America’s first family of design on keeping things colourful, taking on the establishment and their seriously energetic interiors..
Cortney and Bob Novogratz are the Beckhams of the design world – attractive, terrifyingly ambitious and with a sense of the family as brand unlike any other.
Over the past 25 years, the couple, with their seven children in tow, have taken on the stuffy, regimented world of American interior design, injecting their own colourful, contemporary and uplifting style into more than 70 different residential and commercial projects.
Behind the family’s high cheekbones and the Tommy Hilfiger-style photo shoots, there’s real substance – an uncanny perception for what makes people want to live in a space.
How did you get started?
About 20 years ago, we bought a dilapidated old townhouse in Chelsea, New York City. We put everything we had into it and loved doing it up – we also found we were quite good at it. Homes, architecture and design were things we’d always been interested in. Bob’s parents were antiques dealers, so he’d spent a lot of time at flea markets surrounded by great pieces. Once we’d done that initial project, we rented the house out and ended up buying two more properties in SoHo with the cash. Then Bob quit his day job [in real estate] to do this full time.
With the Centre Market project, you reworked an entire street – how did you approach that?
We got lucky. Centre Market was on the fringe of SoHo and Little Italy and we managed to predict that the area was on the up. It was actually on the market for a long time – they were just old gun stores and the buildings were in a totally dilapidated state. We always say, the worse condition, the better – because it scares most people away! Most of the time when you go into a property that you’re going to refurb, you’re fixing everything anyway, so there’s no difference between taking out an ugly refrigerator or a really ugly refrigerator.
What is the Novogratz look?
It’s an eclectic mix of modern, clean lines sprinkled with vintage items, pops of colour and large art – the bigger, the better.
How do you use colour and pattern in your projects?
Colour is just paint, so if you don’t like it, you can change it. And you can always take more risks in bedrooms because they’re separate from the rest of the space and don’t have as much flow. We do a lot of feature walls – so we might do the wall behind the bed with a real pop of colour. We just like to have fun with it and sometimes we’ll go all white, then the furniture and art will bring in the colour.
Which are your go-to brands to work with?
We use CB2, who we design for, that’s Crate&Barrel 2. We also work with Kartell, The Rug Company and ABC Carpet & Home. I would say those four more than any others. They’re all pretty modern and all have cool new designs.
Any advice for those starting on a renovation project?
Start as fresh as possible, with white walls as a blank canvas. Try to find one great piece, whether it’s vintage or new, as a focal point. Play around with the scheme too – you don’t have to have it perfect on the first day. Get the essentials, then enjoy the process – it’s fun. It will evolve. Also, if you’ve bought the place, put the money into where it’s most needed – the kitchen, the bathroom – so you’re not wasting it.
How do you stay creative?
Kids keep you creative. We have a 21-year-old down to a nine-year-old. They keep us in touch with music, stuff on YouTube… We take inspiration from everywhere. We love big cities – London, Paris, São Paulo.
What’s your design process?
We always try to do something different from the start. Any time you do a hotel or a home, it’s an opportunity to do something different, interesting and creative. Why would you want your home to look like everyone else’s?
What’s your favourite thing about what you do?
That it’s a tangible process. You go into a project, you start with a vision and you finish with a party. It’s either genius, good or it sucks… Hopefully, it doesn’t suck, a few times it’s genius and a lot of the time it’s pretty good. Then you go on to the next one. We love that.
How often do you revamp your own homes?
Cortney probably does it every 90 days. We’re a little obsessed with that. We always do something in the spring to freshen up each of our homes.
To find out more, visit thenovogratz.com
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