So often design books land on our coffee table and they are thumbed through, the photography admired, the captions read, but rarely do most sit and read them cover to cover. That is not the case with Athena Calderone’s new book, Live Beautiful, which debuted this week. The Brooklyn-based interior designer, author, and chef - with a James Beard Award-winning cookbook already under her belt - pulls you in by peeling back the curtain on the small decisions that lead to impactful design.
In her hallmark style, Calderone (nicknamed the “super sleuth”) digs deep and dispenses advice with generosity. She’s not one to hoard her secrets for fear of copycats - nor are her subjects, who include designers from Copenhagen to Los Angeles (think Oliver Gustav and Pamela Shamshiri). Beyond their decorative insights, each designer’s entry is accompanied by favourite sources for furnishings, accessories, even go-to paint colours. It’s the latest extension of Calderone’s food and design website, EyeSwoon, which has garnered more #swoon’s than Outlander’s James Fraser.
But she’s not one to sit still. Over the past 20 years Calderone has moved multiple times, renovating eight homes along the way. They are her laboratories, and aptly the book includes her Amagansett, NY home as it was in the summer of 2018. She has since lightened up this formerly dark and earthy kitchen with a refreshing palette of chalky creams and greys, complete with Calacatta Monet marble and an island fluted in plaster. You would never know the cabinets are Ikea, upgraded with SemiHandmade frontage.
Nor would you expect such clever advice as turning to your local art school for a decorative painter as a means to temper the budget. That tip accompanies this swoon-worthy bathroom by Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent, and there are so many more like it peppered throughout.
In addition to this latest project, Calderone’s myriad skills continue to evolve. She recently collaborated with ceramist Simone Bodmer-Turner on a limited edition wall light and side table, and has also launched a podcast called More Than One Thing. The latter focuses on creatives who wear many hats - a skill Calderone certainly seems to have mastered.
Photography © (Rooms) Nicole Franzen, (Still life) Athena Calderone