At Home with Vita is a monthly interview with artists, designers, and friends who inspire us. Our latest Q&A is with Athena Calderone. Athena is a distinguished interior designer, celebrated author, culinary and visual storyteller, and creative director. Deemed “the modern girl’s Martha Stewart” by The New York Times, Athena regularly publishes both culinary and design content on her lifestyle media platform called EyeSwoon. She has authored two books, Live Beautiful (Abrams 2020) and Cook Beautiful (Abrams 2017), and her work has been featured in Architectural Digest, Vanity Fair, the Wall Street Journal, T Magazine, Vogue, Bon Appetit, Harper’s Bazaar, Martha Stewart Living, Goop, Elle Decor and more. She hosts a podcast for multi-hyphenate creatives called More Than One Thing.
IL BUCO VITA: Did you find yourself “hosting” for yourself or for your family during the quarantine?
ATHENA CALDERONE: I have been taking a more intimate and casual approach to entertaining with my family during quarantine. But that certainly does not mean it has been any less beautiful or celebratory. And it is essential now, more than ever, to imbue our meals with appreciation and beauty— because home and family, they’re all we’ve got.
IBV: Has cooking more meals in your home caused you to rethink the design of your kitchen or your home in general?
AC: Nothing has made me more confident in my kitchen design decisions than being at home! The kitchen is truly my happy place and where my dueling passions and careers seamlessly overlap. The kitchen is an opportunity for me to create, it is my workshop after all, and gather with those I love most. I also believe it should be a foil to express your aesthetic point of view just as you would any other part of your home. When I am designing a space, but particularly my own kitchen, I am always trying to find that sweet spot where function and efficiency beautifully collide with exceptional design and decor. For example, I would never not use a beautiful marble due to fear of staining because I find beauty in the “life” of a kitchen, ring marks and all!
Design is a delicate dance of balancing both aesthetics and function. You should never rob a functional space of decorative objects. I love how form, scale, and a slightly atypical composition can cause your eye to bounce around the room, gently landing on and discovering new things at varying heights.
IBV: Did you use the extra time at home to learn how to make something new in the kitchen?
AC: I have been mastering my Lemony Carbonara Bucatini recipe, which my son absolutely loves
IBV: What are your favorite purveyors or resources for local produce/provisions?
AC: Amber Waves Farm
IBV: What is the first place you hope to visit when COVID-19 is far behind us?
AC: I really miss Italy – Aeolian islands or Ischia. And I’d really like to return to Copenhagen for a rescheduled book tour. I shot 3 homes in the city for Live Beautiful.
IBV: Are there any causes or institutions that you are passionate about supporting during this ongoing crisis?
IBV: Who has influenced your entertaining style?
AC: It is not so much as who as it is what influences my entertaining style. I am always seeking and searching. I truly believe in the power of soaking up inspiration through osmosis. I am so smitten by the thought that if we remain curious–– if we consistently read recipes, eat the food of chefs we admire, take in art, architecture, color and texture, scroll the Instagram’s of designers that intrigue us–– then we cultivate this state of perpetual inspiration that is just so ripe for creativity. Everything I see and everything I taste somehow gets stored away in these little subconscious drawers inside my mind. There is so much beauty to be found around us–– in the changing seasons, in the profile of a piece of furniture, in the opposing flavors of a dish. Who knows when one of those invisible drawers in our minds will fly open to reveal an amalgamation of multiple ideas into one that is totally unique, totally your own. To me curiosity is the golden ticket to remaining fresh in all your creative endeavors.
IBV: Can’t have a party without?
AC: A good playlist, moody lighting, and a boozy cocktail
IBV: Go to last minute center piece?
AC: Incorporating seasonal elements on your table, like fruits and vegetables used in the menu, makes the dinner a celebration of the abundance that the season brings. If everything on the table is both beautiful and edible, then nothing is wasteful!
IBV: Where do you find inspiration for entertaining?
AC: I usually create a pinterest board and eventually a tactile moodboard to get a sense of the vibe I am gravitating towards. From there I establish a palette. I love to allow design to unfold piece by piece, material by material.
IBV: Who are the top artists on your cooking playlist?
AC: Cigarettes after sex radio
IBV: What is your favorite meal to serve to guests?
AC: Whole roasted Sumac chicken with roasted veggies and labhne
IBV: One word to describe your entertaining style?
IBV: Seated dinner or casual buffet?
AC: I am a huge fan of setting up a self service area to place wine glasses, appetizer plates, napkins and flatware. This allows guests to serve themselves and encourages your family to casually nosh on appetizers as they huddle around the kitchen. Because let’s face it, it’s always where everyone gathers anyway!
IBV: Who has kept you inspired this year?
AC: Cooking with my son. Beach walks with my puppy and discovering nature through his excitement. Continuing to create and share content with my following to offer them some actionable tips to instill beauty and appreciation into their space, a meal they can create or even a yoga practice they can depend on. Our homes, our bodies, our mind – it is all quite inspiring isn’t it.