“Surround yourself w/the things you love” An Interview with Editor Carolyn Englefield

Designer: RogerLussier/ Photographer: Oberto Gili

For decades, Carolyn Englefield’s work as an editor has graced the pages of high profile design publications including House Beautiful, House & Garden, Veranda and Elle Décor. While at Veranda, among the numerous editorial positions she held, that of European Editor at Large which entailed living and working in Paris has the air of being particularly dreamy, though no doubt contained its own set of challenges. Never one to shy away from ambition and hard work, Englefield has always managed to succeed at all she set out to do while maintaining her core role of storyteller. Her job in her own words has always been “…to capture the magic of a place and create a narrative translating it onto the page” – something she has been wildly successful at achieving. She has gone on to author “Veranda A Passion for Living: Houses of Style and Inspiration” which features many of her greatest work from while in Europe. Since then, she has continued to create beauty in the form of her work as contributing editor for Frederic magazine and as a creative consultant for select designers, architects, and photographers. As she puts it, “It is my mission to be of service helping designers to take the lead in creating their own content.” We checked in with this awe-inspiring creative powerhouse to learn more about her life and work.

Designer: RobertHill / Photographer: Thibault Jeanson

While she may not have foreseen her life as an editor, as a child Carolyn Englefield was a deeply aesthetically aware person. “For as long as I can remember visions of interiors have captured my eye. Even as a child, I was sensitive and keenly aware of my surroundings- both inside and out. I recall as early as third grade, walking into the neighboring woods after school and laying out a floor plan of rooms with small logs, branches, and twigs, sitting in each designated space imagining how I might decorate it and how it would look and feel.” She not only had a great sense of space and style early on, but she also possessed the ability to retain visual information to an unusual degree, a skill that was no doubt of use in her life as an editor. “I later recognized I seemed to have a photographic memory as I remembered the style of houses, decoration, and floor plan for most homes I’d ever been in. Years later, my friends reminded me that when I walked into their house I admired everything in it – touching fabrics and furnishings with great appreciation and attention to detail.” It wasn’t until after college that she experienced a lightbulb moment of clarity when she happened upon a particularly inspiring magazine cover. “I was struck by a cover of House Beautiful spotted in the grocery store and decided I wanted to work for them.” She of course made this happen and it would become her first job in the publishing world.

Designer: Hutton Wilkinson / Photogrpaher: Melanie Acevedo

This ability to turn her dreams into a reality through talent, hard work, and dedication, has kept her relevant throughout her long standing and ongoing career. Part of what keeps her going can be found in the type of work that she selects. “The most satisfying part of my job – is that it’s extremely diversified and very inspiring as no assignment is ever the same. I love the opportunity to travel, see new places, meet and work w/the most talented people and witness the beauty and creativity in the way they work and live.  The favorite part of my job is the creative collaboration!”

Designer: Barrie Benson / Photographer: Francesco Lagnese

Discovering what is unique and beautiful about the people she encounters in her work and helping to make that shine is part of what makes her such a wonderful editor. “My job is to capture the magic of a space that reveals the sprit and soul of the people who live there and create a narrative translating it onto the page.” As anyone who loves design knows, seeing the way an individual expresses their self through their design choices can be an intriguing peek into who they are and how they want to live. Lucky for her readers, Englefield is often invited into the private domains of fascinating people and is able to share what she discovers with the world. “As an Editor my favorite stories to produce are usually designers in their own homes. I believe their home is the truest reflection of their personal style, taste for how they want to live.  More often than not, their homes are the ones I love most because of their authentic and electric mix of wonderful antiques and/or vintages finds inherited, collected or purchased over time at auctions/antique fairs or found at wonderful shops like the Local Vault. They also have an added value when successfully mixed with more modern or transitional objects. Often times, when shooting we may decide to add something extra to a room like a vintage basket, antique tray for the ottoman or even a more modern piece like a sculpture or piece of art by contrast to complete the shot.”

Designer: Ashley Wittaker / Photographer: Max Kim-Bee

For those looking to add a bit of the allure that the perfect antique or vintage find can illicit in a space, she offers these five pieces of priceless advice:

1 – Educate yourself about what you like by looking at different designers decorating books and national and international magazines and frequent decorative arts museums, antique shows, flea markets, and don’t forget consignment shops or second hand shops like Housing Works in NY or to shop on line at The Local Vault.

2 – Keep in mind everything you buy doesn’t have to be a priceless 18th c antique. Remember someone else’s junk may be another person’s treasure!

3 – Sometimes the best finds are the best buys… example: designer Albert Hadley was known for finding wonderful things on the street, bringing them home and painting it. Voila! Whether it be vintage or modern it transformed the room.

4 – The Magic is in the mix, juxtaposing vintage pieces w/more modern ones can make all the difference in creating an interesting space.

5 – Lastly, keep in mind a Sense of Place, it’s usually a good idea to have a place for your fabulous vintage or antique finds.

Designer: Michelle Nussbaumer / Photographer: Melanie Acevedo

These suggestions are ideas she has put into play in her own home as many of her most treasured pieces are discovered outside of a traditional showroom. “I’ve always been a flea market lover, finding the diamond in the rough at the best price is the greatest reward.  I have many vintage finds in my NYC apt. most of which are treasures from Paris found at flea markets throughout France during the time I lived/worked there as European Editor, first for House Beautiful and then Veranda (I also had a small antique business for a few years w/Dara Caponigro and Stephane and Frouwkje Pagani. Some of my favorite finds were a collection of creamware and Paris porcelain as well as antique textiles that I love (in particular toile de jolie).”

Designer: Stephen Sills / Photographer: Max Kim-Bee

That said, ultimately the only rule she follows is that of her own heart and to “… buy what I love, trusting it will all fall into place in an authentic and soulful way.”

Designer: Brockschmidt & Coleman / Photographer: George Ross

Despite her work taking her to distant locations, she always made the effort to bring her treasures home to enjoy living with them.  “While my favorite flea market finds were being shipped back to NYC via boat- during an eight week period, I looked at nearly 100 apartments before finding the right one – The perfect “idiosyncratic” NY 1 bedroom apartment had a wall of big windows, northern light, high ceilings, sound proof wooden floors, a 20′ x 20′ living room big enough to house me and all my vintage finds, such as an18th c Norman armoire, painted Swedish style dining table and eight dining chairs, a small modern looking linen canopy, a large painted French daybed and more …just fit the mood and space.”

Designer: Chuck Chewning / Photographer: Thomas Loof

If traveling the world, visiting antique shops and flea markets are not in the cards for you at the moment, Englefield also seeks inspiration in a more universally attainable way: through films. In fact, she could envision herself one day participating in the making of a film. “I love the idea of a dream project, something I’ve yet to experience and accomplish and that would be to work on a movie. I admire the work of writer and director Nancy Meyers in “The Holiday” or “Something’s Gotta Give” and loved the 2011 Romantic drama “Jane Eyre” directed by Cary Fukunaga based on Charlotte Bronte’s 1847 novel – the costumes, scenes, script and cinematography -I found to be mesmerizing. I recently watched the 1968 release of Romeo and Juliet, directed by Franco Zeffirelli. The film received Academy Award for Best Costume Design and Academy Award for Best Cinematography. I was amazed to see how modern and beautiful it still looked and felt today.”  A Carolyn Englefield movie is one we would rush to see and likely revisit again and again.


Designer: Phoebe Howard / Photographer: J.Savage Gibson


10 Tips from Carolyn Englefield for Adding Beauty to the Home:


Treat yourself to a few of life’s simple pleasures to add some beauty to your room as well as  make you feel good.


Adding fresh flowers to a room an/or burning a favorite scented candle will make a difference to you and other who walk into the room.


Surround yourself w/the things you love and that make you feel good – discard the rest.


Declutter – taking away the static noise in the background can be a game changer. A simple edit is similar to fine tuning a radio to hear/see more clearly.


The first thing we do on a photo shoot is to edit anything that’s, redundant, not pretty  or is getting in the way.

Designer: Brian McCarthy / Photographer: Thomas Loof

Add flowers and music to set the mood.


Choose colors of paint, wall coverings, fabrics and/or furniture and furnishings that make you feel and look good.


Select things you’d love to live with at least for a while, as your taste may change. A simple slipcover can transform a room.


Pamper yourself when you sleep- indulge in nice and pretty bed linens –  examples from: Laytners Linens, Matouk, Pratesi, D.Porthault, (depending on your budget)


Take time to set a pretty table w/flowers and your favorite dinnerware and napkins to complement your food and mood.


Text by Liana Hayles Newton / Portrtait of Carolyn Englefield by Photographer Max Kim-Bee / Images Courtesy of Carolyn Englefield


Leave a Reply