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text by  SHANI SILVER photography by  JULIET ROSE

There’s no better source of advice than your friends.

Athena Calderone

, Interior Designer and Creator of Eye-Swoon.com, a site dedicated to food and lifestyle, is a friend of domino for sure, and after she hosted our kickoff workshop with CB2Havenly, anddomino Design Services earlier this month, we wanted to share some of Athena’s wisdom with you! An interior designer, home chef, and entertaining expert with style like Athena’s is one worth paying close attention to. Read on for her rules of entertaining, and look for even more Athena-approved advice coming inour new book being released this November!

WHAT IS ONE KEY TAKE-AWAY ATTENDEES LEARNED FROM OUR EVENT WITH CB2 AND HAVENLY? I found that guests were very engaged and eager to learn some tips and tricks to empower their own design endeavors. Sometimes people just need a little push to give them license to break the rules or think outside the box, and I hope Jessica and I offered them that gentle nudge to take a risk within their own homes.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR OVERALL APPROACH TO ENTERTAINING? While I always want any dinner I create to telegraph elegance and beauty, I also yearn to create a relaxed, casual experience. Aesthetic is everything I do – from the meals I create, the tables I set, or the rooms I design. I LOVE throwing dinner parties more than any one thing….cooking in the kitchen creating meals is where I’m happiest! I approach design & food in the exact same way….adding layers and texture, balancing flavors, unexpected elements. It is often those contrasting or clashing elements that cause intrigue and curiosity – setting you apart. Food, hosting, and the combination of flavors and textures is a creative process for me which feeds my soul….it’s a massive piece of who I am.

IS THERE A PARTICULAR AESTHETIC YOU AIM FOR EACH TIME YOU ENTERTAIN, OR DOES THE SEASON/OCCASION TEND TO DICTATE THAT? I am always inspired by the season and my surroundings. I try to always incorporate something from the natural world onto my tablescape – a sprig clipped from my garden or a fruit or vegetable that is in the meal will make its way into the decor. A bowl of mini pears with their leaves clinging to them or winter citrus or pomegranates as a garland punctuating your tablescape. Lighting is also a key element in entertaining.

ARE THERE ENTERTAINING “SIGNATURES” THAT YOU FIND YOURSELF USING OVER AND OVER AGAIN? I love to find clever take-aways for the guests. Be it a sprig of an herb like lavender and rosemary tied together in an elegant yet rustic bundle, or a vessel with homemade sea salts. Or I have even created a handwritten menu on a basic brown paper bag filled with handmade candied nuts. I think small but thoughtful gifts with a touch of the hand are thoughtful gestures for your dinner guests. And these do not have to be overly complicated. Even offering guests the printed recipe for the dessert you created will be so appreciated!

WHAT IS ONE ENTERTAINING MISTAKE YOU SEE PEOPLE MAKE OVER AND OVER AGAIN? An overly complicated menu prohibiting you from enjoying your guests. A graceful, relaxed host sets the tone for the entire evening. And lights being too bright. Candles simply make everyone look beautiful.

WHAT IS ONE THING YOU WISH EVERYONE KNEW ABOUT ENTERTAINING? Have a cocktail before your guests arrive – it just takes the edge off – ha!


  1. Lighting

    is oh so important. – lots of candles and twinkly lights flatter just about everyone.

  2. An eclectic playlist

    is essential.

  3. A relaxed atmosphere

    that make your friends feel at home.

  4. A little something

    thoughtful for guests to take away.

  5. You must be a graceful host

    , communicating with all of your guests is essential so be sure you have support to help with all the behind the scenes production of a successful event. A stressed host projects onto the overall event.