Designer duo Robert and Cortney Novogratz talk about their shared passion and their most ambitious project to date, the renovation of The Bird Street House.
Known collectively as The Novogratz, Robert and Cortney Novogratz are an American husband and wife design team based in Los Angeles. For over 20 years, the couple has transformed fabulous properties all across America.
They began their career first in real estate in Manhattan before moving towards interior design. Fast forward to today, and The Novograts has developed quite an astounding portfolio. They’ve designed private residences for A-list clients, as well as boutique hotels such Hotel Dylan, LULU’s at the W Hoboken, Bungalow Hotel, Timber Cove and a children’s space at Ten Thousand, a luxury apartment building in Beverly Hills. In an exclusive interview, Prestige chats with The Novogratz about their career journey and their most incredible project yet: The Bird Street House.
Hello, Robert and Cortney! How are you and what have you been up to?
We have been keeping busy with several exciting new projects in both home renovation and designing new products for our brand. We recently completed a major renovation of the Bird House, a super-star project located on the much-coveted Bird Streets of Los Angeles and are completing renovations of the iconic Pink House in Greenwich Village in New York, due later this month.
We are also thrilled to share our home furnishing line at NEXT, giving international customers the opportunity to design their home with our favourite products, as well celebrity collaborations with Sarah Jessica Parker and Paris Hilton. We have many new products from Shade Store and Tempaper coming up.
Both of you are prolific designers with an impressive portfolio. Can you tell us how you first discovered your interest in interior design?
Cortney Novogratz: Robert and I gutted and renovated our very first home, a condemned brownstone in New York City in 1996. We acted as the contractors, architects, and designers. We leaned on professionals where we needed to but jumped in and figured out a lot along the way. We work together as a design duo so that helps. We love our family, and we love our work. We don’t turn one off and the other on; we try to blend them as best we can. The greatest part about working with Robert on design projects and on our family is that we always have the same goal in the end.
We’ve read that you initially managed the renovation of run-down properties in Manhattan. In a nutshell, how has your journey been from those early days to where you are today?
Robert Novogratz: We have renovated and designed many houses since then, and we are most proud of our entire home furnishings line, which offer boutique design at affordable prices, now available throughout the world. We are still gut-renovating – from the ground up – new projects all the time, and have worked all over the county, including some commercial as well as residential properties.
What is it about interior design that appeals to you?
Cortney Novogratz: A great space is like good music: it affects you emotionally. We knew that if we could bring high-end design at affordable prices, we’d be successful. We believe everyone should have access to good design that can make their home a place they want to be.
What would you say is the secret to great interior design?
Cortney Novogratz: The eclectic mix of the old brings in soul, and the new makes it happy, fun, and liveable. At the end of the day, the feeling in your home matters most, so smile and keep the doors open to all the ones you love. No matter what we’re focusing on, good design is always the priority, whether we’re acting as interior designers, product designers, real estate investors, authors, etc.
How would you describe your design language?
Lots of colour, mixing old with new, and creating a chic product range at affordable prices. It’s a mix of high and low, and art is always important to the mix.
From all of your past projects, which one that you are most proud of? And why?
We are especially proud of our California project, The Bird House, which was the most challenging project we have ever taken on, and a project that was more minimal than anything we have done before. Right now, we are obsessed with our project in New York City’s Greenwich Village, The Pink House, an iconic home that is over 200 years old and was not in good shape. It is an amazing house that our family will move into, and it has been a labour of love!
“A great space is like good music: it affects you emotionally”
Speaking about Bird Street House, can you give us a short intro to this project?
Perched upon the Hollywood Hills is a grand 1931 Spanish Modern villa with the air of star power. Spanning over 7,200 square feet, the five-bedroom, five-bath property has been given a contemporary revival.
The Bird Streets have always been an oasis for top Hollywood names. Historically, it has been one of the most desired and glamorous places to live for old Hollywood and new Hollywood. The Bird Streets has its own dining club, The Doheny Dining Club, and it is an area of quiet but very private and exclusive living.
Keeping the 1930s house true to its roots, we embraced the original layout, but made the spaces feel lighter and brighter by raising ceilings, adding steel-framed windows, opening doorways, and using modern design elements.
Someone said this house is our best-edited home, which I took as a compliment. We love lots of things, so it’s hard to edit, but the house dictated the final, streamlined look.
What made you decide to buy the house?
We bought the house in 2019 for our family to live in and started a complete gut renovation. It was one of the most ambitious projects we have ever done. We decided to go back to our long-time vacation home in The Berkshires during the lockdown, and ultimately decided we would live in New York. We bought an iconic though abandoned brownstone in NYC’s West Village – the Pink House – and decided when the LA house was finished, we would sell it and stay on the East Coast. We got the Bird House completed despite the lockdown, delays in supplies, and other issues, and we are so proud of how the house came out.
It was all about the location. And amenities like a pool house with a bar, a sauna, huge walk-in closets, an indoor courtyard, a gym, and a theatre. We wanted to create a luxurious outpost with tons of privacy, and we did that.
The Bird Street House is an iconic place located in one of the most desired and glamorous areas. Can you tell us about your vision for the redesign? What did you have in mind when you first started?
Robert Novogratz: Our vision for the Bird Street House was to bring back the original charm but digging through the layers of the tired corner property revealed countless issues. The only option was to tear the house
down and start again. We replicated the original layout – wrapped around an internal courtyard – but extended the ceilings and added another level, bringing the bedroom count to five.
Were there any particular challenges that you encountered while working on the renovation for the Bird Street House? And, more importantly, how did you manage to overcome them?
Robert Novogratz: Tackling a sloping building site can trigger stress, no matter how seasoned a design professional you are. Los Angeles construction can be very challenging. Building into a hillside is not for the faint of heart, and it was one of the main challenges in this renovation.
As to the interior design of the house, we’ve learned that you were determined to pay homage to the neighbourhood and its old Hollywood vibes. Can you elaborate on that?
We wanted to pay homage to the neighbourhood and the old Hollywood feel by staying with a Spanish design, from the classic terracotta roof tiles made in Santa Barbara to the copper gutters and white stucco.
The original internal courtyard, where indoors and out merge, reminded us so much of ‘old Hollywood’, so we made it the focal point of the home. We wanted to play the entire house off that.
How did you select the art pieces displayed in the house in a way that best reflects the venue’s character?
The house is very glamorous and in a modern way. We chose art that we felt reflected that, bold, modern pieces but still with a lot of opulence and desirability.
Do you have a favourite room or spot in the Bird Street House?
Robert Novogratz: The bar is my favourite part of the house. I’ve designed so much, but I have never done a pool house bar, and I always wanted to. We downsized the original size of the pool to leave room for a roomy pool house. We used our hotel design experiences to create a boutique environment and even planted a lime tree next to the bar to pull fruit off for fresh drinks!
Recently, you also collaborated with Paris Hilton. Can you tell us a bit about how the collaboration come about and what the project entailed?
Cortney Novogratz: We are super excited for this project as we are huge fans of Paris in all the areas her brand represents. We share female entrepreneurship, a love of Hollywood glamour that is elegant, fun, and classic with a touch of whimsy, which both Paris and I appreciate! We both love to be “extra” in everything we do and have a passion for creating stylish interiors in our own lives. We are excited to share this collection with anyone who wants their home to be luxe and special, all at an accessible price point. We are also lucky to share the love of our loyal and devoted communities above all else, just as Paris does.
PH by the Novogratz is a fresh and eclectic take on Hollywood glam with a touch of femininity, inspired by Paris Hilton’s life, taste, and love for good design.
Designed with leading manufacturer Dorel Home, the collection is premiering with living room and bedroom essentials that embrace classic neutral hues, glamorous art deco patterns, and luxurious brass accents. The perfect home furnishings for anyone looking to add both high-style and sparkle to their home.
A couple of final questions: What do you hope for yourself in the days to come? And how do you hope will the furniture/interior design industry evolve in the future?
We would like to reach more and more people with our products and design. And as for the evolution of furniture and interior design. We will all see how and where it goes and adapt as we go along. Our design aesthetic is always pretty straightforward. We have gotten perhaps more sophisticated in our business but the look is always identifiable as The Novogratz.