After falling in love with the Novogratz family years ago on their TV show, 9 By Design, I was thrilled to recently catch up with designer and matriarch Cortney Novogratz. Cortney was in town celebrating one of the husband and wife design duo’s latest product lines- A beautiful collection in collaboration with The Shade Store, and happily discussed all things design…
How did the whimsically wonderful Novogratz design empire start? Do you and your husband Robert come from design backgrounds?
So 25 years ago we bought a building in Manhattan and we literally learned everything on the job. Then we were then lucky enough to rent that space to Susan Vega, the singer/songwriter, and so she kind of kick started our career. We learned everything on the job, and we haven’t stopped learning since. We didn’t go to design school but now 25 years later it feels like we did! Each project has been different and taught us so much.
As someone who loved your Bravo show 9 By Design, I have to ask- Are you still doing “flips”?
We’ll always do flips! We’re not the kind of couple to just finish a house and live and die in it. For the rest of our lives we’ll always be flipping our own homes. It’s too much fun! But now we’re also doing a lot of products and we do jobs for other people. We’re doing a lake house. We’re doing a hotel in Sonoma. It’s a creative business so I’m never sure exactly what we’ll be doing in two years. It’s so exciting to see what type of opportunities come up. We have a new book in the works with Rizzoli again. It’s on our home in Brazil. We’ve owned this home for ten years, and we designed it to rent it out to pay for it, but we also go as a family. It’s really fun!
What tips do you have for readers looking to increase their property value or flip a home?
The kitchen is important! The whole dynamic now of owning a home has changed. I think less is best, quality is always what’s most important. Having a beautiful spa-like bathroom. Of course you can personalize with things like drapes and wallpaper. Textures and layers are always exciting. We also look to things like throw pillows and rugs for that. You can say your home is a reflection of who you are, but in terms of resale you’ve got a great foundation of appliances, kitchen, and of course location is important.
Do you have an all time favorite room or space you’ve designed?
I love the lobby of the Hotel Bungalow because it has a foosball table, a ping pong table. For example when my husband and I stayed there with our kids we checked in late and there were children in their pajamas playing pool while their parents were at the bar drinking and it was exactly what we had envisioned and always wanted it to be. That’s why it’s my favorite space.
[Hotel Bungalow image via TheNovogratz.com]
Do you and Robert have the same taste? Any differences in aesthetic?
We do have the same taste! Even 25 years ago we’d go to a Paris flea market, split up, and end up finding the exact same things. Sometimes he will buy some really crazy art that I’ll second guess but it always ends up putting a smile on my face however we end up using it. For the most part we do have extremely similar taste, but I do find that we design for a lot of couples where opposites attract and it’s important to remind them that they found each other for a reason. It’s nice that we work together and have the same aesthetic, but we realize when we’re working that not everyone does and we like to try to ease that anxiety for people.
I’ve always admired your incorporation of art in your designs. Who are your favorite artists at the moment?
I love Lisa Ruyter. I love Donald Baechler, who’s been around for years. Vik Muniz. The great thing there are places like Art Space, so that people who might not have an art collection can start one. There are original prints and opportunities to buy limited edition. I think the art world, just like the design world, has really opened up to be accessible to more people, and it’s just such a great thing. Art is very important in life, and people no matter how young they are should start collecting.
What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken in a space?
We’ve wallpapered the ceiling, the walls, the doors, plus matching fabric! Not to mention, it was a busy print. We also did a bedroom in a very bright yellow once, then before the clients walked in we gave everybody sunglasses. It was very fun!
One of the many reasons I always loved your TV show was your beautiful family. How are all the kids doing these days?
Everybody’s great! Wolfgang is now a senior in high school. The youngest, Major, is six. We recently moved from New York to LA, so everything is fresh, new and exciting. We’re vulnerable at times. We’re excited at times. But it’s been a good transition, there’s a lot of really neat things happening in LA right now. We recently went to the theater at the new ACE Hotel in downtown Los Angeles with two of my sons, and we saw Pop-Up Magazine talk about media and advertisement and social and commercials. For me it was great because it really showed what LA was founded on, but spun a whole new way with start-up companies and the music scene. It’s also a total foodie town, and now that Uber is there it’s a little more accessible to live there. We probably wouldn’t be able to live there without it because of how we’re so used to hoping on trains and buses in Manhattan. We’re New Yorker’s at heart, but this will be a great chapter. It’s important for everyone to step outside of themselves and see things fresh once in awhile.
What exciting projects are on the horizon for you, Robert and the family?
The hotel in Sonoma! It’s called Timber Cove. It’s on the coast of Sonoma. The property has 50 rooms and it’s right where you see seals come up on shore, it’s incredible. It’s a destination hotel. So there will be weddings and company retreats, etc. We’re going to have a lot of great art, so if you’re staying there there will be plenty to talk about. Robert and I are basically living out all our design fantasies through this hotel.
[Photos By Hallie Duesenberg]