Robert and Cortney Novogratz are living a life many dream of. The designer couple (and parents of seven children) have made it their mission to make interior design stylish — and affordable — for everyone. We spoke exclusively with Robert and Cortney about decorating for the holidays, what it’s really like to have a large family, and how design (much like themselves) is ever evolving.
The holidays are here, so how do you guys like to decorate?
Cortney: We love the holidays and I love decorating so I do prefer to kick it up a notch. I try to use everything real — a lot of greenery that we get at the Berkshires, but this year we decided to go with a big fake pink tree. We bought it at Target.
I love that you can mix and match different price points in your design, and it can all flow beautifully.
Cortney: For example, this is one of our pillows that runs around $15 mixed with one-of-a-kind pillows with a vintage sofa, so we’re constantly. To achieve the life you want, you can mix high and low all the time.
How are you guys prepping for the holidays with your kids?
Robert: Well, Cortney is really great with the holidays. We just shot our 26th holiday card and we take it very seriously because it is getting harder as the kids are getting older. We’re not together all the time, but Cortney has amazing spirit for all the holidays.
Cortney: All the seven kids have to pick a sibling that they’re going to buy a gift for. People don’t realize that he does a lot of shopping for me, and I do a lot of the wrapping and hiding it away. He’s awesome at knowing which kid needs what and what’s on their wish list.
Now, your kids’ ages range from 25-13. What is that like to navigate all those ages and stages?
Cortney: We’re now new to having adult children. You don’t know it until you know it. We’ve definitely been learning as we go.
Robert: We’ve been offered by a couple of major publishers to write a kids’ book in the last couple of years. We have a mantra of realizing that it’s not what we know, but what we’ve learned. What we’ve learned is that we keep learning. We didn’t know about social media when we had our kids, and I think many parents would say that social media is the worst part of raising children. But we keep learning; we didn’t know about Covid or the pandemic. I always laugh when parents with young kids give advice. I think, “You don’t know what you’re in for!” [laughs]
Cortney: It’s really about celebrating the good days and when one of our kids is having a tough time, it’s giving them the tools to get through it as best we can.
Robert: Life repeats itself, and a lot of parents put pressure on the first child. With your youngest, though, you’re more laid back and you let things roll of your back more easily. I will say that this younger generation is harder to raise than the older ones because of the social media.
You know, we never had a dog until about three years ago. As you can see, Cortney is in love with our dog, as I am, because after teenagers bullying us, the dog gives us unconditional love.
Speaking of things we love, let’s talk about this gorgeous home and the projects you’re working on.
The last couple of years during the pandemic we finished this house in L.A. to sell, and we got in the midst of this major house here which was quite the project. And then we spent a lot of time working on our brand. We had a big launch at Bed Bath & Beyond; we had a this year, which was a lot of fun. We started doing more charitable things. We just did a fun pop up with Cure Thrift Shop in the East Village which is a great store and for a great cause for Type A diabetes. Cortney did a makeover with Paris Hilton for A Sense of Home which is kids who have aged out of foster care so they are getting their first homes.
Cortney: With Robert for Shop the Novogratz, he’s constantly trying to not only come up with great product that is affordable as well as solid, awesome pieces, because our furniture comes in a box to your door, so that anyone can create the life that they want. Anyone can purchase our products and feel like decorators themselves. Whether it’s your first place, or you’re downsizing or you’re setting up a bedroom for two kids, there’s something for everyone. And Robert is looking at this and thinking, “This is great; how can we make it better?” It’s all about taking initiative to be ahead of things and to grow and learn. Our brand is like our 8th child.
Robert: We have a lot of fun with it. We’ve always wanted to make affordable design for the masses, and I think we’re accomplishing that. By doing it for a long time, you make mistakes, and you do some pretty great things, you keep learning, and you get lucky sometimes. We’ve always been pretty lucky.
Do you see a shift in terms of the design itself?
Cortney: Yes. We’ve been together for 30 years. We go to flea markets; we went to Art Basel again this year. Just like we change every year, we get older, you gain more wisdom. We try modern, we try old school vintage; and we’re definitely not afraid of color.
Robert: Our generation got cool by watching MTV. This generation is into Instagram, so people see stuff visually more than ever before. And now I think the younger generation will lead into that way of design that is affordable, sustainable, mindful, and since we have kids ages 25 and down, we listen to them. Our main customers are females but really for a first apartment or a first home, usually in their 20s or 30s, but we’re seeing it going younger. Home has become more important to everybody, even younger people.
I think that was one of the biggest shifts from the pandemic, was that the sense of home became so much more important.
Cortney: We are so aware that people lost loved ones in the pandemic and had hardships. But as far as the brand, we feel so grateful because even though I hate that there was a pandemic, it allowed people to be home more and put more initiative into their homes. Home has always been important to us, and hopefully we’re making it easier for people to be decorators and that they can do it.
Robert: People are using their homes for more than what they used to. They work from home, they’re entertaining more; outdoor space has become a huge part of home. I feel the role of home has changed forever.
I agree. But people can look, at your space for example, and it’s utterly beautiful, but have no clue where to start. What do you say to those people who aren’t so sure of their own design capabilities?
Cortney: Well, one of the things we do at Shop the Novogratz is we do real visuals. We’ll take a piece and style it, sometimes in our own home, and you can see how it would possibly look in your own home. We try to give people tools and inspiration to play around with it. But we understand it; that’s why we have a job because not everybody wants to pick out a paint color.
It’s intimidating for a lot of people.
Cortney: I think people should take more risks, trust themselves, and really believe in themselves. Your eye will never lie. I promise if you put it out, if something is off, it will tell you.
Robert: You do need to have a sense of who you are. Cortney always says that your home should be a reflection of who you are. It’s simple things to ask yourself how you live.
Cortney: Believe in yourself and have fun with it. Decorating should be fun. Somewhere along the way people turned it snobby and it should never be.
Now, when your kids are younger, you can design your home how you like. But then they get older, and they get “opinions”. How do you handle that?
Cortney: Well, they don’t get full range. Fortunately, we have some kids with great taste.
Robert: Not all of them! [laughs]
Cortney: We get them involved; they’re pretty cool kids. But we do talk things through.
Robert: It’s really about exposure, for adults and kids. We’ll take them to the museum or to a show. We don’t force feed them, but we do expose them to different styles and eventually it comes back to them. We were kind of cool, and then in our late 20s, we moved to SoHo in the 90s and every one of our friends was much cooler than we were. We saw so much, it felt like we were living in Paris at the time. It’s all about seeing things and exposing your eye to it.
My mom is an antiques dealer, and I was the one who went to all the flea markets and antique shows, but I also liked it.
Cortney: My mom always let me decorate my room and redecorate my room. Now, we’re not going to let our kids hang every poster but we’re definitely going to communicate with them. If you allow your child to have a voice, hopefully they’ll have more appreciation and love the home as much as you do.
Robert: You have to be comfortable in your own skin and we want to give people permission to do just that.