The Design Spot We Desperately Wanna Live In

It's a fact: Athena Calderone is a curator of all things gorgeous. Her breathtaking home decor, delicious recipes, and eye for style inspired her to create EyeSwoon, a hub for home and food inspiration. Now, It Girl Calderone will be taking us to New York's need-to-know spots and introducing us to the coolest people around.
My eye is always seeking out polarizing elements in just about everything I do. When designing a space, I pride myself on combining elevated and refined stand out pieces, with rustic undone materials like rough rope or knotty wood. For me it’s all about achieving the ying and yang — mixing high and low, or giving some grit and glam. But, it’s also about the hunt for those elements, the unexpected discoveries, and, finally, the transformation.
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I might have met my match in Natasha Esch, the brilliant owner and creator of MONC XIII in Sag Harbor, NY. Natasha has curated a design store that is truly a handpicked plethora of dreamy European antiques, some customized with timeless fabrics, others respectfully kept intact to show off their original patina. But you can also find pure glam at MONC — vintage mixed-metal light fixtures dangle above your head — and scattered perfectly throughout the space are stunning home accessories, all perfect tabletop treats! For me though, it’s the environment Natasha has created to house all these gems that makes MONC XIII a standout shopping destination. The entire structure is, without a doubt, swoon-worthy!
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Photo: Athena Calderone/ Courtesy of EyeSwoon.
From the moment you enter, you can’t help but be awed and surprised by what you see in the two-story space. Everything is in perfect contrast! Elevated home furnishings sit upon reclaimed floors. The casement black-framed windows are filled with artisanal glass. And, alongside rough-hewn wooden beams a genius spiral staircase draws your eye up. A mix of chunk 5” slabs of knotty oak crafted held together by blackened steel, the staircase has an industrial sexiness that anchors the entire space. It’s the combination of the black steel and pale wood — a polarized union inspired by Jean Prouvé — that really makes me swoon.

Every square inch of Natasha’s space is meticulously designed with love, craft, and killer design instincts. When I see an Italian chandelier from the 1960s hung on a rope pulley system, and fastened with a brass boat cleat, I can’t help but chuckle. There’s a comfort in knowing someone else out there can’t resist uniting the elevated with the ho-hum! Natasha is certainly making eyes swoon throughout the Hamptons, creating visual tension at MONC XIII that’s like pure heaven. Proof again, that the proverbial saying ‘opposites attract’ is definitely accurate.
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Photo: Athena Calderone/ Courtesy of EyeSwoon.
How did MONC XIII come to be?
"As an interior designer I had spent my career curating amazing finds for my clients and the store is really a culmination of all that. I wanted, in the end, to curate my vision of amazing home goods — new and vintage — all under one roof."
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Photo: Athena Calderone/ Courtesy of EyeSwoon.
Tell me about your design background...
"In 1997, I moved to Los Angeles, CA and renovated our first house. That house was featured in Elle Décor and the rest is history."
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Photo: Athena Calderone/ Courtesy of EyeSwoon.
What is the shopping process like?
"The store really reflects my ideas on design. My process is very instinctive and organic. I need to be drawn to the item and love it. I really try to stay away from trends. When I buy, I want pieces that will be more beautiful with time not less."

Coffee table book suggestions for the design-obsessed?
"Living in Style in Paris, Rough Luxe, The Impossible Collection of Jewelry, 100 Interiors Around The World, Jasper Conran Country."
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Photo: Athena Calderone/ Courtesy of EyeSwoon.
"Basically everything I buy needs to pass the test of: “Do I want this for my own house?” Even if I know the item could sell, if I don’t love it, I won’t buy it."

Pieces that fly out of the store...
"Klismos bench, glass tables by Willy Rizzo, safari chairs by Kaare Klint, vintage Italian lighting by Stilnovo."
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Photo: Athena Calderone/ Courtesy of EyeSwoon.
What is the story behind the events you hold in the store?
"Our idea behind the store was to create a place that would sell amazing things for the home. But, also, MONC XIII would be a place where people gather almost like in the old days, salon-style, to celebrate their passions together."
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Photo: Athena Calderone/ Courtesy of EyeSwoon.
How often do you go on buying trips?
"I travel every two months and I always plan one trip per year to a destination that I have never been to. Seeing other countries is an enormous source of inspiration for me, to see and understand different design and artistic approaches fuels my imagination and broadens my horizons as to how to present things in different ways."
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Photo: Athena Calderone/ Courtesy of EyeSwoon.
"I've played backgammon since I was 5. My father taught me, so it’s always been a big part of my life. When I opened the store, I contacted Geoffrey Parker, the undisputed king of artisanal backgammon boards. We create our own unique colors and metal combinations. Truly every board is a work of art…"
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Photo: Athena Calderone/ Courtesy of EyeSwoon.
Top five sellers?
"Gilles Caffir Ceramic vessels, set of Berti Kitchen knives, Grand Bougie candle from Cire Trudon, leather-wrapped Coleman cooler, Geoffrey Parker Backgammon board."

Best sellers for the fall?
"Dennis Colomb cashmere blankets, textured pillows from Arcade Avec, Egee white china from Hermes, leather dinner charges, rustic French linen napkins."
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Photo: Athena Calderone/ Courtesy of EyeSwoon.
"The essence of what I believe to be exciting is a constant juxtaposition of opposing elements. Whether it is a rustic 19th century dining table juxtaposed with Danish modern dining chairs, or highly textural pottery on a slick glass coffee table, or a vintage leather chair draped with a hand knitted wool blanket, all the contrasts draw attention to each other and define the pieces around them."
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Photo: Athena Calderone/ Courtesy of EyeSwoon.
Is there a particular designer or period you swoon over?
"In my design career I have truly come to appreciate all periods for different applications. I really love the mid-century Scandinavian modern period as well as the French modernist, such as Jean Prouvé and Charlotte Perriand for furniture design. I see so much talent out there and I am so excited to be exposed to new talented designers that I get to meet at either MONC XIII or whose work I see featured. Some of my favorites are Francois Catroux, Jean Louis Deniot, Isay Weinfeld, Jaime Hayon, DeLaespada Design Group, and Ilse Crawford."
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Photo: Athena Calderone/ Courtesy of EyeSwoon.
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Photo: Athena Calderone/ Courtesy of EyeSwoon.
"The volume of the interior of MONC XIII is very modern and juxtaposed with a lot of old beams and wood elements to give it age. I wanted the building to blend into a charming whaler’s village on the exterior and give it an antique quality with, for example, the restoration glass storefront."
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Photo: Athena Calderone/ Courtesy of EyeSwoon.
"We needed to almost tear down every aspect of the building, so it was important to re-infuse the building with soul by adding old-and-found elements such as the antique industrial light fixtures. Also important to us was the craftsmanship that is evident in so many details like the metal iron staircase."
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Photo: Athena Calderone/ Courtesy of EyeSwoon.
"I would describe my style as textured and layered. And, much like my home design philosophy, a lot of juxtapositions."
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Photo: Athena Calderone/ Courtesy of EyeSwoon.
"I always pay attention to having the “mix,” the right cocktail of juxtapositions or opposites. I will buy 19th century furniture to mix with mid-century modern, lots of leather but then a lot textures to mix into the smoothness. Most important, the items have to have soul, the right texture, the feel of a hand knitted blanket or a safari chair with the perfect old patina in it’s leather. Things need to feel good."
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Photo: Athena Calderone/ Courtesy of EyeSwoon.
Tell me about the fabrics you choose when you reupholster furniture.
"I try to take the spirit of the piece and select materials for re-upholstery that reflect it and amplify it. For instance, we had this amazing Scandinavian bench/settee that we needed to re-upholster, so I selected a very textured boiled wool in a pale blue both of which to me are very Scandinavian in its essence."
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Photo: Athena Calderone/ Courtesy of EyeSwoon.
"Sometimes, I might embellish on the original idea. We have these two Hans Wegner oak deck chairs, which we re-upholstered in a nubby linen fabric with a stripe (the fabric was very similar as the original one). But, then we decided to add leather wrapping around the head bolster to create another texture dimension. No matter what, we always try to highlight the spirit of the origin of the piece and the designers' pure essence."
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Photo: Athena Calderone/ Courtesy of EyeSwoon.
"These custom cabinets are absolutely brilliant in my personal opinion. The union of the industrial framed and perforated blackened steel coupled with the pale oak was inspired by Jean Prouvé and it's purely GENIUS!"
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Photo: Athena Calderone/ Courtesy of EyeSwoon.
"A skin-wrapped Klismos chair is pure elegance and glam!"
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Photo: Athena Calderone/ Courtesy of EyeSwoon.
"I love to cook — and what's life without good food? I'm not usually a recipe girl except when I bake something."

Favorite recipe to create?
"I recently created a salad of grilled radicchio and romaine as well as grilling the chicken and the tomato. I then dressed the salad with an anchovy salsa verde. I am addicted to the idea of grilled greens."
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Photo: Athena Calderone/ Courtesy of EyeSwoon.
"I read cookbooks almost like fiction where I finish the whole book front to back. That way, when I'm at the farm stand and see what looks good, I can remember the gist of a recipe."
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Photo: Athena Calderone/ Courtesy of EyeSwoon.
"I also read a ton of blogs (I am a creative information junkie!) and have taken inspiration from there. For example, I've made several of your swoon-worthy dishes!"
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Photo: Athena Calderone/ Courtesy of EyeSwoon.
Go-to local spots around the store?
"When not eating at home, I visit my friends at Tutto Il Giorno or go to the Beacon."

Five things you couldn't live without?
"My family, my Nespresso coffee machine, music, good food, a life without the pursuit of creativity."
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Photo: Athena Calderone/ Courtesy of EyeSwoon.
What’s next on the horizon?
"We are really working on our website now. We want to create a shopping experience that mimics what we present here at the store. Shopping stories and themes where we create environments and inspirations through amazing photography that provide a click and buy possibility. I really believe that we can inspire a world beyond NY to experience the environment of MONC XIII via our website."

For more of Athena Calderone's swoon-worthy recipes, home decor ideas, and fashionable friendships, follow her on Instagram!
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