Athena Calderone Swears by These 5 Rules When Entertaining

Updated 09/23/16
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Mirella Cheeseman

Around the MyDomaine offices, one thing is undeniable: Athena Calderone is the holy grail of #entertaininggoals. The interior designer, mother, and creator of EyeSwoon—a lifestyle and food blog—has paved the way for elegant, enviable bohemian-chic dinner parties. Scroll through her blog and you will find yourself literally swooning over a way of living that celebrates the simple things in life and the art of living well, from seemingly simple beach paellas to curating the perfect kitchen essentials.

So when Calderone invited us to a dinner party she was hosting with fashion stylist Kate Foley for Vestiaire Collective at her Hamptons house, we immediately threw caution to the wind, jumped in our best linen outfits, and hopped in an eastbound car. Destination? Amagansett, New York. And, boy, are we glad we did. Under twinkling string lights, intoxicated by the sweet smell of a 30-foot-long lavender centerpiece and the camaraderie of 30 beautiful, passionate human beings sitting around one dream-worthy tablescape—this night will go down as one of our most magical summer memories. Step inside this midsummer night's dream and learn a few tricks from the modern hostess with the mostess.

Mirella Cheeseman

At the dinner party, guests were greeted with fresh tequila cocktail and chic G. Viteri straw hats. The atmosphere was relaxed but oh so chic—you could tell the attendees were sartorially inclined. "I am dear friends with Kate Foley, who also happens to be the contributing fashion director for Vestiaire Collective," says Calderone. "She had been telling me about Vestiaire Collective for a while now, and when the opportunity came for me to co-host a dinner at my home in the Hamptons, I was happy to do it!"

Mirella Cheeseman

To celebrate the essence of summer, and drop a hint of "Frenchness" in the ambiance, Calderone turned to lavender to inspire her tablescape. "I always look to my immediate surroundings and the season as an initial hint of inspiration to inform the décor for any event," she says. "At the time, I had some beautiful purple flowers budding in my garden, and the week prior, I was clipping lavender at the local farm here in Amagansett. The hue was all around me. I was also informed by the brand itself. Since Vestiaire Collective is a European brand and our goal was to celebrate summer, I began to think about the ever-abundant lavender fields in Provence, France, and how not only do they release such a swoony fragrance but they are also an elegant expression of summer." 

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"The lavender garland was the catalyst that inspired the rest of the table," she says. "That was the statement and all else was kept rather simple." To bring her vision to life, Calderone worked together with Taylor Patterson of Fodder Fox Farm on the floral elements, while Local Creative helped to execute the overall design and vision. 

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No detail was spared. At the table, guests were greeted with seating name card woven with blooms into a linen knot. " A lot of thought went into the décor and overall expression of the dinner," says Calderone, "but always with the goal of keeping it a bit informal."

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Even the menu, designed by Local Creative, was expertly crafted. "I purposefully chose to use utilitarian brown craft paper for the menu cards, as it felt a bit less fussy—perhaps even casual," says Calderone. "Choosing to have them printed in white calligraphy lettering was unexpected but still kept things elevated."

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Calderone, a born entertainer with a discerning eye for design, said the biggest challenge for the event was choosing what to wear. "I spent hours perusing the Vestiaire Collective site, and my biggest conundrum was Suno or Proenza Schouler. I decided to wear Suno for the setup and Proenza for the actual dinner!" Naturally she looked glowing in both outfits.

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A crisp white linen runner offered a clean backdrop for the dramatic lavender garland, and clean white plates were the perfect canvas for Cloud Catering's artfully plated creations. "Keeping within the pale purple color story, we simply clipped some extra pink and lavender blooms—some purchased and others clipped direct from my garden—and tied them together with nude linen fabric that was rustically torn," says Calderone. "I prefer for things to feel natural and undone—Simple ideas, thoughtfully executed is my motto!"

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"While I wanted the dinner to telegraph elegance and beauty, I also wanted a relaxed, casual experience," says Calderone. "The Vestiaire Collective brand expresses high-end luxury preowned fashion, so I really used this brilliant yet juxtaposed concept to inform the events overall vibe and evocative feeling," she says. "We all love beautiful things, but we also crave accessibility. There is beauty in this contrast and I wanted the event to have that same feeling. Beautifully designed, expressing elegance, but to also feel as relaxed, casual, and unpretentious as summer is." 

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Before dinner, refreshing Pink Panther summer cocktails by Casa Dragones were served topped with a lavender sprig. "I always love to include a natural décor element into the food or drink when possible," says Calderone. "So the lavender extended from the tablescape to the cocktail."

"There is a carefree nature to summer gatherings, and this event really did [allow] guests to feel sophisticated but to also have a little fun! The night was stylish, twinkly, frisky (with the help of Casa Dragones), and elegant at once."

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For dinner, guests enjoyed a fresh summer menu of strawberry endive salad with spiced praline pecans, strawberry vinaigrette, and arugula to start, followed by an entrée of Tasmanian sea trout à la Provençal with a mélange of summer vegetables, black olives, and a tomato vinaigrette. The menu was not only colorful but also inventive and full of flavor. "We ended the evening with a delicious blueberry brown butter tart," says Calderone.

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Not everyone loves entertaining as much as Calderone does. "My favorite part of the night is where the open sky transitions from bright blue to dusky midnight as day turns to night, and my garden is filled with friends and laughter and abundance," she says. "I swoon [over] summer!" In moments like these, we all do. 

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We asked the hostess what her best tips for entertaining were. "Lighting is oh so important. Lots of candles and twinkly light flatter just about everyone," she says. An eclectic playlist and a little something thoughtful for guests to take away were also high on the priority list. 

Most importantly, a relaxed host and relaxed atmosphere that makes your friends feel at home is paramount. "You must be a graceful host," says Calderone. "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."

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Beyond throwing the most swoon-worthy dinner parties in all of the Hamptons, Calderone is currently working on her first cookbook, to be released next fall. She is also busy also gut renovating and designing a historic townhouse in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. "These two endeavors, cooking and design, unite my greatest passions, and I am diving in fully—swooning indeed—in this upcoming year!" We can hardly wait to see what's next for this talented tastemaker.

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