Expert Advice

Stylish Stems—This Sculptural Accent Brings the Best of the Outside In

It’s time to branch out.

By Sacha Strebe

The emotional impact of quarantine is real and the aftermath of being cooped up inside for months has inspired a deep craving in all of us to be reconnected with nature. It’s probably why so many of us are gravitating towards finding and creating beauty at home right now, too. And while recent lockdowns make it harder for us to get out, there is a simple way we can bring the outside in: decorative branches.

If there’s one person who really catapulted this trend into popular culture it’s design phenom, Athena Calderone of EyeSwoon. The creative multi-hyphenate has become known for her decorative branches, clipping large-scale stems outside her home and arranging them in vintage vessels (another trend we’re seeing all over Instagram that was spearheaded by Calderone!).

“I just love to bring the outdoors in and always want to engage something seasonal and natural into my home,” explains Athena. “I also love the sculptural quality and slightly wild and unruly nature of branches in a refined space. I love that they offer verticality.” We couldn’t agree more.

So, who better to ask for tips on how to style decorative branches in vases at home than Calderone herself. Read on for her advice on what to consider when clipping, arranging and styling yours.

Athena Calderone

Three Things to Consider before Clipping Fresh Branches…

Shake them out in an attempt to get rid of critters. That said, you must embrace the possibility.

Use sharp clippers. It might seem simple enough but investing in secateurs or gardening shears is essential for clipping branches of this scale. Kitchen scissors just won’t cut it.

Be sure the branch is not poisonous—especially for animals. That said my husband broke out in hives once all over his body and we discovered weeks later it was from our Sumac branches!

Choose Your Branch…

It can be anything, truly, but look for movement and sculptural branches. Less is often more. Also, be mindful that the tree is alive so only take what you need.

Athena calderone decorative branches

Add H20 Then Let Them Dry…

I always add water initially but I usually allow them to dry out to see if they offer more or a different kind of beauty once dried.

Select Your Vessel…

Find something large and heavy to hold the weight. If you love the look of a vintage vessel, Etsy has a plethora but there are also affordable options online.

And Don’t Forget to…

Smash the bottom of the branch with a hammer. Apparently, it allows the branch to absorb more water and prolong life.

For more of Athena’s tips visit then start making your own at home with our favorite vases, decorative branches (or clippings from outside!), and garden accessories below…


Pottery Barn Artisan Vase

Rustic elegance at its finest, this vase adds character and charm to any space.

Pottery Barn Artisan Vase, $79

CB2 Acadia Black Vase

Coining a new phrase inspired by this piece. The vase makes the space.

CB2 Acadia Black Vase, $99.95

Style Ukraine Old Clay Vessel

This clay pot’s worn and vintage look is amazingly versatile, simultaneously supporting stronger branches and more delicate stems.

Style Ukraine Old Clay Vessel, $46.75

Ancient Clay Pot

This antique earthenware vase will add interest to and break up the potential monotony of a modern, minimalist kitchen.

Ancient Clay Pot, $101.50

Pottery Barn Joshua Vase

Even on its own, this vase is an impressive and aesthetically pleasing sight to behold. Fill it with your favorite cut branches and it’s nothing short of stunning.

Pottery Barn Joshua Vase, $79

The White Company Burford Glass Vase

Clean, simple, and contemporary, this sleek and stylish vase is an ideal match for nearly any lighter stem.

The White Company Burford Glass Vase, $59

CB2 Dina Fluted Glass Vase

Intricate fluted details are having their moment, and while on-trend, this footed vase is thoughtfully designed to be timeless and eternally elegant. 

CB2 Dina Fluted Glass Vase, $11.01


Williams Sonoma Curly Willow Branches

Perennially stunning, this wild and woodsy bunch of fresh willow branches is beautiful on its own but can be paired with other florals for gorgeous arrangements all throughout the year.

Williams Sonoma Curly Willow Branches, $29.95

West Elm Dried Flax Bunch

This fully-dried bundle of flax is your low-maintenance (re: zero care required!) solution for adding organic and natural appeal to any room.

West Elm Dried Flax Bunch, $36.10

CB2 Uva Stalk

These dried stalks range from 6-8 feet tall, easily accenting and adding drama to the corner of your living room, bedroom, or office. Just be sure to arrange them in a vase that can support and hold up to their height.

CB2 Uva Stalk, $29.95

Fresh Olive Branch 8-10 stems

Bring all the Mediterranean beauty and vibes into your home with this fresh bundle of naturally-grown olive branches. Statement-making but still seamlessly able to work with nearly any interior, these branches are a must-buy.

Fresh Olive Branch 8-10 stems, $34.99

West Elm Faux Berry Branch

Create a dramatic botanical display with these lush but low-maintenance stems.

West Elm Berry Faux Branch, $40

Bloomist Dried Tallow Berries

Bring a neutral, sculptural look to any vase with these simple dried berries.

Bloomist Dried Tallow Berries, $28