NBD, but Cortney & Robert Novogratz Just Renovated a Castle for Their Family of 9

When we think of castles, we think of stone towers and draw bridges, but Cortney and Robert Novogratz (and their seven kids) aren't stuck in such outdated ideas -- to them, a castle is an ugly, over-worked seven-bedroom home in Hollywood Hills, California, just begging for a makeover. With a decorating business, two reality shows, and many home redesigns under their belts, they figured they could turn that castle into the stuff of fairy tales. And they did. Naturally.


But before we even get to the castle part, we have to get to the Los Angeles part. As any long-time New Yorker knows, leaving the city for the sunnier coast is no easy decision. And for the Novogratz, the house had to be worth it.

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"We knew we definitely wanted to do a big project," Cortney Novogratz tells The Stir. "We looked at a lot of different homes, but we knew we wanted something that needed a little TLC."

That's probably generous -- when they first found the castle, it was, as Cortney puts it, "an eyesore." It was built in the 1920s and had good roots, but had been through so many remodels and renovations, it was left looking a little hodgepodge.

But hodgepodge doesn't mean hopeless, and Bob and Cortney were drawn to the neighborhood -- and a space big enough for their whole family.

"Every time we went back, we fell in love with the possibilities that the house could have," Cortney says. "Eventually we decided to jump in. ... We never really planned on restoring the house. What we wanted to do was keep the integrity of the place and how it had possibly been in the '20s, but make it more modern for how people live today."

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The whole transition is documented in a 10-episode series on People called The Castle Next Door -- The Novogratz Family Takes Hollywood, but here's a sneak peek at what the castle looked mid-transition:

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When the Novogratz bought the house, it had seven bedrooms. They kept the master in tact, but in the name of fairness, Robert and Cortney decided to knock down walls until they were left with four kids' bedrooms -- and enough space for sharing. Then, to make that more tolerable, each of their seven kids was given a decorating budget to work with and the agency to choose where to put it.

"Robert and I guided them aesthetically ... but let them have a say," Cortney explained. "For example, with Bellamy and Tallulah, my daughters, we gave them a certain amount. Bellamy chose to spend hers on wallpaper behind her bed, and Tallulah chose to spend hers on original art. She started getting different limited edition photographs and she started an art collection. So they were really able to personalize their space -- get their own fabric to reupholster their beds, things like that."

Cortney says that as her kids have gotten older, they've shown more and more of an interest in their parents' design business, but it used to be a challenge to get them excited about tagging along to stores and flea markets. 

"For a long time, when my girls were really, really little, I would bring them to all these flea markets," Cortney said. "I started asking them, 'Why don't we collect paintings of women?' They started to look at oil paintings, old photographs, anything that could be beautiful. ... We did a whole collection over the course of a summer, and we put them on their wall. It gave them something to get into."

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As tricky as it must have been to get teenagers to agree to sharing rooms, Cortney says that for her, the biggest challenge was the outdoor space.

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"Even though we've done projects all over the world, raising our kids in Manhattan for the past 25 years and having them grow up there, we never had a big amount of outdoor space that we could take on," she explains. "We developed the entire property with as much detail and thought as the inside of the house, so all of us can be hanging out and some of us can go play and jump and swim. We're really proud of that."

Because of their diligence, their one-acre property now features a pool with a trampoline, a basketball court, a grove of citrus trees, and an entertaining room with a firepit and pizza oven.

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That outdoor dining area is one of Cortney's favorite spaces in her home, and the other is the kitchen. "I can stand in the kitchen and see pretty much every room in the first floor," she says. "That's where everything happens. That's where we greet friends, where we work on homework, where we're nurturing everyone, where we're eating. Even if we're heading out -- going from inside to outside -- we're running through the kitchen at all times."

The Novogratzes have (and have had) many homes, and there's a lot of moving that goes with that. Cortney says that every time, she packs and unpacks a scale model of the Empire State Building (where she and Robert got engaged, aww), but other than that, she lets items live in the homes they were bought for. 

The real mainstay is her seven children. For all the beauty in the homes Cortney and Robert design, at the end of the day, it's the family inside them that makes them castles.


Images via Bob and Cortney Novogratz

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