Don’t hate them because they’re beautiful. “Them” being design couple Bob and Cortney Novogratz, their seven children, a coterie of assistants and contractors, and the other main character in this production, a new showcase home on the West Side Highway in lower Manhattan. Now that the Novogratz show has hit the bigtime — their firm Sixx Design is the subject of an upcoming reality program on Bravo, the New York Times and the Times of London have recently profiled the duo, their first book was just published by Rizzoli — we had to wonder, what makes them tick (and keeps them sane).
We stopped by the family’s newly renovated house on West Street, formerly an S&M club, for a tour and quick chat. The façade is white and windowed, with striking faux bois laminate by Richard Woods on the street level. An informal yet practiced collector, Bob Novogratz already had some of Wood’s fine art pieces from his university days in the family’s collection. After passing through a long hallway with the biggest and best-used coat rack we’ve ever witnessed in New York City, the floor opens onto a basketball court-cum-movie room. Up the stairwell, constructed by a local welder of milled steel with no structural foundation, is the main living area with a kitchen facing the Hudson River, and a den facing the rear garden, accessible through a sliding glass garage door. Flooring throughout the five-story building is zebrawood, a gorgeous though not exactly thrifty African hardwood that speaks to the Novogratzes’ escalating success as designers: floors in their second renovation project, a corner building on Thompson Street in Soho, were ruined by water damage from a flood and left as is.
The lasting impression of a Sixx-designed space is, as Bob Novagratz says, “a party that people don’t want to leave.” And party is a word they know well. Despite an ever-hectic schedule of filming, work, and travel, they’ve thrown four shindigs at the house in the last three weeks, including an end-of-season celebration for their son’s basketball team on the roof deck.
Particularly impressive is the couple’s art collection. They don’t follow the Julian Schnabel playbook in which every piece looks like an auction catalog, instead they hand-select pieces that both blend in with and elevate the greater aesthetic. “Always buy young artists” is one Novogratz maxim, and that price is relative, so good art can be found on any budget. Their current abode demonstrates this principle, as one floor holds an enormous wall piece by up-and-coming Brooklyn artist Heidi Cody next to a windmill sculpture by Maarten Bas, while another floor reveals a custom installation piece by “first lady of architecture” Zaha Hadid.
Upcoming design projects include a community gym in Hoboken, styled to resemble old-school German gyms of the 1940s and ’50s; a 5000 square-foot Hamptons home decorated on a shoestring in under 60 days; a two-family house for a design writer on East 4th Street, and a boutique hotel opening in Williamsburg.
Taste is a tricky beast to pinpoint, but Sixx Design relies on a few signatures moves that yield bold yet liveable spaces. Follow along and take notes:
– Slick, modern bathrooms with rustic accessories and candelabra over the soaking tub. – Artwork by Ann Carrington, including a mother-of-pearl Queen Elizabeth stamp and a Michael Jordan portrait fabricated from old basketballs. – Flea market finds, like the twelve un-refurbished Queen Anne chairs scored at the Brooklyn Flea and mirrors sourced from French salvage shops. – Kid-friendly décor: a garage door opening the interior living space onto an outside patio, an informal screening room, and clutter-free gallery (slash cartwheel) space throughout. – Bright shades of yellow, orange, and purple on a clean white background.