We’ve had a secret crush on Cortney Novogratz for as long as we can remember. We were smitten with both her design choices and her parenting style on the long-running pioneer in reality shows, 9 by Design. We love the fact that even when under stress, she breezed through her days with a smile. Now, having relocated her family to a castle in the Hollywood Hills (can we move in?), Cortney has found a fresh source of inspiration, and is working on a whole host of projects from wallpaper to furniture. We caught up with the busy mama mogul to chat about keeping her 7 kids (yes, 7!) happy, her non-negotiables when it comes to work/life balance, and about the hardest parenting moment she has conquered. Read on…
Photo Tim Geaney
Cortney, we have been fans of yours forever and love following the adventures of you and your family. You recently relocated to Los Angeles. How is life on the West Coast? How would you say your life has changed since moving from New York?
The move west was an adventure for sure. It was important for Robert and I to switch things up and to see life through a new lens for a bit. It’s hard as we get older, but anything is possible if you simply go for it. California was the unknown for all of us, and I’m so glad we chose to experience it. We had some difficulties, but all 9 of us were in it together. Los Angeles is completely different from NYC, and even though people like to compare the two cities, they can’t be compared. Each one is wonderful in its own way. We move a bit slower here and I’m learning how to maintain my garden full of flowers, citrus trees, and olive trees.
That sounds dreamy! They say that moving is one of the most stressful times in an adult’s life, but you’ve mastered it with 7 kids in tow. How do you make these transitions as seamless as possible?
Moving is hard but it can also allow you to purge, reflect, and so on. Be sure to say goodbye, whether it’s a big going away party or a small one—just create time for moments with your loved ones. I’m far from perfect, but I always try to stay positive, especially with the kids. Talk about the good parts of change instead of complaining about it. Out of 7 kids, only 1 was devastated by the move. Put yourself in your kids’ shoes, share their sadness, and remember that time heals all wounds.
That’s great advice. You’ve been incredible in building a huge brand while simultaneously building such a big family! What has been your biggest lesson when it comes to both business and motherhood? How do you juggle both?
Robert and I 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.
Photo Catherine Hall
You started your career in real estate by flipping houses. What are 3 things that buyers should look for when buying a home with the intent on redoing it?
- Location is key.
- You can bring charm to any four walls, so a wreck means a better deal.
- Focus on making wise choices within your budget – where to spend and where to cut corners.
You’ve had so many pivots in your career from house flipping and house makeovers, to a hit Bravo show, to having your own firm and products. How do you know when it’s time to move on to the next phase? What were the deciding factors for each career move?
When an opportunity comes our way, we take it. We also don’t take no for an answer. No matter what your job is, you must keep growing and evolving, particularly in a creative field. The world moves fast, so keep up. We’ve been working together for over 25 years, but in some ways I feel like we’re just getting started. I want to do it all.
We love that all of your projects have such incredible personality. You use unique pieces of furniture and art that really bring out the best in the homes. Where do you source most of these finds?
A home must have a mix of old and new—the old vintage pieces to bring in the soul, and the new to stay fresh and current. We don’t buy everything from showrooms. We like to mix high and low elements. We love the hunt and we love to create homes that reflect the person who lives there.
What do you love most about your job? The least?
The thing I love most is the ability to create, build, and design something tangible. We love collaborating with people smarter than us, and seeing jobs come to fruition. The toughest part of our job is working with demanding clients who don’t have a point of view. When our clients have opinions of their own, we can work those into the design.
Photo Catherine Hall
We loved watching you and your family on your Bravo show, 9 By Design. How was the filming experience? Would you ever do it again?
You can never say never. It was an awesome experience, and some of the crew members became friends for life. If we did it again, we’d want it to be unique. And, of course, cinematically beautiful.
You’ve partnered with major brands from CB2 to Amazon, and recently launched a wallpaper line with Tempaper. Do you have any advice for business owners to protect their own brand and identity when entering into these partnerships?
Any good relationship is about trust. If you don’t have a good gut feeling, then listen to that. All of our partners lean on us as much as lean on them.
Trust is key! Your brand is so much about putting your life out there in the public eye. Are there things rules that you try to enforce to keep work and life separate? Or do you welcome the overlap between the two?
I welcome the overlap. It allows me to be with my family and do what I love. We make mistakes like everyone, but we learn from them and move on. I don’t care what the world thinks—just the 8 folks in my life I answer to.
Was there ever a moment where you thought you were in over your head and wanted to give up?
Having twin babies and a 15-month-old was hard. The strength I gained in those first few months has stayed with me to this day. I can do more than I think. I’m stronger than I think. Life may be hard, but it can always get worse. So buck up, show up, and do your thing.
You are by far one of the busiest mamas we know. What are your non-negotiables for protecting precious family time?
We all eat as a family pretty much every night. At times we have extra folks at the table, but that is our time. It may be at a restaurant or home, but our kids know that mom and dad eat meals with them and always have.
Photo Catherine Hall
Do you have any advice for making each of your children feel special?
We allow them to be individuals. Even our two sets of twins have never dressed alike, signed up for the same classes, or gotten the same gifts. Each child—be it only one child or 7—needs attention and needs to feel special. We don’t spoil our kids; we try to keep them humble and hungry. We do our best to be at everything, but sometimes can’t. We have guilt like most parents, but we know at the end of the day that we aren’t perfect and we’re trying our best.
What are you working on next?
A new book, a fabric line, and a new hotel in Woodstock, NY. We just finished a luxury apartment building called Boston East that we’re super proud of.
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