This Interior Designer Scoured Brimfield to Outfit a New East Boston Apartment Complex

Cortney Novogratz embarked on a hunt for nautical décor, and one of the nation’s largest antique shows didn’t disappoint.

cortney novogratz brimfield

Photo courtesy of Cortney Novogratz

When interior designers Cortney and Robert Novogratz were tasked with designing the common areas for Boston East, a new 200-unit apartment complex in the works in East Boston, settling on the look and feel of the place was a no-brainer. By drawing inspiration from the nearby marinas and shipyards, the duo dreamed up an environment that fused nautical and industrial themes.

“My husband and I love old things,” Novogratz explains. The couple combined their love of antiques with New England’s maritime history at the Brimfield Antique Show last week, where Cortney took the lead on sourcing funky, sea-themed décor for the space.

Driving to the middle of Massachusetts to scour acres and acres of tents for gems could sound overwhelming to some, but Novogratz is no stranger to the flea market hustle. As seasoned pros, she and Robert have designed homes and hotels from Los Angeles to Brazil, and have hosted their own show on HGTV. So when Cortney arrived at Brimfield on a rainy Tuesday, she says she felt excited, rather than daunted.

Her objective? To let things speak to her.

“I do kind of let the day carry us,” she says. “If we saw something that spoke to us or really fit in its place, we grabbed it.”

Though Novogratz knew she needed a few furniture pieces, like a credenza for a coffee station, she says she let the décor come to her—and it did. Right off the bat, she saw what Boston East needed: a 30-foot fishing net. She says she plans to drape it from the ceiling in the building’s public art gallery, where it will puddle on the floor and frame views of the harbor.

Novogratz also picked up a large wooden canoe, collected a group of colorful oars and paddles to be fanned out in a flower pattern on a wall, and sourced an oversized vintage mirror. With a loose plan in mind for a gallery wall, Novogratz scoped out nautical-themed wall hangings, including small wooden sailboats, circular copper mirrors, marine business prints, a B-shaped letterpress block, and chipped wooden frames.

The trip, in a word, was a success, though it can’t all be chalked up to a lucky day of scavenging. There’s a right way to tackle Brimfield, starting with bringing cash. “Even though everybody takes credit cards, (cash) helps you negotiate better,” Novogratz says. She suggests bringing a cart or a backpack to carry smaller purchases, and to talk with the different dealers. “If you have something in mind that you’re looking for, they can send you in the right direction,” she says.

In the age of Amazon, speaking face-to-face with dealers feels like a breath of fresh air, and sourcing local décor from one-of-a-kind festivals like Brimfield is a treat for designers and shoppers alike.

“I think now, because so many people buy online, (Brimfield) is a great way to really touch things and see things,” Novogratz says. “So I think these markets are really more important than ever.”

Photo courtesy of Cortney Novogratz