Design blogger and cookbook author Athena Calderone’s vacation home is a lot like her recipes: simple, bright, and full of fresh ideas.

athena in kitchen cutting vegetables
The creator of lifestyle blog a href=u0022, Athena is all about, well, making the eye swoon. Here, she whips up the gorgeous (and tasty!) Tuscan kale salad from her book, u003cemu003ea href=u0022 Beautiful/au003c/emu003e.
| Credit: Photography by Paola + Murray

When interior designer and blogger Athena Calderone and her husband, Victor, first discovered their 1960s ranch in Amagansett, New York, it had a quirky layout and leaky, moldy ceilings. Still, they saw potential. "One look at the windows along the roofline was all it took," Athena says. "We knew we could make this place something special." 

About a year of work went into updates to suit their needs: mainly a balance of entertaining friends and downtime with their son, Jivan, now 15. Athena and Victor shifted the kitchen closer to the open-plan living room/dining area, so cooking and socializing weren't mutually exclusive. 

rustic table modern light fixture
Credit: Photography by Paola + Murray

As for that leaky ceiling, Athena had the necessary fixes made, then hired local fishermen to thread and knot pieces of rope among the new beams (above). This feature became the star of the home and a jumping-off point for the rest of the decor. "From there, I brought in other natural elements—reclaimed woods, dark stone, leather—for a relaxing vibe to warm up the house's modernist lines," Athena says. The Calderones recently added a coat of white mineral paint in several of the rooms to freshen up the space and to put the outdoors on display. "You don't have to do a full renovation. A lot of small tweaks can add up to something big and fresh."

"I feel so lucky to call this house my home—it's where I learned to cook, to entertain, and where I started my business," says Athena. "I'm my happiest and most creative here."

rustic kitchen open shelves
Credit: Photography by Paola + Murray

The kitchen features countertops made of Basaltina, a volcanic rock. Darker varieties are more forgiving of stains. The open shelving and island are both made from reclaimed pine

rustic interior living room pictures
Credit: Photography by Paola + Murray

Any room with decent natural light can benefit from a coat of white paint, which makes a space look brighter and airier.

open rustic living room
Credit: Photography by Paola + Murray

Windows and glass sliding doors along the back wall provide plenty of sunlight.

modern bath blinds
Credit: Photography by Paola + Murray

The rope door panel in the master bath echoes the ceiling in the living room. Wood floors in the bathroom bring a bit of country charm to a coastal setting. If you're worried about the upkeep, opt for ceramic-tile "wood" planks.

athena writing in book at desk
Credit: Photography by Paola + Murray

Athena writes and develops recipes at the dining room table, but lately she's all about video. Check out her Instagram stories @eyeswoon for EyeSwoon Unplugged, a new series about cooking for her family. And coming soon: a seriously swoonworthy home-design book!