Design

Cultured Collections with Athena Calderone

At home in Brooklyn, author and tastemaker Athena Calderone speaks on her collection of contemporary and vintage ceramics. Often sourced during travels, the pieces serve as both inspiration and opportunities for design education for the intrepid collector.

Elizabeth Fazzare

Athena Calderone. Portrait by Nicole Franzen.

Elizabeth Fazzare: How did you begin to build your own collection?

Athena Calderone: I have always been drawn to ceramics, earthenware and patinated terracotta with unique shapes and textures. Ceramics can function as both home decor and works of abstract art, which is initially how I started naturally collecting vessels and ceramics. I would say that a majority of the pieces in my home are vintage and either sourced from the Paris Flea or online. Poring over Chairish and 1stDibs is one of my favorite pastimes—I can spend hours getting lost in the hunt for unique vintage vases, vessels, even lamps. The exploration often leads to an education in design history, too! These vintage pieces are often the catalyst that inspire my own design collaborations. But I recently expanded my collection with a few new pieces, too, from artists Jeremy Anderson and Victoria Yakusha of FAINA. The art of curation is all in the mix.

A white vase by Simone Bodmer-Turner sits on the mantel. On floor, black ceramic Bandura vase by FAINA, bust from Chairish, vintage green vase, white pitcher from Copenhagen. Photography by Athena Calderone.

EF: What pieces inspired you to continue?

AC: 
I would say that each piece is imbued with both memory and emotion, triggering its place of origin and a moment in time for myself personally or as a snapshot of my design journey. So with that ethos, each piece carries me to the next with an almost autobiographical presence within my home. I also restyle the pieces often so they breathe new life and appreciation. Many of the pieces in my Brooklyn home were sourced in Paris and Copenhagen when I was there shooting my design book Live Beautiful so they hold a certain level of significance to me.

EF: What designers/artists are inspiring you right now?

AC: 
Brancusi, always but also Rogan Gregory, Oliver Gustov, Giacometti, Jean Arp, Valentine Schlegel, and I am constantly inspired by two of my collaborators and dear friends, Simone Bodmer-Turner and Cameron Bishop.

athen calderone house

In the living room, a vintage sculpture and Antonio da Silva vase sit on an Apparatus coffee table. Stool by Charlotte Perriand from Dobrinka Salzman. On mantel, sculpture by Simone Bodmer-Turner and vintage vase. Vintage French floor lamp. Vintage Italian sconces. Chandelier by Demiurge New York. Rug: Moroccan rug. Photography by Athena Calderone.

EF: Does the marketplace help your discovery process? Why or why not?

AC: It definitely can! However, I love nothing more than scavenging antique stores or diving down the rabbit hole of discovery on auction sites or even at local estate sales for unique, one-of-a-kind sculptures, vessels and objects.

EF: What is the next piece on your radar?


AC: Hmm.. perhaps another Rogan Gregory sculptural light fixture!

EF: What is the one piece that got away?

AC: 
Well, not necessarily got away but more broke away! I was heartbroken when a 1960s large-scale ceramic sculpture arrived at my Amagansett home in pieces.

Craving more culture? Sign up to receive the Cultured newsletter, a biweekly guide to what’s new and what’s next in art, architecture, design and more.

Pendant by Rogan Gregory. Sconces by Apparatus. Ceramics by Jeremy Anderson on custom console designed in collaboration with Green River Project LLC. Photography by Nicole Franzen.
Pendant by Rogan Gregory. Sconces by Apparatus. Ceramics by Jeremy Anderson on custom console designed in collaboration with Green River Project LLC. Photography by Nicole Franzen.
Artwork by Kate Zimmermann Turpin. Vintage Turkish vase. Photography by Athena Calderone.
Artwork by Kate Zimmermann Turpin. Vintage Turkish vase. Photography by Athena Calderone.
An artwork by Ethan Cook hangs over a custom console designed in collaboration with Green River Project LLC. Vintage table lamp and sculpture. On floor, vintage French pot. On pedestal, vintage vessel from Pasadena Antiques & Design. Stool, at right, by Green River Project LLC. Photography by Athena Calderone.
An artwork by Ethan Cook hangs over a custom console designed in collaboration with Green River Project LLC. Vintage table lamp and sculpture. On floor, vintage French pot. On pedestal, vintage vessel from Pasadena Antiques & Design. Stool, at right, by Green River Project LLC. Photography by Athena Calderone.