Home Front: Robert and Cortney Novogratz on design trends and home renovation

Nov 08, 2012

Robert and Cortney Novogratz are known for their unique design aesthetic and their TV programs: Bravo's 9 By Design and HGTV's Home by Novogratz. Raised in Virginia and Georgia respectively, Robert and Cortney now make their home in New York City with their seven children. They'll be online to chat with Washington Post readers about new design trends, home renovation tips and how they achieve their signature Novogratz look.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. Got a question about decorating? She's happy to whip out her paint chips and suggest the perfect hue, call a retailer to help track down a hard-to-find accent piece or offer some do-it-yourself. Built on years of reporting experience, Home Front is an online conversation about the best way to feather the nest. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and, yes, the occasional complaint.

Follow @jurakoncius on Twitter.

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Thrilled to have Robert and Cortney Novogratz here chatting today. They have a new book out. HOME BY NOVOGRATZ and of course their TV show on HGTV is a huge hit. Parents of seven children, these designers are full of ideas for surf shacks, lofts and tired ranch houses. Let's get rolling!

Am in an old 1960's condo with low (8') walls. My style is contemporary/modern. Is stainless for the kitchen (appliances) dead? If so, what's next? I have a very tiny galley kitchen that HAS to be updated w/new appliances, counters, floors, and cabinet facings as early in 2013 as I can afford (budget is VERY TIGHT). Changing the layout is NOT an option, any suggestions? Love you guys!

We love Blue Star..You can pick really fun colors  for appliances..We also love the modern cabinets at Ikea..We usually change the hardware to make them a little more special..

what is the trend for bath and shower walls? i am leaning towards whole slab marble for shower walls, as a departure from the expected tile work.

That sounds great. We love using subway tile for a classic yet inexpensve look..We sometimes will do one signature wall with a more expensive or splashy look.

what are your opinions on flooring for remodeling a house? and if i keep my wood flooring, do you recommend going dark or light? I believe that dark will show a lot of scratches and dings, no?

I prefer lighter..One great look is quartersawn white oak..Wont break the bank yet is amazing..

I have a very narrow galley kitchen I have lived with for 12 years. We have a older, small rambler home with three active kids, about 1,500 square feet or a little less. We want to knock a wall down and double two of the kids up and open up our floor plan on the first floor, and I am really struggling. Every inch counts. How do I design this so it works for our family? Are there websites I should look at?

We love to open up walls and spaces. It really changes a space. We love Apartment Therapy, Design Milk and Design Sponge as per ideas/blogs..

Are there any good furniture consignment stores in the DC metro area? Now that Upscale Resale no longer has a store. Thanks

We love Miss Pixies in D.C. 

My son is 4 and we're updating his room. I have a navy and white striped duvet cover, honey colored wood, and want to paint the walls green. I'm trying to find a green that looks good now, but isn't too pastel (babyish) to live with him for a while. Can you recommend any good Benjamin Moore greens? Thanks!

Try Benjamin Moore Grape Green..2027 40

Welcome. Love your TV show. What projects are you working on now?

Thanks...We are designing  a boutique hotel,a home in Seattle, a Alist celebs place in NYC,new product line and on a book tour..Having fun but busy..

What are your favorite neutrals?

We use linen white..We try to keep it simple ...

WOW! I can't believe the luck Home Front would have my two top favorite designers today. I just want to say THANK YOU very much for your program on Bravo and HGTV - you rock! I have learned so much and I absolutely love your style and your choices in artwork. I am into urban style and graffiti art and have learned so much from you. You are both sensational! Kat in Key West FL.

Thanks so much..We love graffitti art and  collect a lot of the young artist..cortney

Don't you have relatives in the DC area? Did you grow up here? If so, what were your favorite DC destinations.

Yes I grew up in the Mt Vernon area...Love Old Towne and Georgetown..The Fish Market was our fave..

I love that you gave the prices of renovations in your book. Was it hard to convince the owners to give the real cost?

We really felt it was important as we wanted the reader to know exactly how we accomplished each job..

How can I make our master bedroom more fun, romantic, inspired? We have a white leather upholstered headboard and king bed, neutral bedding, and gray walls. Definitely need color but how/where? I love color but am a bit nervous with applying it. It's a big space, too.... thanks!

We been putting wallpaper on ceilings...We also aply it on the focal wall in the bedromm ..Places like Matter,Walnut and Collective have great papers..

What are some of your favorite sources in New York City? I'm going up there for a weekend and would love to have some new shops to visit.

We love Mantiques,Adelaide,Paula Rubensteins to name a few..Our new book is filled with NYC sourcing..

Do you see any of your kids following in your designer footsteps? Love all their names!

Thanks so much..Yes definetly..With our kids we try to expose them with as much ass possible and let them figure out what they are into..Our hope is they all find their passions in life..

Do you think stainless is the best classic choice for kitchen appliances?

You cant go wrong with stainless..Take a look at Blue Star which comes in groovy colors..

Do you have any fun tips for nurseries? We are expecting our first (a girl) in Feb. What vendors or items do you recommend?

We included a really cool nursery in our new book..Its a transtional room that you wont have to change when your baby gets older..as per vendors..Bye Bye Baby and Ikea has great stuff..ps hang some cool art and play nice music in the nursery..

Hi Jura. Can you help me update my dining room. I have a big farm table and I'd like to buy some chairs that are not too matchy matchy. I would also like a rug but I have two children, one of whom is still a bit sloppy. I like a sort of urban country look -- not the store but the style. What do you suggest?

Lucky you. Starting with a farm table is already ahead of most people. Have you considered buying all different vintage chairs? I really like how that looks. Check out an auction house   - if you are in DC try Weschler's or Sloans & Kenyon. They have great vintage chair sets for very reasonable prices. If you have wood floors, why don't you just let the farm table sit on bare wood until your kids get a little bit neater in terms of dropping food on the floor.

You might want to check out our new chairs called the stick around chair at cb2.com..They were based on the ones we have in our home..

Jura, I'm trying to update my look from Ikea, hand-me-downs and craigslist. I've been scouring blogs and gathering tearsheets from magazines and I finally have a little money to spend. Where do I start?

We love the new appliances at Ikea but we chage out the hardware with expensive hardware from Restoration Hardware..Its a great look ..as per expensice cabinets we love Boffi..We always buy a floor model at 50 percent off

Try West Elm,CB2,Mitchel Gold,and Crate and Barrel..

I'm already thinking about decorating my fireplace mantel for the holidays. I've never done it and I'd really like to this year. I'm not really traditional but I'm not really modern either. What do you suggest that's not too overdone?

I've started pinning a lot of very cool, simple and inexpensive natural holiday decorating ideas on my pinterest board.

www.pinterest.com/jurakoncius. Check it out. I've seen beautiful clear glass votive candles like you'd get at the Dollar Store wreathed in a tiny circle of greens and lined up on a mantel - like 12 of them. This looks very cool. I also like green apples fitted with votives lined up on a mantel. I would definitely begin by taking everything off a mantel and doing something simple and natural.

Love your CB2 stuff. What will be in the next collection?

Thanks so much..We have a huge collection coming this spring..We cant announce just yet what that will be but much more furniture than the current one..

You two have busy lives! Between managing businesses and family life, what do you two do to break away and reconnect as a couple?

We love what we do and are currently on a book tour seeing the country together..We are having the time of our lives..cortney 

Going to Charlottesville this weekend -- any good design/ furniture/ consignment shops to check out?

Unfortunately we dont know any..Roberts older sister went to UVA and we have visted the area...My gut tells me their are great finds with all those amazing homes ..

Jura I've been reading your chat and your articles for years but I'd like to know a little bit about what you love about your own home. If someone handed you $1,000 and you had to spend it on your home, what would you buy?

You are so nice to ask! Sometimes I think my own 1930s colonial brick home is a bit stuck in the 1980s, which is when I bought and decorated it.In 1990 I became a mom and my attention and cash went elsewhere.  I have a lot of traditional things and a lot of personal things, antiques from my husband's family in New York and New England and some Lithuanian treasures from my own family. I want to add a more modern chandelier in the dining room, where I have a square chocolate brown sisal rug and a round dining table. The walls are Palladian Blue Benjamin Moore. It is a relatively small room so I have to get the right scale and hang it the right height. I think I'd use the $1000 for that, maybe a lantern style fixture.

Jura, at what age do you recommend letting your child make decisions about their room? My daughter is 10 and her room looks a lot like it did when she was 5. What kind of changes do you recommend?

We try to navigate the child to cool designs..We are big on a work place in the room for a child..Less toys,more creativity and a area for them to create,design,draw,and learn..

What are your favorite places to find good looking organizing stuff besides The Container Store?

Bed Bad and Beyond and Ikea. We love to use vintage things -- baskets, lockers etc.

Hi Jura, love your chat. I want to do a few quick fixups for my dining room before the holidays. What do you recommend?

I could use a few myself. First, give the room a thorough cleaning. Check the chairs and see if they are sturdy or need to be reglued. Use furniture polish on the wood pieces; dust and wipe off everything else. Does the room need a new coat of paint? If there is a glass fronted cabinet, take everything out and rearrange it nicely and artfully. Consider hanging small plain greenery or wreaths on windows, artworks or mirrors. Invest in a festive but long lasting centerpiece such as a rosemary tree, a boxwood ball or a small olive tree topiary. I got a lovely olive plant at Whole Foods about three weeks ago in a plain wooden box for $19 and I just love it at the center of my round table. Do you need new linen napkins, tablecloths or placemats. Check out outlets such as Crate & Barrel in Alexandria or Home Goods.

changle the bulbs iin your lights to fin color..change out your end chairs to something vintage..cool candles,,

So nice to see your family in the pics! Do you ever get to design for other large families?

We love to design for families..We had a blast in Oklahoma doing The Pioneer Womans girlds bedroom..We brought our teen age daughters along for some help..

I have a post and beam home in rural vermont and there is so much wood, pine beams, pine ceiling, pine decking floors. Our mudroom is unfinished, rough pine barnboards. It is dark, but I am chicken to paint the natural wood. What do you think?

We did this for Tony Hawks ski house in Mamoth California ..He had pine ..The white paint transformed the space..The space is in our new book..

Great show! I was wondering if you had any helpful advice for us... we have low ceilings on the lower level of our house. Short of digging down a couple feet or wallpaper, what would you recommend? I've heard that painting the celing and walls the same color might help? Or maybe trying a glossy/shiny paint on the ceiling (to reflect light)? I'd also be interested in any ideas you have for lighting since any light fixture I can think of would feel a little too low, yet pocket lights are difficult/expensive to have installed.

Paint the ceiling ,moldings and walls al the same color..maybe lined white..

What is your favorite bedding? For kids - what makes the most sense?

We love crisp white sheets with vintage blankets or quilts...Its a fun unique look..

Read my book review of Home by Novogratz as one of the Best Design Books of Fall here.

Hi. Within the next year, my husband I will be moving our two sons into a bunk bed. I'd love for something more modern looking, but not at a very high cost. Any suggestions for where to look for one under $1,000? Thanks! P.S. We love your show.

Check out land of nod...we had a carpenter build a really fun one for some triplets..Its in our new book..The fun part is you can customize it that way..

I love the Blue Star ranges, but sadly my home doesn't have gas. Can we have some love for people who have to use electric ranges?

Miele makes a cool electric one..

Have you ever done any projects in the Washington area?

We wish as Robert grew up there..We love the D.C. area..

What are your secrets for organizing with seven children?

We dont have a lot of clutter..Our kids have toys but not too many..

Love the Novogratzes! Seriously can't imagine how you do it all! I have two growing boys with very small rooms (think closet plus twin bed). I am thinking that loft beds will give them more space and storage. Pottery Barn loft beds are too big, Room and Board not exactly right. How do I source built-ins? Any other ideas? Thanks!

You should get a local carpenter to build you one..Our new book has some fun bed ideas for kids...Its basically the same proce as purchasing..

Is nickel the only thing to go with?

Polished chrome or copper  is a great alternative 

Help! I have a burnished oil-finish cherry desk from Harden, which I have loved for many years. However, it sits near a window, where my kitten's water dish is, and I learned recently that she has started preferring her paws for drinking and splashing water. The result is a lot of water spots on the side of the desk. Any thoughts on removal (of the spots, not the cat)? A friend recommend Scott's Liquid Gold, but I'm a little leery with the rubbed oil finish, similar to what is used on Mission furniture.

It might need a light sanding..you might want to refer to a carpenter on this..

I have two wooden chairs with footstools that are in great shape, but the cushions are shot (not high quality to begin with, and the chairs are in a family room and get hard use from kids). I got one quote for $1200 to make six custom cushions -- and the chairs themselves only cost about $400 12 years ago. Any suggestions for AFFORDABLE options for new cushions?

that seem high...we do this all the time in Hoboken New Jersey..I would google some sources in your area..

Hi we have a finished basement that we want to make more fun, inviting. the walls are white, red comfy couch and floor is dark cherry-type pergo. Any tips on giving this space some energy or spunk?

Yes we included a basement in our new book..We actually installed a slide into the basement..we love colorful carpet tiles...open thespace as per the layout and got rid of all the clutter..

Hi Bob and Cortney, love your work! Our 9-year-old son's room is tiny. We have looked at the loft beds that have a desk underneath and wondered if we should go that route. I think he will like it now, but will it make sense for him in 3 years? Would love your thoughts. Thanks!

def..we did this in our new book..a 250 sqaure foot room for triplets..it came ourt amazing..

I inherited a lot of brown furniture from my family. Is there any way to make it cool?

mmmm..maybe get some cool throws or vintage pillows?

Do you think sisal is okay for a bedroom? It is so scratchy. What is an alternative natural floor covering?

I love it..check out Flor Carpet tiles..gave some great options

Now that you have a TV show and a book and a successful decorating business, what is next?

We are working hard on our product line...lots of fun and a new adventure..

We all have favorite items and works of art we adore but I am curious - what do Cortney and Robert treasure the most in their home (after their adorable children of course!)

We love our huge Queen piece by artist Ann Carrington

Updating my living room, had 3 brass lamps. Feel like they look really dated. Bought a crystal lamp, another pewter, and possibly keeping one of the brass. Now I'm wondering if they are too different? I have more pewter/silver tone than brass on picture frames/other objects in the room. Love your chats. Thanks for the help.

I think your instincts ae correct,,brass is sometimes hard in that way 

Thanks so much Cortney and Robert. We really appreciate your being on the chat with your busy book tour. Great answers and tips and we all look forward to your next big adventure!

In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering, organizing and DC retail.

Home Q&A archive
Robert and Cortney Novogratz
For more than two decades, Robert and Cortney Novogratz have been designing, traveling, and collecting new pieces, refurbishing vintage home goods and creating original furniture when they couldn't find the right look in the marketplace. They are known to millions worldwide through their design firm, their unique aesthetic, and their TV programs, first Bravo's 9 By Design and now HGTV's Home by Novogratz. Raised in Virginia and Georgia respectively, Robert and Cortney now make their home in New York City with their seven children: Wolfgang (age 15), Bellamy and Tallulah (14), Breaker (11), Five and Holleder (7), and Major (3).
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