7 steps to home heaven: Designer and cook Athena Calderone’s renovation golden rules

Designer and cook Athena Calderone has transformed her run-down townhouse into the epitome of downtown chic. These are her renovation golden rules…

1. Live with what you really love

Athena Calderone
Nicole Franzen

When Athena Calderone bought her townhouse, a late 1800s brownstone in Brooklyn, New York, she knew it needed a lot of love. But renovating it actually took over four years. Athena, who has her own award-winning lifestyle brand eye-swoon.com, says, ‘I approached the project starting with what excites me most – décor. But where I began was never where I ended up,’ she says. ‘I spent years scouring auction sites, Ebay, Instagram and vintage markets, searching for pieces that spoke to me. Remember to let your eye lead you and take time hunting for the items that excite you.’ The coffee table is from apparatusstudio.com

2. Pair fabulous with functional

Athena Calderone kitchen
Nicole Franzen

The original wall dividing the stairway from the rest of the ground floor was knocked down, creating a long open-plan space consisting of the living room, dining room and kitchen. The latter dominates the rear of the house, adorned with mirrors, lamps and art. ‘Everyone ends up gathering here,’ says Athena. ‘So why not have that decorative element in your most used space?’

3. Be a super sleuth


Athena Calderone patio
Nicole Franzen

Of course, it’s easy to find something you love at a highly curated shop, such as an antique stone floor from a famed showroom. But never underestimate the power of the internet to find something similar. Athena found this marble and travertine flooring – used on the pretty terrace – online from a stone yard for a third of the price. For similar flooring options, try floorsofstone.com

4. Play with scale

Athena Calderone living room
Nicole Franzen

‘You never want your furniture and objects to all be on the same plane,’ says Athena. ‘Unite pieces that sit at different heights to give a rich, layered feel to a room.’ The low sofa, two-tiered triangular coffee table, dramatic mirror and sculptural standing lamp draw your eyes around the room, lending it a playful allure. The sofa is from bebitalia.com. For similar armchairs, try roseandgrey.co.uk

5. Let there be lots of light

Athena Calderone office
Nicole Franzen

Athena and her husband Victor, a music producer, work from home, so the flow of natural light was crucial to the renovation. ‘We installed a wall of floor-to-ceiling metal casement windows, which are also bi-fold doors, to carry light through the space,’ she says. While it may seem counterintuitive to have obscured the view with a built-in desk, the design actually draws the eye towards the window and the outside beyond it. For a similar chair, try vitra.com.

6. Up the contrasts

Athena Calderone bathroom
Nicole Franzen

There is beauty to be found in embracing the yin and yang. Athena’s bathroom, boasting old European charm, took on a decidedly feminine identity with its 1930s Murano chandelier and romantic freestanding bathtub. ‘I contrasted the daintiness by injecting black elements – window frames and a range of vessels,’ she says. For a similar roll-top bath, try thewatermonopoly.com

7. Keep it sleek and neutral

Athena Calderone bedroom
Nicole Franzen

Athena allows muted colour and texture to create a balance throughout the space, ‘designating places of calm’, she says. The bedroom is on the second floor and envelops you in serenity with its neutral palette. Accent colours are introduced in the patterned cushions and wine-red bench. The bed and curtains are from restorationhardware.com. The bench is a vintage piece.

Get the look

Steal Athena’s pared-back style with tactile textures and structured shapes

Sideboard, £679, swooneditions.com

Cushion, £70, sohohome.com

Vase, around £70, chiaracolombini.com

Candle holder, £29, aidashoreditch.co.uk

Print, £260, partnershipeditions.com

Chair, £1,993, scp.co.uk

Side table, £193, yoox.com

Lamp, £79.99, zarahome.com

Vase, £560, maudandmabel.com

This is an edited extract from Live Beautiful by Athena Calderone, £30, abramsbooks.com. For more information, visit eye-swoon.com