Palle Shearling Sphere Pillow, Athena Calderone for Crate & Barrel; Sophia Roe Vintage Vase, Louise Roe; Gambit Rug, Athena Calderone for Beni Rugs.

“One of the things that I’m always trying to teeter-totter in my designs is doing things that are aesthetically attractive at an accessible price point, but also things that have the touch of the hand and an artisan, bespoke feel,” says Calderone. Blackened steel task lamps with porcelain shades, a discovery at the Salone del Mobile design fair in Milan last year, fall into the latter camp, as do a wiggly clay sconce, a collaboration between Calderone and Simone Bodmer-Turner, and a plaster pedestal.

Playing With Scale

travertine desks next to wall moodboards

All that towering drapery needed a counterpart on the other side of the room. Calderone put on her DIY hat and picked up three 8-foot-tall Homasote pinboards from the hardware store to serve as vertical mood boards. A few yards of neutral linen fabric and a staple gun later, they were ready for collecting inspiration, building color stories, and finding common themes.

But Calderone was wary of everything being big, big, big. Inspired by historic homes, she chose a small vintage artwork to hang above the oval table with some simple twine. “It’s so much more interesting to offset art or play with a really diminutive scale,” she notes.

Earthy Color (Just a Little Bit)

office living area with big industrial windows

“For so long I was anti-color,” admits Calderone. When she swapped a cream sofa for her sage green Crate & Barrel design in the office’s living area, she instantly thought, Oh gosh, it’s too much. “There was this inner struggle. My neutral self versus my colorful self,” she says with a laugh. But now, looking back, she sees clearly that it was the right choice. “When you do anything new that’s stepping outside of your comfort zone, it’s going to take you a moment to adapt to it,” she says. “Allow yourself the freedom to not be okay when you first make a change.”

Steal Calderone’s On-the-Clock Style

  • Most budget-friendly find: The wood plinth to the right of the sofa that’s really weathered and mucked up. Someone on my team was like, “You want me to move that, right?” And I was like, “No!” It was a side-of-the-street find. 
  • Biggest splurge that was totally worth it: The tripod lamps by Andrew Pierce Scott and Natalia Triantafylli. They have a really beautiful glow.
  • What I turn to for inspiration when I’m stuck: I’ve been stepping away from my computer and opening up books. There’s something to sitting down on the sofa, opening a book, and just looking through it. You just don’t know what you’re going to find and how it’s going to shift your direction.
  • My secret to keeping the office organized: Curtains so that you can hide your mess! If you saw behind them, you’d be scared.

The post How Athena Calderone Managed to Make a Bare Industrial Warehouse Feel Homey appeared first on domino.

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