In the 25 years Cortney and Robert Novogratz have been together, they have transformed dozens of properties all over the world, inspired multiple product deals with the likes of furniture store CB2 and Walmart, written a handful of books, and starred in a couple of reality shows. Oh, and they also had 7 children.
In short, they have become the poster couple — poster family, really — of hip, eclectic do-it-yourself design. And it seems they’re just getting started.
The Novogratz aesthetic is Brady-Bunch-meets-Jonathan-Adler, with plenty of pops of colour, vintage works of art, quirky furniture, and a welcoming vibe.
Perhaps the best example of their style is their NYC West Village townhouse that was renovated and featured prominently on Bravo’s show “9 by Design.” Fans of the series will recognise the glass garage door that opens onto the living room, quirky chandeliers, and the huge black rug with “Family” written in large white letters. (Though it’s yet to find a buyer for its $US17.95 million price tag, supermodel Heidi Klum is staying there this summer.)
But it’s not just Manhattan townhouses. The Novogratz clan has taken on worldwide projects, like flipping hotels in Woodstock, NY, restoring homes in Brazil, and making tons of money in brand sponsorships along the way.
The couples’ passion for restoration and design has become their career, and the whole family is along for the ride.
Before their kids came along (Wolfgang, 17 is the oldest, his twin sisters Bellamy and Tullulah are 16, Breaker is 14, another set of twins, Holleder and Five, are 8, and the youngest is 6-year-old Major) it was just Cortney and Robert, who met at a party in North Carolina in 1992. It was love at first sight.
'We wanted the same things out of life,' Cortney told Tech Insider. 'And we definitely both wanted a lot of children.' After moving together to New York City in 1993, Cortney tried her hand at acting while Robert began working in finance at Smith Barney.
Two years later, the pair spent some time searching for a home. They both loved interior design and knew they wanted to purchase something they could makeover. They ended up with the cheapest house they could find -- a condemned brownstone on 19th Street in Manhattan's then-up-and-coming Chelsea neighbourhood, where apartments now sell for as much as $8 million.
But in 1995? The Novogratz used Robert's Wall Street bonus to purchase the entire building for $450,000.
The brownstone needed work. Cortney and Robert spent an additional $400,000 getting their new home up to code, completely gut-renovating the building and overhauling the floorplan while still keeping historical touches like the central curving staircase. They acted as the general contractors as well as the designers, learning everything as they went along. The house was finished within seven months -- and that's including the time the couple took off to get married in 1997.
'Very fast considering that it was a total gut job,' Robert said. 'We turned it into a two-family home and rented the bottom out initially to get enough rent to pay our mortgage. Then a celebrity wanted to rent the top (portion of the building) for three times the mortgage, so we moved downstairs to the garden apartment.' Though Tech Insider doesn't have pictures of that first home, you can see what the process might have been like below from a client's before and after kitchen.
By 1999, the couple had flipped 2 more buildings in Manhattan's SoHo neighbourhood, and became parents to their firstborn Wolfgang and a set of twins, Tallulah and Bellamy. Below is another example from a client of the Novogratz's talented design work.
Here's one last view of that client's backyard that the Novogratz couple overhauled. You might think this would be where the average couple starts to slow down. But the Novogratz' are anything but average. 'Our family really goes hand in hand with our careers,' Cortney told Tech Insider. 'As our family has grown, the opportunities we've had have also grown.'
It wasn't until 2008 when they put their house at 5 Central Market Square on sale for $18 million that they purchased in 2004 for a little over $1.5 million that the world began really paying attention to Cortney and Robert.
The New York Observer's interest was piqued, followed by a 2009 profile in The New York Times. By 2010, the Novogratz family had become a bonafide cash cow brand. Their family-friendly approach to DIY products was primed for audiences on Bravo ('9 by Design') and HGTV ('Home by Novogratz'), which lasted one season and two seasons, respectively.
Thanks to their shows, the Novogratz family is prime for platforms like Pinterest and Facebook, where tons of users visit to research and plan for their own DIY design adventures.
Brands started sniffing around soon after, and in 2012, CB2 gave the family their own wildly successful furniture line.
Then there was Old Navy, who signed on the Novogratz 9 for a Christmas collection and their own Old Navy commercial. Not every brand can be a good fit, Cortney explained to us, but Old Navy 'felt right.' 'It was the holidays, it was about the family, and it was something we could do with the kids,' Cortney said. 'It was a win-win.' The collection sold out.
Then came a bedding and bath collection at Walmart, a dinner wear collection at Macy's, a Shutterfly pattern line, and an alarm clock collection from audio company Soundfreaq.
All the while, they continued renovating! There was the Nolita townhouse with a rooftop basketball court, the vacation villa in Brazil, and the boutique Bungalow Hotel in New Jersey where Robert tells us it's very hard to get a room. The list goes on and on.
When you visit the Novogratz website, it's not just their properties that are front and center. The Novogratz kids steal the spotlight. Both parents say their work and home life blend constantly, and that they're raising their children to work as hard as they do.
'With the kids, we've raised them (to understand) that there are expectations for them,' he said. 'I told someone the other day (that) we're not like stage parents, we're more like cheerleaders for our kids.'
Cortney agrees, adding that they try to encourage each child's individual interests, whether it's Breaker making a music video in their backyard, Wolfgang working towards a college scholarship for basketball, or Bellamy, who just landed her dream home design internship this summer -- with her parents.
The Novogratz told me that every child has a distinct personality -- from 'artsy' Tallulah to 'funny guy' Five. If the Novogratz family name is the umbrella brand, it feels as though the Cortney and Robert see potential for off-shoot brands in each of their kids.
The close knit family of nine say they are now in a transitional phase. After two decades in Manhattan, the Novogratz clan traded the museums and subways of New York to the sun and traffic of Los Angeles; a place that is 'having a moment,' Cortney and Robert tell us.
If you thought moving to LA meant embodying the more relaxed ethos of SoCal, think again. 'We're doing a hotel in Northern California, we're finishing two jobs in New York,' Cortney ticks items off of a list, 'and we did a house a year ago in LA. Right now, we're in a holding pattern until we finish The Castle.'
'The Castle' is the latest Novogratz project, currently under construction in the Hollywood Hills near the famous Chateau Marmont. Cortney said it's her favourite property they've done so far.
The Novogratz duo have been keeping fans apprised of their plans on Pinterest. There will be olive trees in the backyard, ivy-covered walls, a wine cellar, and even a ground trampoline.
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