book review live beautiful athena calderone

Book review – Live Beautiful by Athena Calderone

book review live beautiful athena calderone

Live Beautiful by Athena Calderone reveals how creatives decorate and shape their interiors.

As well as being full of curated interiors inspiration, the book also covers how to apply the inspiration in your own home.

That means it’s full of tips on how you can incorporate the experts’ design details into your own space.

That doesn’t mean slavishly copying the styles you see inside. Central to Live Beautiful‘s message is that, when designing and styling an interior, you shouldn’t keep second guessing yourself. To tell your own story, you need to trust your instincts, as one featured creative suggests –

“You should be able to say in a split second whether you like something or not.” 

Signe Bindslev Henriksen (Space Copenhagen), in Live Beautiful

*This post contains an affiliate link. Roomy Home was given a review copy of this book by the publishers, with no obligation.

Who is Athena Calderone?

Athena Calderone is the New York based creator at lifestyle website, EyeSwoon.

Calderone is an interior designer in her own right, and two of her own homes feature in the book.

In Live Beautiful , Calderone takes you on a series of global house tours, unveiling the homes created by some of world’s most celebrated designers, and the creative journey that shaped them.

What’s new in Live Beautiful?

Firstly, a special mention for the book’s original photography by Nicole Franzen. The house tours are brought to life by her stunning photographs.

You’ll get a closer look at the townhouse (Calderone’s own) that launched a thousand oversized branch arrangements on the kitchen island. These were a clever replacement for a yet-to-be-discovered chandelier. They turned into a permanent fixture to replace the lighting, and are now something of a signature piece for Calderone.

What unites the homes in this book is that they are very individual, shaped by personality rather than a single design style.

I did have a couple of personal favourites. Firstly, Jenna Lyons’ use of colour and her brass kitchen splashback in her New York loft.

I also loved the laidback style of Roman & William’s Montauk home, especially their curated collections, which gave their space so much personality.

Domestic bliss – best takeaways from Live Beautiful?

The beauty of this book is that it actually tells the story of each home. It’s not just focused on the design details. You really get a sense of the qualities that set each home apart.

The main takeaway for me is that the best interiors are very personal and are built over time.

That seems like the best way to apply the lessons of the book too. Take what you need from it, and apply what speaks to you.

Having absorbed Live Beautiful from cover to cover, here’s what I’ll be thinking about when I’m designing and styling –

trust your eye

Don’t second guess your instincts. I was always a total fan of this method of styling, preferring not to spend too long deliberating over whether pieces “work” together. Here’s why –

“I COLLECT WHAT I LOVE AND TRUST IT WILL FIND ITS PLACE …”

Laure Hériard Dubreuil

we never end up where we begin

We might start off with a design concept, but we shouldn’t bind ourselves to it. Let your style evolve naturally as your work progresses.

embrace contrast & contradiction

This is what Calderone calls patina versus polish. I agree that our homes need both.

Adding the unexpected makes spaces interesting. I drew some practical tips about how to do that from reading this book –

  • Vary the scale and add things of different heights.
  • Add decorative pieces to functional rooms like kitchens.
  • Add things that deliberately don’t “belong”.
  • Mix up your metals.

To avoid your space looking like a hot mess by embracing all these contradictions, find cohesion by letting certain colours repeat around your home, featuring in more than one room.


Inspired by Live Beautiful & need a copy now?

Live Beautiful by Athena Calderone (Abrams Books, £30). Published March 2020.

Click the cover image to find out more.

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