RA at Home x Amanda Hesser of Food 52

Posted by: Nellie Laskow

We've been long fans of Food 52 here at Rebecca Atwood so we were excited when Nina Etnier of Float Studio reached out about her project at founder Amanda Hesser's home. Nina and Amanda used our Hills fabric in Black on Natural on an heirloom chair of Amanda's and made custom pillows out of our Floral Medallion in Navy fabric and Dashes in Tangerine fabrics. We love the mix of family heirlooms brought to life through new textiles. See a video and hear Amanda talk about her home here and read our interview with Amanda below. 

Photos by James Ransom Photography.

Rebecca Atwood Designs: What does 'home' mean to you?
Amanda Hesser:
I’m a born homebody so home means everything to me. It’s a sanctuary; a place for self-expression and doing things I love, like hanging out with my kids, cooking with my husband, having friends over, taking on home projects, and futzing around doing laundry or fixing something on the weekend. It’s the place I’m happiest.

RAD: What motivates you?
AH: Curiosity, an outsider’s insecurity, and gumption.

RAD: How do you like to spend your weekends and free time?
AH: At home, puttering around: cooking, catching up on work, watching golf or tennis, re-arranging things, cleaning. I’m drawn to extremes so if I’m not home, I like to travel far and wide. Indonesia and Iceland are next on the list.


RAD: What's your philosophy when it comes to personalizing your space?
AH: To me, this is a never-ending process. We’re always understanding ourselves in new ways, and I think the same applies to how we design the spaces we live in. So I guess my philosophy is to keep trying and to keep pushing myself to find what feels like the best reflection of my passions and values. 

RAD: We see pattern as a storyteller, how do you use it in your home?
AH: I’ve had an evolving relationship with pattern. I’ve gone through years of no patterns and all texture, and then years of wild pattern. Lately, I’ve been subtler, using pattern selectively so that it really takes the stage where needed. Many patterns are on pillows but my favorite pattern right now is your Hills Fabric (in black and natural) on an ornate vintage wood chair. I like the contrast of this modern, organic print and the formal chair.  

"I’ve had an evolving relationship with pattern. I’ve gone through years of no patterns and all texture, and then years of wild pattern." - Amanda Hesser

RAD: How do you tell your story with your decor?
AH: I’ve learned to tell it more succinctly over the years, and Nina Etnier, the co-founder of Float Studio, is largely responsible for this. I’ve been working with her and her partner Brad on our Food52 office spaces (we’re on our 3rd gut-renovation project with them), and with Nina at our home. Together, we’ve slowly renovated all but one room -- the entranceway -- in the apartment. (And watch out, entranceway, we’re coming for you next!) Nina is extraordinarily talented with color and fabrics, and she’s not the kind of designer who comes in and wants to get rid of everything to start fresh. She has taught me countless things about mixing textures, changing finishes, and arranging spaces to feel welcoming. All the gallery wall art is her, too -- she cleverly mixed our random art into pleasing vignettes.

I come from a family of pack rats and my husband is from a long line of WASPs, who pass everything down, so the core of our home is family belongings. We’ve recovered some, sanded down others, and have made them work for our lives, but at heart, they are a story of where we came from. These pieces are mixed together with things that we’ve collected – like a beautiful, large round coffee table that my husband, Tad, bought in Morocco with a former girlfriend (and that he smartly got in the breakup), and a mid-century George Nelson dresser that I bought during my single days. Because the furnishings are eclectic and because we like our home to feel soothing and welcoming, Nina helped us choose which pieces to make the focus and helped us find a color palette that’s neutral and mostly quiet – lots of greys, blues, and creams. This allows the pieces to work together but also to maintain their own personalities.

Some couples like a clean slate upon which to devise a new style together. But we’re big believers in personal history and want to make sure this narrative thread isn’t lost in our living space.


RAD: What little changes do you think make the biggest difference at home?
AH: I believe in the power of textiles. You can change a piece of furniture entirely with fabric. Our most recent renovation project with Nina was an example of this. We added almost no new furnishings but by reupholstering a few pieces and changing pillows, we altered the mood of the space. I also love this as a form of design evolution because you can give new life to older pieces – and not be wasteful by discarding. 

"I believe in the power of textiles. You can change a piece of furniture entirely with fabric."  - Amanda Hesser

RAD: Tell us about a favorite memory from a previous home.
AH: The knotty pine cabinets and slate front hall floor in my first childhood home – the essence of 1970s middle-class home design.

RAD: What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?
AH: Don’t ask for permission. It’s amazing how much we’re wired to seek permission and approval for things we want to do in our lives. It’s incredibly liberating to learn to resist this.

RAD: What's the hardest thing you've had to go through in your career?
After more than a decade at the New York Times, where I had a relatively cushy job at a beloved institution, I left to start a company. My first effort never really materialized, and although the second company, Food52, has been very successful, it has been vastly more challenging than either my co-founder, Merrill, or I imagined. I don’t regret it for a second. But starting from zero is a journey.

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