Talk about a beautiful outlook on life. Susan and William Brinson are the creative duo that live in a stately old home called Stonyford with their two boxers, Sugar and Nero. William is a photographer; Susan is an art director and stylist. Together they document adventures of renovating their historic home, cooking, traveling – and living the slow life in style on their site House of Brinson. Read a few posts and you’ll be ready to leave the city and take up residence with them – enjoying farm-to-table meals, visiting the Vanderbilt Mansion, and learning how to style your photos like a pro.
The couple has been together for 20 years (they were high school sweethearts) and it shows. Everything on the site is beautifully produced and the photos and text go hand in glove – just as you'd expect in a well-crafted digital magazine.
House of Brinson is also a new Say Media content partner, so we took the opportunity to catch up with Susan about the new site design, hip hop, simple pleasures, haunted houses … and all the other good stuff that goes into the digital world of folk storytelling.
You've been blogging since 2008. What was your breakout post or series of posts that put you on the map? This is a funny one! Two weeks after we started blogging, I was on the Nate Berkus Show. The show featured our blog and former Manhattan loft. It put our blog on the map, we went from a handful of readers to thousands in the matter of a day.
House of Brinson celebrates life’s simple pleasures in a complicated world. Has the world gotten more complicated since you started the site? And what are your favorite simple pleasures? I don’t know if the world has gotten more complicated per say. I think every generation and even individuals has their day-to-day challenges with complications and distractions. One of our challenges taking time away from the computer and social media. The Internet and social media are a challenge that I alway hear people discussing and how to balance them. A simple pleasure we enjoy is sharing a meal with friends or family. It’s as simple as putting the time and energy into what you’re serving and being able to enjoy the time with the people you value. I sometimes think of all of our followers on Instagram (27K) and how everyone is from a different part of the world and lives a life that is so different from ours. But we all eat, and I love to follow them and see their lives, thinking maybe one day we can share a meal together. One of my new favorite follows is a photographer from Kuwait, her name is Kulsum and her handle is @journeykitchen. I love the peek into her life, and while we live such different lives, we both love food and find inspiration in similar places. I’d love to have dinner with her one day. That’s my idea of a simple pleasure.
Which comes first when you’re developing content – the images or the idea? Ideas first, big time! We plan out all our posts before we start shooting. We have to know how were going to present the post and what kind of images we need to accomplish the main idea of the post. Even if the idea is simple, like sharing an experience, we still plan out what those important images are to capture.
You write about personal successes and failures, recipes, decorating, photography, household tips – your dogs. What are the most popular posts – and what does that say about your readers? Our most popular posts are the recipes, and any mention of our dogs coming in at a close second! We are going to start posting about our house renovation soon, and I think those posts will do well because it’s such an interesting story. The transformation is going to be pretty dramatic.
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What does that say about your readers? Well, I know our readers like food as much as we do! Looking at the posts that are popular, I think our readers live a well rounded life with great food, pets and/or kids and a beautiful home, and if they don’t they aspire to. It’s the exact reason why we like to call our content lifestyle, we really focus on living a rich, aspirational life.
You write that we live in the digital world of folk storytelling – what do you mean by that? Today we share recipes, household tips and life stories online, while 60 years ago it was shared in a small community of neighbors, religious groups, or family. We are sharing a recipes on our blog, that 60 years ago would have been hand written on an index card! It’s kind of crazy to think our culture has changed that much in 60 years, but this digital age has made it so we can share those same ideas, in a very different format.
What storytelling sites do you follow? Who are your soulmates in style? William loves the stories and recipes over at iamafoodblog.com. He enjoys watching her personal journey through food. My style soul mate is Michele Varian. We are always synced up! She has an amazing store in SoHo, where I could get lost in her jewelry collection, not to mention the wall papers and light fixtures. I also love pretty much anything that’s going on in Australia. They seem sot have such a wonderful aesthetic. I’ve never visited, but would love to one day.
What’s something your readers would be surprised to learn about you? The thing most people are shocked to learn about me is that I’m a huge fan of gangster rap and hip hop. I prefer to listen to gangster rap or opera. I find them similar - both telling social stories of their time, dramatically nonetheless! Despite William’s tattooed appearance, he didn’t get his first tattoo until after he turned 30. He became a fan of ink later in life.
You just went through a beautiful redesign of the site - congrats! What’s next? Yes, we are really excited about the redesign of House of Brinson. While I know our readers only see the front end of the site, we have a new back end too. We are on the Tempest platform and really like it. We can look at our content with a marketing eye, and tell stories in a more visual way, especially with the new homepage ‘card’ style design. We also have a few new projects in the cooker. We’re working on a photography book and planning on sharing an in-depth renovation story about Stonyford that will carry on for years. We are also working on new professional portfolios with our photography agent.
Is Stonyford really haunted? Yes, we believe it is. However our ghosts are nice and primarily make noise on the third floor. We don’t go up there much, and I’ll leave it at that.
How would you finish this sentence: When in doubt… Bake a cake. It takes about an hour to bake a cake. If I’m still feeling the same way after I finish my cake, then I know I have to deal with whatever is bugging me. I make a lot of cakes, it gives me space to step back and center myself. There’s a really good recipe for chocolate cake on the site. :)
All photos via House of Brinson.