Athena Calderone has certainly been busy in 2020. To start the year the interior designer, lifestyle guru, Cook Beautiful author, and creative director launched a podcast titled More Than One Thing, a series that featured the likes of designer-couple Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent, and stylist Colin King in its first season. And in March she released her second book, Live Beautiful.
Through the pandemic Calderone stayed inspired, producing season two of More Than One Thing, which debuts on November 25 with what she promises is “a really exciting lineup of creatives, multi-hyphenate people similar to myself that bounce around multiple creative realms.” And Calderone cemented a pair of partnerships that have led to the debut of her very first home decor pieces, shoppable on her website.
“It’s really an exciting next venture for me and my business, and something I had dreamt of for quite a while,” says Calderone of her live-edge bath tray and pair of ceramic footed bowls, created alongside Beau Rush Ceramics and the Wooden Palate. Here, the aesthete shares how these pieces came to be, and what effect they have on her, especially during these stressful times.
Your new footed bowl and bath tray are based off pieces existing in your homes, which have been published by AD. What’s the story behind each of them?
Essentially, I love curation. I love vintage, I love the timeworn patina of ancient ceramics, and I love that you can bring into your home this rich, unknown history. When I was designing my Brooklyn town house, I had gone on a vintage shopping trip with Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent in Pasadena to get those last layer items that make a house a home. And one of my finds was this petite footed bowl that feels Mexican or Peruvian. The color, the shape, those three little legs and gritty texture immediately captivated my attention.
When I moved in, I sat this bowl on my kitchen island and had a morning ritual of waking up really early, lighting palo santo in it and setting an intention for the day. A few times I took a photo or shared a video on social channels, and I can’t begin to tell you how many people over the past two years have asked about this sweet little bowl, so I just stored that away in my mind.
On the flip side, some 15 years and seven homes ago I was designing a dresser with a local millworker and we had extra pieces of walnut. I said, “Whenever I take a bath, I always want a surface to put something down on. Could you make a tray for me with a beautiful live edge?” More recently I’ve shared a photo of my bathroom and again, everyone kept saying, “Where did you get that bath tray?”
So clearly the demand was there. How did these beloved items come to be pieces that are available to all of us?
That initial spark came from my followers. I feel as though my creative life has been pretty dominated by writing books for the past four years, so I knew that after Live Beautiful came out I wanted to use my background in design and my love of curation and styling to make something tangible. A lot of what I do is experiential, but I wanted to create a product, and I thought about these two things my community was clearly curious about.
Cameron Bishop from Beau Rush Ceramics I had met years ago in Montauk, and I’ve seen her become this incredible ceramicist and artist. One day she commented on the bowl and I said to her, “Would you want to collaborate?” That’s also how it happened with Eileen O’Dea of the Wooden Palate. She had sent me a collection of her pieces, and I love when form and function and design are married. And she commented on the bath tray when I posted it on my Instagram. It felt kind of kismet.
What was your process like of working with Cameron and Eileen to translate your existing pieces to something they would make by hand?
We talked in detail about the essence of what I wanted to capture. I think the through line between both these pieces is the idea of creating ceremony in your home. For me, more than breaking the mold and doing something so unique, I felt like the pieces were what they were and I more wanted the intention and energy surrounding them to be about creating some sort of self-care or ritual within your home.
Eileen had been called to take down this massive eucalyptus tree at a private home in Beverly Hills and she’d been waiting for the perfect opportunity to use it. It took almost five years for her to dry and mill it, and when I said I wanted to make sure this was a piece you would have forever, she immediately was like, “Oh! The eucalyptus!” I did ask her to make sure each piece had some sort of movement to it. I think the beauty is in that sculptural live edge, so that was something we talked about in detail. I knew I wanted a series of three finishes, one very natural, one with whitewash, and an ebony version [$325 each].
For the bowl, Cameron did a bunch of samples. I love terra-cotta, I love it when something feels as though it has an aged patina to it. Each of the bowls has its own unique shape and is made completely by hand, with its own imperfect properties. We played a lot with the wash and diluting it a bit, so you see some of that natural earthenware peek through.
How do you envision the bowls being used, besides for palo santo?
You can use it for anything, potpourri or shells you collect, or jewelry. It’s accessible to people because of the price point [$85], but we decided to make a larger piece [$1,050] that could be a bit more of a statement, something to hold fruits and vegetables on your kitchen island or have on your dining table as a beautiful sculptural piece.
The need to make our home a retreat or escape feels even more necessary and urgent these days. What are some of your favorite ways to do that?
I wholeheartedly believe that beauty elevates the ordinary—it elevates our experiences and our home. Why should a bath just be where you rest, why can’t it also be that there’s this surface for you to gather beloved objects? I love this union of function and ritual aesthetics. I love that people might burn a candle or they might be reading a book, but then, let’s be honest, when you’re not even using the bathtub it’s just a pretty surface for you to display on. Buy what you love, buy pieces that can be multifunctional.
I believe that both your kitchen and bathroom are spaces just like your bedroom that you’re using constantly throughout the day, and should be treated as though they were equally as important as your living room. I have art and sculpture right next to my glassware and platters. Your most precious moments with your family are in the kitchen, and when you’re alone it’s in the bathroom, and those areas deserve decorative attention just as much as any other.
Where do you hope to take this?
I have a great relationship with both my partners, so I think there’s definitely opportunity to do more. With Beau Rush, it makes complete sense for me to do a tabletop collection, maybe some platters or bowls, maybe with Eileen more trays or bowls. I will say I am trying to manifest and dream big about further opportunities for me to design and develop product. Product design is definitely the next leg of my career.