Cat Chen works with one of our fave interior designers, Amber Lewis, and has some amazing projects up her sleeve, one of which includes a wine biz called Dulan Wines (coming soon!). What strikes me the most about Cat is her vulnerability and raw honesty she gives to all of her work. If you're not following her on Instagram I highly suggest doing so. Her posts surrounding death and the loss of a parent make me feel less alone with my own loss - her honesty is an inspiration.
Caroline Z Hurley: I love your style and vibe of living! Makes me want to move west! Can you talk a little bit about how you began your career and where you are now?
Cat Chen: I started my career in PR agencies in San Francisco, then in New York. My PR job in New York was the toughest, most career-defining job I had. It really put me through the wringer, but I have to say, it taught me everything I know now about work ethic, communication, and management. Once I moved to LA, I met Amber Lewis and I made the transition into a broader marketing role, which opened my eyes to more than I could have imagined. When I started we were a much smaller team, wearing all sorts of hats, which I loved. And to this day, I get to play a role in creative, marketing, editorial, social, and partnerships — and co-author a Clarkson Potter book. I never imagined this to be my career… it’s crazy and I am so grateful.
CZH: What is your cultural upbringing?
CC: I am a first generation, Taiwanese American born and raised in Orange County, California. My parents wanted my brother and I to have the brightest future, so they did as they were told — put us in private Christian schools so we were surrounded by nice, non-divorced families as an example of healthy relationships. I went to Chinese school on the weekends and had Chinese tutors on weeknights, and I was so ashamed of being one of the only Asian people at my school. I would be embarrassed when my mom came to school events, and thankful that my dad lived in Taiwan so no one would see him. It is so much to unpack now in my 30s, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. There’s so much I have yet to discover and apply. It’ll be a lifelong journey, but it’s a lot brighter today than my childhood.
Cat with our Aquinnah Sky Napkins
CZH: Can you tell us a bit about West Coast living? Have you ever lived anywhere else?
CC: I’m a California girl through and through. I lived in Brooklyn in my mid 20s, which were some of the best, most chaotic and fun years of my life, and I loved every minute of it. A part of me wishes I still lived there, but I can’t deny how much I love living in LA now. I lived in San Francisco during college and a few years after, which is a city that will always have my heart, no matter how much it’s changed. For now, LA is home and I couldn’t be happier. I need my space and most of my family is nearby, so it’s my sweet spot right now.
CZH: Can you tell us about the experience of choosing where you live and what is important to you in choosing a home?
CC: I never thought I’d live in LA. I left New York before I was ready, but moving here was a blessing. I was able to settle into living here shortly before my mama got sick. I ended up finding my new little home only a year ago, like some kind of miracle, during one of the toughest transitions in my life. It’s my first time living alone and it’s my sanctuary. All I can say is that the universe really had my back when the stars aligned and I found this house. This house has brought me back to life after some dark times. I’ve lived all over LA, and I finally found my sweet spot here on the Eastside. As long as I live in LA, I’ll be east of the 405. I’m not great at setting down roots and, to be honest, the thought of a forever home makes me cringe a bit. I’m a ‘never say never’ person. I could see myself living in Europe one day, Taiwan, or maybe just in this little house for the next … who knows how many years. I dream of building a house one day. I have no idea where, but I can’t wait for that day.
Cat sets her table with wine, wax flowers, and our Chestnut Moons Throw
CZH: I am so sorry to hear about your mother's passing. My father died during the pandemic and its been so unnatural for me to not share that grief with more people in person.
CC: I am so, so sorry. And to lose a parent during Covid, I am just so sorry and wish I could hug you. It’s a pain unlike anything I could have ever imagined. My mama died about 6 weeks before the world shut down, which was bizarre. I was relieved that I could stay home and cry every day and didn’t feel the pressure to see anyone. I retreated and was incredibly depressed for months, but I’m not sure I knew it at the time. I don’t think I fully started to grasp what was happening until a year later. I never imagined I would be so open about grief. My mother’s death put so much into perspective. I’m forever changed. That old part of me died when she died. And her physical disappearance from earth gave me an energy I can’t quite describe. Her spirit fuels so much of what I do, and I feel her love and protection so deeply. I laugh louder, I cry harder, and I love deeper. The silver lining of a death is the wildest thing and I’m still not sure how to articulate it.
CZH: What does your ideal weekday look like and then what does your ideal weekend day look like?
CC: My weekdays are pretty much strictly work. We’re a relatively small team, but we’re tackling a lot of things that we care a lot about. I’ve also been way less social lately, so instead of wining and dining at night, I spend a lot of nights prepping for the launch of my wine company, Dulan Wine. Having a side hustle is no joke. I can’t really figure out how to do it all yet without feeling completely depleted! Weekend days are slow. I noticed that I stopped making grand plans, sit still, and do what I feel like in the moment. It’s been a game changer for me to sit still and relax when I can. I travel a lot for work, so when I have the luxury of being home, I try to savor every moment of it.
A graphic, but subtle, take on our Horizon Sun Quilt. We love how Cat took her own spin on the quilt just by rotating it!
CZH: The book you created with Amber Lewis looks so so beautiful. Can you tell us about that project and how it came to life?
CC: I still pinch myself that I got to co-author a published book. My lifelong dream was to work in journalism and write, write, write. I ended up as the head of a marketing department, which I love to death, but to be able to exercise my creativity through writing and being on “set” to photograph some of the world’s most beautiful homes with one of the most talented designers of our time is still surreal. We’re currently working on book #2, traveling all over the states to the homes Amber has designed. Between writing and photography, it’s such a fulfilling creative opportunity.
CZH: Excited to hear about your new venture, Dulan Wine. Can you share anything yet about your new company? I would love to hear how you decided to create a wine label!
CC: It’s been a real side hustle, hence why I haven’t officially launched it or have my site up and running yet! I had the opportunity to takeover my father’s wine exporting business and turn that into my own company, with my own label, to begin selling our family wines in the US. It’s a huge honor and a huge undertaking. i’m also managing the property in Paso Robles, California, which is a massive responsibility. So, I’m simultaneously launching my new brand, Dulan Wine, named after a small village on the coast of Taiwan where my dad spends most of his time — and also managing our family property, with some big plans for expansion in my lifetime. Both Dulan and the vineyard hold the most special places in my heart. Whatever this company ends up being, I just want it to honor my heritage and my family.