When you share a two-bedroom apartment with your spouse and seven children—and do so very happily—it’s probably safe to say that you know a thing or two about adapting small living spaces into family sanctuaries. At least this much is true for Robert and Cortney Novogratz, who have made a name for themselves in the interior design market by transforming dilapidated disasters into hip homes. After successfully renovating over 60 spaces that run the gamut from a Gramercy Park abode to a West Village railroad, and from a Hamptons beach house to a New Jersey hotel, the design-savvy couple is releasing their second book, Home by Novogratz, on October 9.
I spoke with the fixer-uppers last month to pick their brains on making any NYC apartment a better space to raise kids in, but I found that many of their family home design ideas could be applied for my own apartment–I’d just moved and was in a frenzy of decorating myself. Here are four tips I especially like:
1. Bring the outdoors in. “Nature is proven to have positive effects on people, especially kids,” say the Novogratz. Aesthetics aside, natural elements can act as educational tools: “You can teach your kids about nature and caring for things by having plants or even fresh flowers.” Of course, this point doesn’t have to be taken that literally—beautiful landscape photography and wallpaper or pillows with nature-inspired patterns and colors add an organic feel, too. (Bonus tip: Blik and Timothy Sue are both great for temporary wallpaper and decals.)
2. Prioritize the two Cs, comfort and creativity. A lot of apartments feel cold and museum-like, the designers note, but homes should be fun and comfortable. It’s all about taking a more playful approach and remembering that kids will be kids. “We have five boys who jump on couches and wrestle, and that’s okay,” the Novogratz say. “A lot of times people have these really amazing designers…turn their homes into something that’s beautiful—but not [an accurate reflection of] how they live.”
3. Use art unabashedly–and everywhere. “A lot of people will decorate the living room and guest room with art, but if Robert and I go hang out with our kids in their room, we want to be inspired to see something beautiful on their walls too,” Cortney says. “Just because you have children doesn’t mean you must sacrifice style.”
4. Be bold and have fun. No matter the family or client, Robert and Cortney always push for color to lighten things up, whether it’s on the walls or in the throw pillows. And, naturally, they suggest being committed to the project without taking things too seriously. “At the end of the day, if it’s just a painting on the wall, you can always change it,” Cortney points out.