Story by Sasha Strebe for Mydomaine.com
We step inside the family home of L.A.-based fashion designer Anine Bing, as she opens up about motherhood, guilt, and chasing balance.
It swept over us as soon as we opened the wrought-iron gate. The delightfully heady scent of roses wafted down the steps of Anine Bing’s Spanish-style home willing us along like the pied piper, and for a moment, we were transported to a secret garden brimming with flowers of Alice in Wonderland proportions. Yes, that’s the overwhelming impact scent can have on your olfactory system, and this visceral reaction is why the iconic Danish-born, Los Angeles–based fashion designer and mother of two (Bianca, 6, and Benjamin, 4) created her own perfume and candle inspired by the woody perennial. After a momentary sensory lapse, we reached the wooden arched door where Bing greets us with a friendly smile and a warm embrace. We’re home. Or at least it feels that way.
We step inside the stunning family home and gasp with adoration and envy. This is Scandinavian minimalism at its finest, complete with a designer dollop of curated vintage and a touch of that California bohemia we all know and love. “I wanted the house to have a homey vibe and feel inviting for family and friends,” she tells us. “That was most important to me: to create a welcoming environment and to make sure guests feel super comfortable in the space.” As we continue our walking tour, Bing explains why they decided against an interior designer in favor of decorating the space themselves. “I hate when a house feels overly polished, overdone, or too perfect,” she says nonchalantly. “By doing it ourselves without an outside expert, it just feels like a real home with real things. And things we actually use that aren't just there for show.”
Chic, relaxed, and effortless—the same successful formula that embodies her eponymous (and wildly popular) clothing line. “It finally feels so right and so cozy—it’s like our little oasis,” she adds. “We saw so many homes and looked for about a year to find the right one. This is by far the most at-home I’ve felt here in L.A. It feels more special than previous houses we’ve lived in. I’ll have meetings at my house sometimes with the team, and they literally never want to leave, so we must be doing something right.” For the next edition of Her Domaine— a series that celebrates all moms—we tour Bing’s gorgeous home while quizzing the mom of two about balancing family life with an international business, why self-care is on her to-do list, and how she keeps the flame alive in her marriage.
As most successful entrepreneurs know only too well, running your own business is more than a full-time job. That traditional 9-to-5 format most of us are familiar with doesn’t exist. Your brain never really switches off—even when you’ve left the office. Motherhood works in the same way. So you can imagine the chaos when these two worlds collide. “Working for yourself is both a blessing and a problem when you’re a mom,” explains Bing. “It’s nice because you can set your own schedule and you’re your own boss, but also it’s also hard to stop or to really separate one from the other.” Striking this balance is still a work in progress for Bing. That means being “super focused” on her kids when she’s at home and then concentrating on work when she’s in the office. “I do believe in balance, and I’m always working to have more in my life,” she says with earnest. “It’s hard, but I’m aware of it, and I try. I think the biggest thing for me is trying to be present. If I’m with Bianca, I want to be paying attention to what she’s saying and not reading an email. Being present is what helps balance I think. But it’s a challenge.”
The secret to making it work (without guilt) is all in your mindset. “I think it’s really important to go easy on yourself and realize there is no one right way to do it all,” says Bing. “Be kind to yourself, and don’t set unrealistic expectations. It’s a special time, and we’re really amazing as women. We’re such good multi-taskers and do so much, and we wear so many hats. Just try to give yourself a break, and remember that the hardest parts won’t last forever, and that whatever you’re doing for your family is the right way to do it.” Preach.
But there’s just one part of the puzzle that’s missing here: Bing. While her focus has been on growing the company and raising her children, finding time for herself has fallen off the priority list. “I actually haven’t been as good as I should be with self-care the last couple years,” she admits. “I’ve been working way too hard for my own good. I’m finally realizing that and getting better at taking care of myself.” Bing says she hasn’t made time for any workouts since she became a mom six years ago. “People might look at me and say, ‘well, you’re skinny, you don’t need it,’, but I do need it,” she points out. “Everyone needs to exercise to feel strong mentally and physically. It’s something I have to start prioritizing. I guess my workout so far has been running around with my two kids for the past year.” Acknowledging the importance of exercise, Bing now tries to fit in a hike once a week, but if that doesn’t work out, she tries to find time for other forms of self-care such as a massage or getting her nails done. “Those little things give me an hour to relax and not think about work or the kids,” she says. “I would recommend to all moms (working or not) to take a few hours a week to do something for yourself. My goal is to find a better balance and not feel guilty about some alone time. In the end, I know I’ll be a better mom and boss at work.”
Bing really dialed up the weekly self-care after coming close to burnout two months ago. Five nonstop years of running the business and taking care of two small children really took its toll on her health, and she’d forgotten to take care of herself. “I had been feeling low for a while and needed to finally do something about it,” she explains. “So I texted my friend (an amazing nurse) who knows everything about supplements and food. I told him I was so tired, had no energy, and just generally wasn’t very well. He gave me a long list of vitamins to take—vitamin C, Echinacea, mushrooms, vitamin D, and a few others. I went straight to Whole Foods and bought all the vitamins, and already after just a few weeks, I felt much better. It’s important to eat well and take your vitamins because if your body is not in balance, it’s hard to run a business and be a good mom.”
The reality, of course, isn’t always perfect, and while we all have the best of intentions, making healthy food in general is hard as a working mom. “Always, on my way home from the office, I’m like, oh, shit. Dinner! What are we going to have today? Since I don’t really have time to cook, we often order in or just make something simple, but I do feel the kids are much happier when they eat healthily.” Bing keeps an arsenal of healthy snacks on hand, including carrots, berries, fruit, and smoothies. “For actual meals, they often eat pasta, quinoa, or rice,” she says. “I always give them lots of fruit and berries, but I’m not perfect at all—they get all the junk food too.”
While it appears on the surface like Bing couldn’t possibly squeeze all this in, she credits being a mom to getting more done in less time. “I remember before business and kids, it was a whole project just going to the bank and running a few errands,” she laughs. “Now I get to 20 of those things in a day, plus school drop-off and pick-up, and answering a million emails. You just become so much more efficient with your time.” But, of course, this productivity can also be attributed to some serious streamlining. Her personal style being one of them. “It’s just gotten even simpler,” she says. “You have to be efficient and fast as a mom.” This simplicity is the underlying philosophy of her self-titled label, which is built on the idea that all you need in your closet are jeans, a good T-shirt, and a leather jacket. “Obviously, we have expanded on that over the years, but I don't think there’s any reason to skip looking cool and feeling confident just to cater to a faster lifestyle,” she says. “My family is everything to me, but as a woman, I still like feeling good about myself, even if that’s in a nice comfortable pair of jeans, a vintage tee, and boots—my uniform!”
While she’s still figuring out her work/life balance and finding some “me” time, there’s one key relationship we’ve forgotten to mention: her marriage. Bing and her husband, Nicolai, run the company together, which means they’re often in completely different places doing separate things, which means they spend “a lot of time apart,” which “is good,” according to Bing. “It keeps things interesting,” she notes. “I might be on set for two days while Nico is in operations meetings or on different business trips. So then it’s always fun to catch up on what’s happened. But we also do cute little surprises for each other. Surprises are the best. It makes you feel so special when someone does that for you.” Her husband recently surprised Bing with a tattoo of her on his arm. “I think the element of surprise keeps an exciting spark alive,” she says with a wink. “But hey, we also have our super-boring days like most couples. Marriage is not always easy (we’ve been together for eight years), but we are best friends, and we think alike 99% of the time—we are both very much all about family and work.”
Although the combination of work, parenting, and marriage can make for a chaotic schedule, Bing wouldn’t have it any other way. “Motherhood is the best thing in the world—so don’t wait too long,” she says. “It’s an indescribable feeling.” But even with that sage advice, becoming a mom is a daunting concept for many women. To that, Bing adds: “You’ll figure it out. We all do. Just believe in yourself, and trust your instincts. It’s so important to listen to ourselves as women. Don’t read all the baby books, just go with your intuition, which is usually the most powerful. We hear a lot of noise and advice, but you know what you need and what your kids need better than anyone else. Trust yourself.”
In the end, it’s up to you, whatever choice you make. “I just really want to encourage woman to follow their dreams,” she says. “No matter if the dream is to be a stay-at-home mom, a working mom, or not wanting to be a mom at all. Whatever your dream is, follow it, and stay true to yourself.” Hear, hear.