An afternoon with DJ Carey at CTC&G

We got to spend a few hours hanging out with Editorial Director, DJ Carey at the CT Cottages & Gardens headquarters in Norwalk. We wanted to find out what it takes to be an editor of a large, glossy publication (something I think we may both secretly want to do in our next life!), and DJ was more than willing to share. She was also happy to answer our “getting to know you” questions and have a good giggle too.

Enjoy getting to know this week’s #womancrush: DJ Carey!

Those familiar with the luxury publication Cottages & Gardens know that the word “cottages” does not refer to a small, simple dwelling. As we found out, these are the cottages of Victorian times when a cottage was a very large home, often a second country home. Be it the Connecticut, Hamptons, New York, or San Francisco edition, Cottages & Gardens invites readers to dream big, swoon over the magnificent homes of others, get great design inspiration, and a whole lot more.


How long have you been Editorial Director at Cottages and Gardens?

Thirteen years. And I also launched and founded Connecticut Cottages and Gardens. So I’ve been doing it since the very first day.

What did you do before Cottages & Gardens?

I was a freelance editor and before that, I worked on 5 other national magazines, so I’ve been in the business a long time!

How would you describe Cottages & Gardens?

Everyone gets freaked out about the word cottage. In the Victorian era, the cottage was your home that you were proud of. Sometimes it was your beach home. They’d say, “Oh we’re going to our cottage.” And they were massive houses. Our magazines really reflect very sophisticated and chic interiors and landscapes, so it’s all about design that’s very well curated and executed.

What does your job entail? What do you do every day?

I put out a lot of fires. I sit here and think and dream about what I want to see in the magazine, I correct things that are coming through the pipeline that suddenly don’t look the way I envisioned it.

You have to learn that your original idea is never what comes out. Part of it is learning how and when to let go of what you thought. You have to learn how to listen. So there’s a lot of time spent on that skill. It’s not like I sit there like a princess and I say, “I see blue. I want everything blue!” It doesn’t work like that. Ultimately I edit things that I don’t think are appropriate. I’ve been doing this for 35 years, so I can usually go through a house in about 15 minutes and figure out if I want it or not.

What’s coming up in the next issue that we should know about?

These are all the innovation in design award winners (see above). So these are the best! Phoebe Cole’s house in Weston, (Dirt Road Farm) I love – is going to be in the July/August issue. She’s a chef, and she raises her chickens and the whole house has this nice vibe. I like older houses, so that’s why I really fell for it. She has dinner parties for friends in her barn.

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Bahrain – not many people know that.

When did you move to the States?

Well, from Bahrain we moved to the Canary Islands, and from there we moved to the States. So I was about 6 or 7 when I got here. I didn’t speak any English. So I continued to speak Spanish and my parents used to fight with me, “Debbie, you have to learn English.”

When you’re not working, you’re …?

It depends on the time of the day [laughs]. If I’m not working I’m usually doing something physical. I love to swim laps, and I’m a big walker. Every day I walk for an hour here. I find I’m more creative if I’m physically active. Ideas don’t come if I’m not active.

If you’re staring at a laptop, you’re so limited because you’re not taking anything in. So that’s why I make it a point to just get out. It allows me to just dream.

Most recent TV binge….

I do love trashy TV. Orange is the New Black. The new season came out and I was like, “What are my girls up to?” [laughs]. Binge watching is a good thing.

Do you have any favorite clothing boutiques in Fairfield County?

I love Hobbs (Greenwich Ave.). They have great shoes – they started as a leather company in Italy. And it’s where Kate [Duchess of Cambridge] goes. 

What was your first job?

I worked at House & Garden magazine, and my job was to find out what editorial was doing, pull images, make a slideshow, and present it to the sales staff so they could sell the issue to their advertisers. So I started on the business side. Then I went to Brides Magazine and I worked for 3 shooting editors, so I got to go on a lot of shoots. One of our editors was invited to the Royal Wedding [Diana & Charles]. We had to come up with a gift; the whole staff had to think about it. Our department came up with a great idea. We gave her an American quilt that she loved! It was handmade and it was the essence of what traditionally you’d give a bride.

Your favorite restaurants we should visit in Fairfield County?

I love Bar Sugo. They have a great wine selection and it’s the place where chefs go really late at night when they’re off. They all go there to hang.

I also like The Cottage – the food is great. And I like Thomas Henkelmann’s Homestead Inn. He’s the most athletic chef I’ve ever met! He told me you should never trust a fat chef.

Books or Audible?

Oh, I’m all about my Kindle.

So what are you reading now?

That’s the biggest joke. I can’t ever remember book titles! My husband will ask me what I’m reading and I’ll be like, “I don’t know.” I can tell you the story though. I love to read and if I don’t get into a book quickly, I dump it. I usually read right before I go to bed, so we can safely assume I get 4 pages read…

What time did you wake up this morning?

I woke up at 6 am and walked to my training session. I do weight training twice a week with my husband.He drives, I walk, I find that I lift better if I am physically active before I lift.

Breakfast or no breakfast?

Always breakfast. I stick to plain yogurt, fresh fruit, and Fiber One. That’s it. I don’t vary.

Favorite vacation spot…

Anywhere that my daughter and husband are with me.

Décor color of the moment?

Probably this beautiful moss green.

One thing our readers should do to brighten up their homes for summer?

Pull up the rugs and have the bare floors. Honestly, our grandparents used to do that. They would take all the rugs up, send them out to be cleaned, and they would slipcover everything in white. And suddenly it just feels like you’re in a beach house, but you could be in a condo in the middle of Stamford. You can send your rugs out – I love Triple S in Norwalk – and when they come back, put them in the guest room or attic, all rolled up. Then in the fall you unroll them and you forget how pretty the rugs are and you fall back in love with them! The summer is all about clearing the decks; let go of layering. Keep it simple and cool. Your eye wants very simplistic viewpoints.

Cottages & Gardens

Words: Bev/ Pics: Lora

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