A Brooklyn Wellness Brand That Harnesses the Power of Good Design
In 2014, Eddie Cohen embarked on a 10-day silent meditation retreat to further his practice of quieting his mind. Sitting within the refuge’s interior spaces, he began to notice that the objects around him were poorly designed, and left him feeling uninspired. As he meditated, he began to contemplate people’s subconscious sensitivity to their environments, and how seemingly inert items around us can affect our greater sense of calm and well-being. He concluded that the level of intention put into designing a product should be commensurate with the importance it holds in our lives.
The revelation became the guiding philosophy of Walden, a Brooklyn-based line of meditation accessories that Cohen co-founded in 2018 with Calvin Lien, who serves as the company’s creative director. It seeks to create a new design language in the wellness space—one rooted in purity of form and materials rather than showy patterns and ōṁ symbols—by using values shared by the age-old practice of meditation and of pared-down design to inform its concepts. “We want to honor the history of each product we [create],” Cohen says. “Our goal is to reintroduce them with a distinctive veneration for the original concept.”
Walden’s mission is perhaps best captured in its seating collection. Created by Cohen with Lien, who previously served on industrial design teams at Microsoft and Google, the pair sought to create a meditation cushion that was functional and beautiful, and that would feel at home in contemporary interiors. They deliberated on the design for six months, refining its profile and developing a durable, proprietary, moisture-resistant fabric with a satin-like feel and an easy-to-clean antimicrobial coating. Inside, buckwheat hull—the hard outer shells of buckwheat grains that have been used to fill traditional round, pleated zafu meditation cushions for centuries—gradually conforms to a user’s posture, and is capped with a layer of gel-infused memory foam for additional comfort. (Walden also offers a cushion in a thick, tactile dyed-canvas covering without the memory-foam topper; both come in a range of colors and can be paired with one of the line’s rounded mats.)
Other pieces are similarly and thoughtfully distilled to their essences, with the aim of facilitating a quiet space in a user’s home and mind. Last month, Walden introduced its Lava Rock Essential Oil Diffuser, the sculptural result of numerous tests conducted by Cohen and Lien to determine which natural material best circulates scent in a space. The diffuser features a dark porous rock, hand-sourced from a volcanic field in Arizona, supported by a smooth, understated aluminum base that creates a stark contrast in texture and form. To use, simply place a few drops of essential oil, such as the woodsy Forest variety developed by the brand, on the stone’s surface, and let its holes disseminate the aroma. Walden’s Mirror Incense Holder, another recent addition, positions a fragrant stick above a raw, hand-polished metal plate that catches the falling ash. Over time, the stand will develop a patina from the residue’s natural oils. (We suggest using it with the company’s soothing, sandalwood-scented Meditation Incense Sticks.)
Early next year, Cohen and Lien will introduce a line of objects around the idea of keeping time, such as an analog meditation timer. The upcoming series affirms that, even as Walden expands its offerings, it will continue to focus on tools that aid in contemplation and slow people down. “If we can help people practice more,” Cohen says, “we’ve done our jobs well.”