ROBERT AND CORTNEY Novogratz can do it all; just watch them. The husband-and-wife design team keep calm while running their Manhattan-based firm, Sixx Design; raising seven children; and dabbling in television. First came their Bravo reality series, 9 by Design, in which they scooted around on Vespas, whisked the kids off to London for a book signing, and adorned hotel interiors with their signature sophisticated yet bohemian style. Now they’re set to host another design show, slated to debut this summer. Of course, even the most capable overachievers need a break, which for Robert and Cortney means packing up the cars and the kids and heading two and a half hours north to their fully renovated 1917 farmhouse in the Berkshires.
“I wanted an easy, carefree house without a lot of maintenance,” says Cortney. “Our friends have these beautiful, rambling farmhouses with all these rooms. Instead, the first thing we did was knock down every interior wall so I could stand in the kitchen and see everything.”
The four-month renovation opened up the floor plan — bringing more light into the two-story, five-bedroom home — and included several touches that are not necessarily traditional to the region. Rather than refinishing the dark wood floors, the couple painted them a bright white. They also replaced the glass in the interior doors with Plexiglas for a mod look, and gave the exterior shutters a coat of cheerful yellow paint, which echoes the striped Sunbrella drapes in the portico. “It’s definitely not New England,” says Cortney. “But it’s got a sense of humor.”
Not taking themselves too seriously is key to the pair’s aesthetic. The interior is a happy mix of vintage and modern, blending flea-market finds with contemporary art. Their high-low approach stems from simply being budget-conscious. The one-acre property was chosen both for its proximity to New York and for all the storage space (the detached two-car garage lets Cortney and Robert store furniture and materials for upcoming design projects). They say their mortgage is less than half of what they were spending on storage alone in Manhattan.
Cortney, a devoted bargain shopper, buys discounted floor models when possible and hits up Ikea, eBay, and garage sales, where she once scored ready-to-frame 1960s black-and-white photographs for less than $20. She’s also been known to hold impromptu tag sales of her own at the farmhouse, hawking everything from vintage beds to leftover high-end wallpaper from design projects in return for “instant ice cream money.”
But the place will always be a work in progress: The duo is constantly rearranging furniture and thinking about how to incorporate the family’s needs into the design. Take their somewhat surprising outdoor trampoline. “It’s so cheesy and tacky,” says Cortney. “We thought, How can we make it safer and cooler?” The result is a sunken, grass-level trampoline that’s become a backyard success. Cortney calls it their best investment.
“Life in New York can get intense,” she says. “Here we don’t get cell-phone service; we don’t get a lot of TV channels. We often listen to the radio. It lets us all relax.”