Hallie Burton‘s energy and joy for life is completely contagious. It’s refreshing to find someone so equally enamored with her family life, professional life, and the city she calls home. (Ahhh, New York! It has that effect!)
And it’s a fabulous reminder that falling in love with your day-to-day doesn’t necessarily mean over the top gestures, jam-packed schedules, and excess. Sometimes, it means scootering to school, having a daily uniform, and simplifying the aesthetics that surround us. Yes, simplicity is a very good friend to Hallie and her sweet family. How inspiring! Friends, I hope you love this tour as much as I do.
Q: Tell us about this stylish family.
A: We are an Australian (me), a Canadian (George), one loud New Yorker (Pompie), and one Shoodle (Maxi)! I’m a working Lifestyle photographer whose clients include Target, Crate and Barrel, Jonathan Adler, Martha Stewart, Club 21 Global, and Como Hotels and resorts. George is a partner in a contracting business. Pompie is a student and a passionate ballet dancer already! Maxi is an international dog of Mystery, and we are all dedicated Roger Federer fans!
Together we ride, scoot, dance, skate, and sing through our days! We really are the “family that plays together stays together!” We are a one-child family by choice and love every minute of it…we are the three musketeers of our own destiny. As three individuals and as a family we fit, and we knew our family was complete the minute Pompie came out.
We love the idea of equally shared parenting, and the concept really drives us to be better individuals and keep our lives and careers going and, of course, being the best parents possible. Equally being in her life and not one out doing the other really is creating such a beautiful independent child. We travel a lot coming from other countries, so we try hard to keep this side of our life moving for the grandparents. We love bringing up a child in New York; it’s exciting daily and what’s on offer is amazing. We actually try and stay in town in summer so we have a better chance of discovering the city without so many crowds…
Q: New York! Please tell us all the ways you’re living well there with your daughter.
A: We are sandwiched between two heavenly parks, which are our playgrounds! On one side, we have the beautiful Riverside Park which overlooks the Hudson river, so in summer it’s like we live on water and feel the fantastic breeze. We spend evenings there with the scooter and the dog and the local park restaurant. In winter we use Central Park to learn ice skating which is beyond magical, and in summer we also use the pools there.
I always feel like we are in some kind of movie. It’s an almost eccentric way to grow up, yet it’s our neighborhood. Bikes are our main mode of transport and scooters, as well, and of course foot and subways. We rarely use cabs because we all get motion sick! It’s so easy to get anywhere and we love the all care/no responsibility lifestyle.
Pompie got into an amazing school which is a block away, so usually she rides her scooter to school and at the moment she’s heavily into her balance bike. We usually take her to school as a family – even the dog – and she loves that feeling. Plus it’s a great feeling seeing your friends on the sidewalk and riding with them and chatting to the parents.
MOMA and the Museum of Natural History are our playrooms away from home. We visit weekly. Just the feeling of being in the museums is fantastic, and Pompie never gets bored of the big blue whale! Never!
Q: What makes you love the place you live?
A: New York has the world on offer daily. It’s like nothing else. We love walking out the front door and just being in the world…moving with it and being totally anonymous in it.
For kids I find the city amazing. You have the best of everything on offer and you can learn at the best schools for prices that are insane. Our daughter was lucky enough to get into the yearly ballet course at Alvin Ailey – one of the best ballet schools ever – and I think we pay $800 for an entire year, where our local ballet studio is $900 for a term. It’s more than just fun; they’re learning properly from the start.
Things like that really fascinate me in the city. It’s all available, so you really can give kids so much opportunity.
Q: Your home recently underwent serious renovations. What were the the hardest parts – and the most fun?
A: We really loved the feel of our apt when we bought it. It was a wreck, though. So we gutted it!
It was an interesting process. Our architect was really clever and transformed the space in to something that flowed beautifully. My husband said, “You can do whatever you want, but these are my requirements: I need a king size bed with a Tempurpedic mattress, and a work space. Don’t mess it up!” (To be honest, the thing we regret most is the Tempurpedic! )
I relate renovating to child birth: everyone has something to say about it, or they have a friend of a friend who’s had a terrible experience they feel uncensored to pass on. Renovation is a beast of its own, and until you open those walls up, you have no idea what’s there! We really built a home for ourselves and how we wanted to live, and worried about our needs as a family. We didn’t get caught up in the “You have to have a bath tub for resale value and you need two sinks” and all of the so called other renovating “rules” we avoided. We were not making our apartment for someone else in maybe five or 10 years. We were making our home.
For example, our daughter refuses to take baths. Our bathroom is small, so why would we want the inconvenience to have to step in and out of something? A walk-in shower was perfect and suited us all! Especially living in smaller spaces in the city, you have to really make your space work for you. And that’s what I recommend: get your space working for you and love it wholly. When we walk through our door, it’s our own oasis. We love being home!
(Our contractor was so great! No scary stories at all, and my husband even went into business with him!)
Q: What was the one design element that you wanted to be sure your family home included after the renovations, as it relates to living well with your daughter?
A: I grew up in a beautiful house. My parents were very into design, and my mother drummed it into my head that “a child will learn to live around it” so we have never had anything truly child-friendly. When we designed this apartment, we felt we really wanted to live the way we wanted to at our age and Pompie would learn to live around it. And she has!
We did leave quite a big space for kid things, like her table and house, knowing once she grows out of them we will regain that space as a sitting area. Our apartment is only 1300 sq. ft., so we had to make all areas work. Essentially, the space was designed to fold up so everything is hidden – I think the bathroom is the best testament to that, as well as the kitchen, which is a fabulous Leicht system – and it’s saved me! It’s great looking into the bathroom and just seeing beauty (and no toilet!), and my actual office lives in the floating credenza on the bedroom wall. Nothing is out and offensive; like Smokks, the house is its own uniform. The piece that works best for me though is the bed head…it’s love! That’s the thing that makes me happy and explode with joy when i see it!
Q: What’s your favorite time of day in your home? When does it work for everyone best?
A: Our apartment really lends itself to low key lighting, so the nights are beautiful and relaxing. George goes to his work nook, and Pompie and I read books on the sofa. It’s also her time when she is determined for Maxi to lie on her. She just loves the dog lying on her at story time. “Mum, put Maxi on me!”
Q: Working full-time – as well as finding a solution to your husband’s daughter-dressing skills! – gave way to an amazing company. Please explain what Smokks is all about.
A: “I just need clothes I can handle!” OH! My husband’s famous last words. Such a dramatic statement was born from me being away and receiving a video of our daughter at her ballet graduation wearing her pajamas! OMG! I almost died! I almost cried!
Mothers would do a hundred buttons daily without question if it meant their daughters looked beautiful! But dads?
Frantically I called home from Australia, not even caring about the time difference, to find out what went wrong! “She looked so cute,” he said. “How would i even know they were pajamas?”
“Because have you ever seen her in a chocolate brown outfit with a pink cat on the front?!”
That’s really how Smokks began! Little did he know then and there that our “family” project (so to speak) would be creating a line of fun stylish and effortless girls clothing!
Soon after that can of worms was opened we set sail on our journey to launch a creative dressing system for families who, like us, need “clothes they can handle” all year round. I do say this loosely as it’s really for fathers, grandparents, and care takers to dress these little ladies so “suddenly” they don’t look like nobody owns them when mummy is not present!
So Smokks is a dressing system of mix and match and everything you will need and everything works alone as well. You can get your basics – leggings that are adjustable, the turtleneck dress which is made to wear alone and layer, and the three Smokks for summer, dressy, and the all year round Winnie. It’s all you need and now that’s all George has to choose from! We go over two sizes, and they grow with you. So both our requests are filled: our daughter looks divine daily and loves wearing her clothes, and George is hassle-free and doesn’t need to make clothing choices!
We did a women’s version because friends keep asking, and now it’s all they wear. My husband does not like work out clothes as “fashion,” so I get dressed for my barre classes and put my Smokk on top, and I’m covered and I feel great and pretty and dressed. Perfect! The uniform!
Q: How do you try to best balance working and motherhood? What are your tricks and policies related to making sure you get enough time with your family?
A: We are a well oiled machine! Ha! With a house so simple and no room for “junk” as I love to call it, we have only what we need. It makes life simple.
And we dress that way. We all have a uniform of sorts. Pompie and i wear Smokks daily. We have one Smokk five ways down to a fine art, and George has 10 navy t-shirts and five pairs of the same jeans, and we all switch our jackets and shoes out. We live light and travel light, and it’s really changed our lives!
Q: What has been your favorite part about living with your daughter? What has surprised you the most about being a mom? Is there a development stage that’s long gone that you miss?
A: There’s never a dull moment living with kids…a man and a dog! So far, I think four is the most challenging year we’ve had and we are still in it. Our little baby is now a girl, developing her owns ways and desires. Kids are very black and white; they say what they think and that’s it!
I never knew I would feel so much rejection as a mother…in many ways parenting is about resolving. I think mothers are so sensitive to their children they they take the rejections to heart, and not enough mothers really talk about this. They think they need to keep be strong and keep going, when sometimes you need to sit, have a cup of tea, resolve and breathe, and keep the dialogue really honest and open.
I miss the size when they just sleep on your chest and make little peeping noises. We are at the why stage! So I say “Pompie…would you like a cup of tea with mummy and we can discuss big feelings?” It’s important that her dialogue is always open as well.
Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish someone had told me…
A: My honest response is…I never thought parenting would be so painful emotionally. And I never thought I would feel so judged, especially about only having one child. People have a lot to say about that. I think my parents and my husband are just so honest about one child families and it’s so refreshing…so refreshing. It’s a choice that people really judge you on and it’s something that should be beautifully celebrated, because as my dear friend Teymara has said, “Sometimes children come in to this world just needing to be one.” And we have that child.
I really feel it’s such a great time for women as well; having a child at 40, having a career, a great home life, fitness, and just feeling excited and alive. There’s many of us, and I salute you all! We really can have everything!
Oh, Hallie! Your aesthetic is enviable. I love how you’ve hidden the necessities, giving yourself a visual treat no matter where your eyes land. Genius. And your uniforms are so brilliant, and have got me thinking of paring back even more! Thank you for sharing your family with us.
I can imagine how infuriating it must be to hear comments about having one child. (It also happens to those of us with a few more kids!) Friends, how do you feel when others offer opinions about your personal choices, whether it’s the amount of kids you have or renovation woes? Your stories are always pretty wonderful!
Oh! One more thing. Hallie is generously offering Design Mom readers 30% off a Smokks purchase! Simply enter the code designmom30 in the discount box when checking out. You’re going to look so cute! Thanks, Hallie.