Despite running her own interior-design business, a hugely successful lifestyle website called EyeSwoon, and publishing not one, but now – with the recent release of Live Beautiful – two books, Athena Calderone still struggles to answer that perennial dinner-party question: ‘So, what do you do?’
By her own admission, the Brooklyn-based creative hit her professional stride a little later than her peers. After studying dance at college and moving to New York to explore acting and modeling, Calderone met and married her husband, DJ and producer Victor Calderone, in her early twenties and gave birth to their son, Jivan, at 26. As her priorities shifted, Calderone’s life took a very different turn to that of her friends, most of whom were forging careers in the city. Focused on creating a home for her young family, Calderone found fulfilment in creating beautiful spaces for them to live in, and experimenting in the kitchen, inspired by their travels. It was only in 2012, when Calderone decided to make her first foray into the world of blogging, that she realised she had been quietly carving out a niche all of her own. Here, she shares her career and style secrets…
“When I’m working from home or playing around in the kitchen, I’m usually wandering around barefoot, dressed in a pair of jeans and a button-down. When I step out into the world, I use fashion as a form of expression but, when I’m at home, I stick to the basics.”
Live who you are
“During my twenties I didn’t feel as if I had a career path at all. I got pregnant quite young, so when most of my peers were out in the world really exploring who they were, I was at home. I have always been a creative person, but at the time I put everything on hold to have a family, so eventually my home became my outlet. For me, reading articles about different cooking techniques and diving down the rabbit hole of French ’50s architecture wasn’t just about finding passion and purpose, I was also educating myself.
My new book, Live Beautiful, is all about creating a home that is a true reflection of who you are and how you see the world. When I started EyeSwoon, it finally felt as though I found my professional footing; it was such a natural evolution. For a long time, I did have a lot of insecurity about the fact that I didn’t have one singular vocation or hadn’t climbed the corporate ladder. And yet, what I do now isn’t so different to when I was home alone with my baby on my hip. I recently launched a podcast called More Than One Thing – I’m a multi-hyphenate and so I wanted to share other people’s stories, especially those whose career paths haven’t been so linear.
I’m always eager to learn and grow and just see what the next opportunity presents. Maybe this sense of urgency comes from the fact that my career didn’t really begin until I was 35, but I’d love to combine my design and culinary backgrounds by creating products and exploring TV roles. I’m in this for the long haul.”
I am very cognizant that if I’m going to invest in a piece of fashion, it has to be something I will wear for years to come”
The beauty of a blazer
“I think everyone should have a beautifully tailored blazer in their closet. There’s something to be said for a strong shoulder pad; it makes you carry yourself a little bit taller. I am very cognizant that if I’m going to invest in a piece of fashion, it has to be something I will wear for years to come – and in a variety of ways. I’m also a huge fan of a classic poplin shirt, a great tee, high-waisted pants and black pumps – they’re staples that you can mix and match. I’m always playing with contrasts; I think that’s what makes everything really interesting – from a plate of food to a design scheme to an outfit. If I’m wearing something incredibly feminine and beautiful, I’ll always add a hard edge that makes the look feel like my own.”
“Now I’m a little bit older and more established, I can invest more in jewelry, and I am slowly beginning to build a collection. I think it’s really interesting to take jewelry and style it in your own way; personally, I like pieces I can wear from day to night. When it comes to a good bag, I like simple shoulder styles that aren’t too big, but can still hold all the essentials, like my phones and chargers. I’m low-key when it comes to beauty. I’ll wear my hair the same way – in a loose knot at the nape of my neck – whether I’m cooking at home or dressing up; and I always do my makeup myself. On special occasions, I’ll usually add a red lip or a cat eye just to create a point of difference.”
Feel the magic
“Great design, whether it’s in the home or in regard to fashion, is like a form of magic. When you pair two things and they really work together, it’s an exciting moment and carries a special kind of energy. If you’re wearing something that you don’t feel 100 percent comfortable in, and you’re tugging at your hem, it affects what you put out into the world. Beauty elevates your energy; it elevates your mood, and I don’t think there is any reason to be apologetic for that. I want to carry myself with confidence and grace so that, whatever I am doing, I can focus on the project at hand.”
Athena Calderone’s book, Live Beautiful, is on sale now