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Athena Calderone is a multi-hyphenated creator with a discerning eye. Based in New York, her work spans the culinary, entertainment, and design worlds, influenced by the beauty of the ingredients, architecture, objects, and people around her. Online, we’ve followed her as EyeSwoon documenting her curation of inspiring spaces and gatherings. The featured content originally began in 2011 to document the renovation and design of her homes in Brooklyn and Amagansett.
In 2017, Calderone released her first cookbook, entitled Cook Beautiful, which includes recipes from her own kitchen and won a James Beard Foundation Award for food photography by Johnny Miller. Then in 2020 she released Live Beautiful, which stripped aesthetics down to the ideas, details, and solutions that create successful interior design spaces. Around that time, Calderone also launched the podcast named “More Than One Thing” to highlight others in multifaceted careers, like Reed Krakoff, Jenna Lyons, Waris Singh Ahluwalia, Aurora James, Naomi Watts, and Jason Wu.
Whitewall spoke with Calderone about how her relationship to art and design has evolved, fostering light during a dark time, and what she’s working on next.
WHITEWALL: Your profession spans several titles and functions, ranging from interior designer and author to entertainment guru and creative director. Why is this multifaceted approach to a career important for you?
ATHENA CALDERONE: I am a mélange of many things—an interior designer, author, culinary and visual storyteller, and creative director. For years I was told to find my lane or stick to one food or design—but now I realize that it’s at the intersection of these many skill sets and career paths where I feel the most centered. As soon as I found confidence around being more than one thing, my community and my business started to grow. And since launching my podcast “More Than One Thing” around that concept, I realize I’m not alone on this multi-hyphenate journey either.
WW: What do you feel is the importance of creatives exercising multiple interests?
AC: We live in a world today that encourages us to be the multifaceted humans that we are. I find that there is so much beauty to be found in our complexities. It is important to allow yourself to explore the creative endeavors that you embody.
WW: How would you describe your interior design practice?
AC: When it comes to the interior design world, this notion of layering comes into play in my work, but this time it’s not career paths; it’s textures, patterns, surfaces, and patina with highly contrasting elements. Contrast and tension are hallmarks of my design aesthetic. I love to juxtapose conflicting objects, eras, and ideas in a room to create depth and visual intrigue that attracts and engages the eye.
WW: You were very hands-on in the renovations of your Brooklyn and Amagansett homes. What was your starting point?
AC: Before the Brooklyn renovation, I was really itching to get my hands on something that scared me a bit—massive, daunting, and tantalizing. This journey home is the culmination of my time spent looking, seeking, and yearning for that which my eye craves. I wanted to insert old world details of my many trips to Copenhagen and Parisian apartments into this late- 1800s Greek Revival townhouse and marry those grand elements with the grit of Brooklyn.
It’s definitely a clash of cultures that layers forties and seventies Italian and French antiques with modern-day details and a little 18th century sprinkled in. I would say it really is my masterpiece while also being the beautiful sanctuary for our family. But now, not unlike many creatives, the itch needs to be scratched again and I’m fantasizing about my next project.
My Amagansett home brought so much of my life into focus. Its location near the ocean, surrounded by nature, really forced our family to slow down, plant our feet in the sand, and connect. This grounding force was the impetus behind the design, which walks a fine line between rustic and modern, tapping into the seasonal rhythms of the region. It also brought my inner duality to life, inspiring and shaping the way I cook and how I design. It’s here where I realized I have a story to tell, and thus EyeSwoon was born.
WW: What’s in your home?
AC: My Brooklyn home features an incredible Italian marble coffee table by Apparatus Studio, a Jacques Adnet credenza, a B&B Italia Mario Bellini Camaleonda sofa, and a chandelier from Démiurge New York. A vintage sculpture by Oliver Gusto can be found in the master bath along with Ethan Cook artworks throughout the home. I also have an extensive vintage ceramic collection!
WW: How does your family impact your vision of interior design—like designing a room for a teenager and having a musician husband?
AC: Coming to compromises and listening to one another is so important. When designing my son Jivan’s room, it was important for me to take into account his needs. For example, carving out a homework station and an area for friends to kick back, or turning his space into a sleepover-friendly zone with the addition of a platform bed.
WW: Right now, interior design is becoming more accessible and important as people spend more time at home. Where is a good starting point—home or product wise?
AC: We’ve all had time to experience our homes in a more intimate way this past year in quarantine. It’s given us all the chance to really “live” in our spaces and to become more connected to the four walls we call home, but also to question what “home” really means to each of us now. I have loved seeing my community explore and unpack that emotion by diving into personal design projects, rearranging furniture, painting (sometimes even plastering!), decorating, styling, and evolving their spaces as we evolve in this “new normal.”
I am never too rigid in my approach. It’s important to maintain a sense of fluidity as you design because you could fall in love with an incredible vintage piece halfway through that charts a new course for your design direction. So follow your curiosity, be open, and have fun.
WW: How did you celebrate the art of entertaining amid COVID-19 when you couldn’t physically gather with friends?
AC: I used the time as an opportunity to make the more intimate moments with family feel special. Setting the table, lighting candles, putting on music, and crafting a homemade meal that not only tantalizes the taste buds but feeds our soul, too. Every meal is an opportunity to connect with the people around you, and for me I used this time to foster light and joy during a dark time.
WW: What are you working on next?
AC: I’m excited for my first rug collection in collaboration with Beni Rugs. We just shot the collection in Majorca and the rugs will be launched mid-September—I can’t wait for everyone to see it!