Design Details: A Chat with Cortney & Robert Novogratz

Apartment Therapy Interview

Designers Cortney and Robert Novogratz, who are possibly as well-known for their many children as for their bold modern vintage-inspired style, launched their first home furnishings collection this year.

Based around the idea of family and inspired by their own experiences, their collection for CB2 begins with a few bold pieces that play well with many styles of decor, whether you prefer modern, traditional or a unique and eclectic blend. I had the chance to ask the two busy designers a few questions -- about their style, their inspiration and their tips for keeping things sane despite the chaos!

So Robert, Cortney, tell me, how did this partnership with CB2 get started?
We have been shopping at CB2 ever since they opened their Soho Store, so it was a no-brainer when they approached us. Our philosophies on design and family vibed perfectly together.

It's no secret that you guys are known for your easy decor style and your big family. Did you plan to have a big family or did it just happen? And do you think your style evolved from having a home that had to be easy to live in with kids, or was that your style from the beginning, even when you were first living together?
We never planned on seven kids, yet we have loved every minute of having a large family. Our kids are huge inspirations to us and we keep evolving with them. One constant is you can co-exist with kids and cool design. Our kids are much cooler than us, so we're constantly talking to them or seeing images on Youtube that they show us. To be relevant you must listen to the youth.

I understand that "family" is the inspiration for this collection; were they based on pieces that you have in your own home?
Yes, we created a prototype of the Family Rug and the light boxes, and we got amazing feedback from people who visited our home and saw them. We also featured them on our show last year and got an amazing response from the fans. We knew we had something special with the Family design.

We've moved from separate kitchen/dining/living rooms to family rooms that incorporate aspects of all three of these rooms. What elements do you think are essential for making these rooms look and feel homey and comfortable?
We feel the dining table is the most important piece and is often the center of the home. Personally, we work, dine, do homework, or you name it in our kitchen around the dining table. Choosing the right sofa is also very important. Sometimes all nine of us pile onto ours to watch a movie and durability is definitely as important as style, as our gang is pretty wild!

I love this dining room table! I don't understand why more dining room tables don't incorporate drawers. Do you sit down for dinner together as a family every night? What other activities take place at the dining table in your home?
Yes, we have our office in our home so our table is very communal. We have everything from meetings to birthday parties at our table and the drawers have papers, pencils, crayons, you name it. Our CB2 table was inspired by our own dining table, which was originally a lab table at a college in Paris.

With so many people in your house, what are your secrets for avoiding chaos and clutter?
Yes, Robert throws out the clutter when I (Cortney) am not looking. Actually, we hate clutter. We give away excess toys and clothing, etc. to local charities about twice a year. We love open spaces where creativity is encouraged and kids and adults can roam freely. We really love the way Europeans design and live.

Do you find a lot of furniture in your house has multiple purposes? What are some essential double duty pieces you think everyone should consider having in their home?
Yes, we're constantly rearranging the furniture in our own home. A great chair looks good in any setting and when we designed the Stick Around chairs, we definitely imagined them being used in a variety of ways, like you mentioned. The idea behind the chair's design was that it would look great and function at a dining table, as a desk chair, or even as a place to sit in your bedroom and put on your shoes. Tables can be used in the same manner and can be a place where you gather as a family to eat dinner, or where you host work meetings, or family parties. Our philosophy is that there are no rules when it comes to design, and that design should always be fun. Some of our most unique pieces that serve double duty stem from this way of thinking — for example, a lamp made entirely of Legos — it serves as a source of light, as an interactive "toy" that's meant to be changed and added to, and as a sculptural element. We try to design kids' rooms with sophistication and adult spaces with a sense of humor and fun elements.

Thanks Robert & Cortney!

(Images: Main: The Novograz Gallery:CB2)