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Dynamic Duo: Popular designers solve common problems in new book

By Khristi Zimmeth
Special to The Detroit News

It’s a tempting premise – for every design dilemma, there’s a solution. How to reconcile two different decorating styles? Check. How to bring warmth and soul to a new build? Check. How to buy interesting art on a budget? Check.

Answers to these common conundrums and many more can be found within the 224 photo-filled pages of “Novogratz Design Fix: Chic and Stylish Solutions For Every Decorating Scenario,” (Rizzoli; $45), the latest coffee table book by the dynamic duo Cortney and Robert Novogratz, authors of “Downtown Chic” and “Beachside Bohemian” and veterans of popular HGTV and Bravo shows.

Bob and Cortney Novogratz

Released this spring, it features more than a dozen of their personal and professional projects from 15 years in business as examples. The book poses and offers ideas for many common design issues and is loaded with tips that range from how to buy the perfect sectional to how to style a bookshelf and what to seek out and buy at flea markets (Answer: “Quality decorative objects – look for what speaks to you. If you love it and can afford it, bring it home.”)

Principal designers of The Novogratz design firm, the pair has worked on spaces from New York City to the Napa Valley. In 2014 they moved to Los Angeles with their seven (!) children and renovated a 1920s house in the Hollywood Hills. They recently took a few minutes from their whirlwind schedule to fill in Homestyle about their hopes for the new book.

What has been the most challenging design dilemma you have faced in decorating for your own family and how did you fix it? 

As your family grows the home has to grow with it and in our case seven kids was a lot. We both grew up in large families yet in small homes so we understand how to make do. Our kids have always shared rooms and we try to make those rooms clutter free and transitional, meaning they can grow into them. Our homes have always been pretty well designed but have a fun family vibe that’s not too pretentious. We also like change and have no issue knocking down a wall or adding one. We particularly like an open floor plan instead of small rooms to keep a nice flow to the house.

What were you hoping to deliver with this book that you haven’t been able to accomplish with other books and television shows?

I think this book has the strongest photography of our other books and has the most different projects, from a castle to a 300-square-foot home…Hopefully people feel inspired and have seen some different things that (they) possibly have not before. We always say if you get two or three fresh ideas out of a design book it’s pretty good. Hopefully this has more.

"The media room is our favorite room in the house,” they say of this client’s space, which features a colorful Roche Bobois sectional and a candy bar.

You clearly are huge fans of vintage finds and flea markets. Where and when did that start and what do you think it brings to a home?

Robert's parents had an antique business and (he) was that kid that went to all the flea markets, garage sales and antique stores. Cortney, who grew up in the South, always had a love for old homes. When we were dating we would get up early in the morning to go to flea markets while our friends were sleeping in.

 “A collection of almost anything can add personality to a room,” you say in the book. What do you collect and how do you display it?

We have been collectors of contemporary art for more than 25 years. It's been evolving and changing through the years. We've sold a lot recently to help pay for the kids’ education and have been buying younger artists. We hang our best art in our common spaces that can be seen by the most people.

Do either of you have a “Holy Grail” piece you’ve always wanted?

Robert – a Braun stereo. Cortney – a large Peter Beard photograph.  

“The soapstone tub is probably the most extravagant fixture we’ve ever purchased for a home,” they claim of the piece. The art work is "The Queen" by Ann Carrington.

You’ve said your kitchen table is the soul of a house… what other pieces do you think are worthy of a homeowner’s time, thought and investment?

We love watching movies so I would think a comfortable couch is important. Couches for families probably don't hold their investment value through the years for obvious reasons.

What do you say to people who are intimidated about buying art?

I think few people have the confidence to purchase art as they are not exposed to it enough nor have an opinion (about) what they like. Many people don't know what they like or (what to) get in the art world which has become very expensive. It took us a few years to really have an opinion and or knowledge of the contemporary world. We suggest going to art fairs, museums and galleries.  Read as much as you can. We tend to like what we know, what we have been exposed to. We suggest only buying what you love. Start small. Purchase prints (or) photography from local artists or great art colleges and have fun with it.

So many people are getting rid of family heirlooms and antiques, but you advocate keeping them. Why?  I love that you advised a client to use some fabric from her late mother in her kitchen banquette so the mother “would always have a seat at the table.”

Family heirlooms tell a story about who you are or where you're from. They add texture and meaning to your home. We would say don't use too many heirlooms and you can always update them with a fresh coat of paint or reupholstery … just don't let your Aunt Bessie find out.

What one piece of design advice do you wish every client/homeowner would take?

 Your home should be a reflection of who you are.

What’s next?

We are rebuilding a 200-year-old townhouse in Greenwich Village in NYC and a 100-year old Spanish home in the Hollywood Hills.

Packed with tips and great advice including everything from dealing with a partner with different taste to how to furnish a short-term rental, “Design Fix” is not your standard design book… What do you hope people take away? 

Novogratz Design Fix, by Robert and Cortney Novogratz, is out this spring

Have fun … take chances… use color… bring art into your life and remember great design is not about the biggest budget but the best choices.

"Novogratz Design Fix: Chic And Stylish Tips For Every Decorating Scenario"

By Robert and Cortney Novogratz

With Elizabeth Novogratz

(Rizzoli New York, $45)

Khristi Zimmeth writes the Trash or Treasure column for Homestyle. You can reach her at trashortreas@aol.com.