In 2011, Athena Calderone was a young mother living in Brooklyn, looking for a way to turn considerable creative energy into a career. A former actress and dancer, she decided to make the home her next stage and started a blog called EyeSwoon, dedicated to cooking, styling and design. Though it began as a Tumblr page shared among friends, over the past decade EyeSwoon has grown into a powerful lifestyle platform, and Calderone’s star has risen considerably—she’s been dubbed “the modern girl’s Martha Stewart” by no less an authority than The New York Times.
Calderone’s impressive trajectory has been the result of a lot of personal hustle. Until recently, she only had one employee, and has largely felt her way through the design industry on intuition and creative spark—not formal training. “Sometimes I definitely feel like a fraud because I don’t know CAD, I don’t have specific processes in place, and I feel like other designers know more than me—all the doubtful things,” she tells host Dennis Scully on the latest episode of The Business of Home Podcast. “What I do have is my instincts, and I really do lean into those. Sometimes, there’s a lot of creative chaos in my world, but it does seem to magically gel and come together.”
That creative chaos has led to significant opportunities. Calderone is fresh off a major launch with Crate & Barrel featuring more than 100 SKUs of both decor and furniture. Crate wanted Calderone to divide it into two collections to navigate the supply chain confusion of the past two years—but she held on for a big reveal of everything at once. The instinct has panned out: In the space of two months, the collection has already exceeded annual sales expectations.
The success of the line has come at a pivotal moment for Calderone. She’s in the process of launching a drop-ship e-commerce site that will capitalize on her considerable social following (near 1 million on Instagram) while overseeing her first residential development project. On top of that, Calderone just sold the Brooklyn town house that made her a design star and is looking for a fresh challenge. All of that is to say: The next few years will see her trying new things and aiming high.
Wherever her journey takes her, Calderone will be looking to overdeliver in the face of those who might write her off as “just” an influencer. Even the word is “a real trigger,” she says. “I like to surprise people. … I like when people think maybe I don’t have the chops, and I get to prove them wrong.”
Homepage image: Athena Calderone | Courtesy of EyeSwoon