Athena Calderone on Food, Design & Everything in Between
Athena is a domestic goddess with impeccable taste. Her blog, Eyeswoon, has evolved into a site known for raising the bar when it comes to interior design, home entertaining, food and tablescape styling, cooking, and making everything she touches amazingly beautiful. Besides running her coveted lifestyle brand, Athena launched her first cookbook this Fall. You can also find Athena’s featured work in ELLE Decor, Harper’s Bazaar, Architectural Digest, Martha Stewart Living and Food & Wine, just to name a few.
Did you always know that you wanted to be in the culinary world? How did you get started? My kitchen has always been my hub of happiness and creativity. I got married and had a child in my early twenties and when the majority of my peers were focused on wild nights out or their careers I was developing myself in my home. I would pump up the music as I rolled out pastry and experimented with flavors. And then came sharing the fruits of my labor with family. I toiled over the tablescape and filled my home with flowers as I presented seasonal delights I had whipped up over the stove. Entertaining was at once my source of self-expression and my social outlet. It was in the home that I came to trust my creative instincts. My kitchen was my workshop and my haven. It was where my many interests collided – food, design, entertaining, and gathering with loved ones. Cooking and the kitchen represents joy and togetherness to me, It was what eventually led me to my site, EyeSwoon, and now my cookbook, Cook Beautiful.
My kitchen has always been my hub of happiness and creativity.
EyeSwoon is definitely an eye swoon! How did it all start and how did you develop it into what it is today? EyeSwoon is a testament to the hours I spend scouring the internet or poring over magazines and books and recipes, swooning over those little sparks of inspiration. And the desire to share my creative journey with others in the hope it will incite a journey for them.
Can you tell us what it means to “swoon” and what makes something “swoon” worthy to you? Anything that makes the eye linger for me
I hear that you have another book in the works. What’s it about? My next book will focus on interior design!
What was the biggest challenge while writing your first book? What have you learned to carry into writing the next?
Writing Cook Beautiful taught me to always trust my instincts. The cookbook journey was one that tested my ability to follow my gut. It challenged me a lot because of the magnitude of the project and because I never embarked on the process before. At times, I struggled to find my voice and listen to my inner guide and each time I learned a little bit more about myself and was reminded that I arrived at this place of creating MY book because I had trusted MY voice, MY vision. Each time I went against the fiber of my being it was as though I was slapped in the face with a reminder to come back to me. Sometimes we need to be reminded to just be yourself again and again and again until we learn the lesson. And this book was a wakeup call. In the end, I am so very proud of the book but the journey was not always an easy road and I vacillated with confidence, with engaging in the unknown, only to find me in the end.
Always stocked in your fridge?
Lemons, fresh herbs, organic half and half, pecorino cheese, and sparkling water
Do you have a go-to comfort meal you love to cook? Pasta!
What’s your favorite cocktail to make? Ingredients? Anything with tequila and spice!
What’s your favorite part about entertaining? For me, the whole point is to make memories. A happy host begets happy guests.
What is your favorite NYC restaurant and your favorite meal there?
There are so many! I’m currently loving Lilia, Wild Air, and Cafe Altro Paradiso.
What’s your morning routine? Coffee? Tea? Juice? Workout? Coffee, yoga and a green juice!
Describe a perfect night on the town Silly boozy nights boasting giggles with girlfriends or an intimate date night with me love. Also boozy but with a different ending - hehe.
What are your beauty must-haves? I'm a creature of habit when it comes to makeup, starting with my foundation. I like a finish that's clean but not dewy. Next, it's either a red lip or a rosy cheek. My signature look is usually a strong matte lip. Or when I’m feeling more casual, I'll wear a bright pink cream blush. But I never mix the two.
Do you have any low-maintenance routines that help make life easier? I wake 40 minutes before my husband and son to sit with myself. Before coffee, before email or instagram, and before engaging in mommying, I sit with me. I like a candle and burn Palo Santo and just be.
Describe your personal style. When it comes to design and style, I love to play with opposition and contrast. Not too feminine, not too sexy, not too structured but a delicate balance of it all to create visual intrigue.
Wardrobe/Style must haves? White Breezy and bohemian for the beach and tailor and structured for the city.
List 5 things you must have in your handbag. Business cards, lip balm, a phone charger...
List 3 of your favorite Amazon finds. Design books. Cookbooks. Small kitchen appliances
What was the last thing you googled? Hummmm. A chocolate cake recipe for my hubbys bday
Any tips for those who are aspiring to follow your creative path?
You can be more than one thing. For far too long I defined “success” by society’s standards. That you needed to study one thing and be one thing and then and only then could you succeed. I never fit into the definition of singular career and I felt “less than” because of that. It was only when I truly embraced the multifaceted interests I embodied that I found my version of success and joy. So be you to find you.