No academic course will teach you how to give a derelict house a gut renovation and turn it into a fantastically unique, high-style home. That skill comes with experience and serious design savvy, something which Robert and Cortney Novogratz accidentally learned they had.
After renovating their first home in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood 10 years ago, which then was a neglected, not-so-fashionable area, they realized they had a knack for building and decorating, together. Since then, they've renovated and designed numerous buildings in and around NYC, including an entire block in SoHo and a house in the country, and founded their own design powerhouse, Sixx Design. As a memoir of sorts chronicling seven of the couple's projects, the Novogratz clan — did I mention they have seven children? — published Downtown Chic: Designing Your Dream Home, From Wreck to Ravishing. Hear my thoughts on the volume when you read more.
The first seven chapters of the book each cover a house the Novogratz couple have renovated, including lots of before and after shots. The duo offer advice learned from each experience, such as how to handle contractors, tips for buying a wreck, how to make your house renter-friendly, and how to mix high- and low-cost furnishings.
While the book jacket says each project proves "time and again you can bring charm to any four walls — and do so affordably," it actually just left me with a sense of envy, and with the reminder that the word "affordable" is all relative. The pair do have a knack for flea marketing and using vintage artifacts and architectural treasures in a unique way, but having the time to do so is a luxury in itself.
The book is full of tips like taming bold colors with neutral furnishings and mixing modern pieces with regional furnishings that in theory are helpful and affordable. But in reality it's the Cappellini coffee table, the luxuriously upholstered bed frame, and the couple's extensive collection of artwork that make me want to "get the Downtown Chic look."
This book is definitely a treat to read. It offers a sneak peek into one family's wonderful life as well as lots of inspiration, but in all likelihood, it won't solve the everyman's design woes. But then again, I guess you can hire Sixx to do that for you.