Barbara Ballinger is a freelance writer and the author of several books on real estate, architecture, and remodeling, including The Kitchen Bible: Designing the Perfect Culinary Space (Images Publishing, 2014). Barbara’s most recent book is The Garden Bible: Designing Your Perfect Outdoor Space, co-authored with Michael Glassman (Images, 2015).
Dominique Browning: The Next Chapter
Faced with the unknown after losing the job she loved and selling her 'forever' home, Dominique Browning, former editor-in-chief of House & Garden magazine, tells how she found joy.
June 1, 2011
You’ve weathered major ups and downs—seeing the magazine you edited fold, going through a divorce, but also writing three books, including your recent Slow Love: How I Lost My Job, Put on My Pajamas & Found Happiness (Atlas & Co., 2010). What has life taught you?
I’ve learned that only when you feel afraid will you really do something that will help you grow. Fear is a natural response to the unfamiliar, as is the familiar feeling that you might fail. So, put yourself into situations that challenge you and work through things that are tough.
Your book is called Slow Love. What does that mean?
Finding slow love is allowing myself a few quiet moments every single day to notice something new, whether in the garden or the way the sun falls across the floor, and letting myself fill with awareness, gratitude, and delight.
In your book you describe selling your New York home, the one you thought you’d have forever. Your real estate agent told you to clear away the knickknacks—but this was hard for you to do, emotionally. Did her advice offend you?
No. I must say I loved my agent. She did a fantastic job for me, and her advice, though hard to hear, was spot on. Ironically, it’s the same advice I gave to photographers when we shot houses for the magazine: Keep it clean and formal. Let the viewer feel she could be walking into a house that’s been prepared for company.
For an article in More magazine, you recently profiled three women who live in spaces no more than 1,000 square feet. That’s a lot smaller than the homes you featured in House & Garden. What’s your opinion: Is less really more?
Less is not necessarily more. But there are countless decorating tricks to give even the smallest rooms pizzazz. Vivid paint colors; large, high-impact pieces in small rooms; cozy nooks that make a person want to curl up with a book and a glass of wine; places to converse—and tons of storage space. Clutter looks worse in a confined space. Your house ought to make your soul soar.
So many home trends are tempting but too expensive or complicated for the average home owner. Should home owners avoid the latest indulgences—having two kitchen sinks, for example?
Yes, avoid those temptations at all cost. I see this mistake over and over. We plan in accordance with our holiday entertaining rather than our daily lives. Just because you will seat 20 at your table for Thanksgiving doesn’t mean you need to build for that; that’s a lot of wasted space year round. And no one needs bathrooms the size of gymnasiums.
What home-related trends do you think are worth pursuing?
If you are thinking of selling, avoid the trendy. Avoid spaces that are so unusual that only one other person in the universe would go for it—and you’re already married to him. What looks appealing to me these days is rich color and sensual fabrics. If you don’t want to invest too much in the structure, consider quick décor changes: sheets, throws, linens, and carpets. You can take those things with you.
Read Browning’s blog, "Slow Love Life, " for her tips about appreciating the little things amidst busy days.
Go to www.slowlovelife.com.
Updated: January 14, 2022