How Celebrity Designer Cortney Novogratz Built An Empire While Raising Seven Kids

Family Portrait of Novogratz
Cortney and Robert Novogratz, in a family portrait. Photo Credit: Catherine Hall

Forbes

Cortney Novogratz is queen of her castle. Literally.

Cortney and her husband Robert Novogratz have been designing and developing spaces around the world for over 25 years.  Thanks to a combined passion for design, art and architecture, the Novogratz design duo have renovated a Hollywood Hills castle (which is basically their home!) and rebuilt entire city blocks.

As a reality TV star alongside Robert on Bravo’s 9 By Design and HGTV’s Home by Novogratz, and coauthor of three books (so far!), Cortney proves that you can have your dream career, while maintaining the role of Queen Bee to a family of seven kids.

In addition to raising their squad, Cortney is also a supportive “momager” to three of the Novogratz boys (Wolfgang, Breaker and Five), who have budding acting careers.

On the design front, the Novogratz husband and wife pair have a slew of projects in the works, in addition to their home decor brand on Amazon: they recently launched a line of temporary wallpaper for Tempaper, completed an interior design project with Boston East (new apartment complexes in Boston), and worked on the design of the Players’ Tribune (a Derek Jeter initiative).

I spoke with Cortney in the midst of these design projects about balance as a mom of seven, having it all, and what it’s like to live in castle (because #goals).

Karin Eldor: You have so many incredible projects in the works! Can you tell me a bit more about the early days of your career? What were some of your first jobs and how did you start working in real estate?

Cortney Novogratz: Robert and I gutted and renovated our very first home, a brownstone condemned building in NYC, when I was only 24 years old. We acted as the contractors, architects and designers. We leaned on professionals where we needed to, but jumped in and figured out a lot along the way. It was the beginning, although in some ways I feel like I’m just getting started!

Eldor: I love how you’ve pivoted from real estate to interior and product design. Can you tell me more about this career change?

Novogratz: More than ever, you must dabble in several areas to keep evolving and thriving.  I like to wear many hats and don’t take no for an answer. When we were approached by CB2 years ago to create a line for them, we took the opportunity and ran with it. It was like going to college for product design. They taught us so much, and we brought fresh design perspective to them. That experience very quickly informed us that there was a gap in the market for really affordable but stylish home goods, so that’s been a huge focus of ours over the past few years. No matter what we’re focusing on, good design is always the priority: whether we’re acting as interior designers, product designers, real estate investors, authors, etc.

Eldor: As a working mom of seven kids, what are your tips for managing it all with grace (and not burning out)?

Novogratz: Some days can be incredibly challenging but I’m the type of person who does better with more on my plate. Luckily I work alongside my husband, so he can help with the heavy lifting. My kids naturally come first, but goodness, with seven, I must work to pay for them! We don’t leave work at the office, nor do we shut our kids out of our work. It doesn’t work for everyone, but it works for us. Everyone feels burned out sometimes: when you do, lean on your village that you’ve created. Nurture your village and they will be there for you in return.

Eldor: What part of your career would people find most surprising?

Novogratz: People often have a lot of anxiety when building or decorating their home. My ultimate goal is to make the journey fun during every stage. There’s never a perfect home, but if we can bring some humor and happiness into a home, we feel like we’ve done our jobs.

Robert and Cortney Novogratz, Photo Credit: The Novogratz Family

Eldor: What are your 3 biggest tips for female entrepreneurs looking to
start their own business?

Novogratz:

1. Be unique and stand out.

2. Never give up, but be flexible. Perseverance pays off.

3. Create your village: take care of the folks who lift you up and keep them close.

Eldor: What advice do you like to give your own children, as they work towards building their own careers?

Novogratz: No one is going to give it to you. Put in the work and good things will come. Have passion and integrity. With seven kids, I always ask them to do their part: to not take from our world, but instead to add to it. Our goal has always been to keep them humble, hungry, grateful, and kind.

Eldor: What is your career mantra? Basically, the quote that’s on your proverbial vision board (and gives you life!).

Novogratz: It’s up to me to create the life I want.

Eldor: OK, so I need to know: what’s it like living in a castle?

Novogratz: Waking up and seeing the turrets (the small towers that project vertically from the walls) is wild! I have love affairs with homes, especially old ones, but I’m no purist. I love bringing the old into the present.

Eldor: Can you tell me more about your new line of wallpaper and the project with Boston East?

Novogratz: Temporary wallpaper is great because you can commit to pattern in a big way without it having to be overwhelming. Working with Tempaper has been such a joy: they’ve taught us so much, and it’s been a blast creating a line. Tempaper is such a hot product right now: it’s perfect for rentals, Airbnbs, offices, coworking spaces like WeWork, etc., and of course, for making a statement in homes. We hope people are as excited about the launch as we are.

Boston East was such a unique and exciting project for us. It’s a newly built 200-unit luxury apartment building on the waterfront, so we saw it as an opportunity to truly create a lifestyle for the residents. We infused common spaces with things we would put in our own home, some of them purchased at the Brimfield Antique Flea Market, and tried to create a vibe. East Boston has such a rich culture and history, and our hope is that the design reflects some of that.

Eldor: What’s next for Cortney Novogratz?

Novogratz: Bringing a boutique lifestyle to the masses at an affordable price point. It hasn’t been an easy road, but we’re starting to gain traction.

Eldor: What does “having it all” mean to you?

Novogratz: Having inner peace and happiness is having it all. I’ll never be the richest. I’ll lose some jobs that I really want. My family is far from perfect. Oh and I’ll never be the skinniest! But it’s about constantly seeking happiness for myself and for those around me.

 

Article by Karin Eldor, May 10, 2018 – Forbes.com

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