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Robert Novogratz Talks About Life, Design, And Philosophy

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Hometown boy Robert Novogratz grew up in Alexandria, Virginia and caught the decorating bug early on since he had a mother who worked in the antique/home decor business. She previously owned The Twig House, which still exists under different ownership in Vienna, and would bring her kids when she was scouting for good deals.

Robert tells Curbed he remembers Georgetown Flea Market and the now-closed Thieves Market in Hybla Valley as some of the places they would visit most frequently (when he wasn't delivering papers for the Washington Post). These days Robert does most of his scouting in New York City with his wife Cortney for their own clients or their tv show Home By Novogratz that premieres tomorrow night at 10pm on HGTV (Curbed National has the full scoop on that). Robert spoke with Curbed about how they stretched their own boundaries in this season and what good design actually means to him.

How is your new show different from the one you shot for Bravo?
This is thirteen before and after renovations, whereas before it was basically fewer, but bigger, projects. Most of the work we did are designs that people can obtain. I don’t think anything is too crazy expensive. We try to give the viewer different ideas both high and low.

In the first episode you renovate a beach house in Rockaway Beach and have a visit with the designer Betsy Johnson. Any other famous faces making an appearance?
That’s the benefit of having a show, the next season you get a lot of celebrities. For HGTV we re-did the gym where basketball player Paul Pierce went to high school and we did a Fred Segal store in LA. In every episode we feature a different artist, in the premiere we also have a famous New York street artist named Matt Siren decorate the master bedroom.

Do you think there is any space you couldn’t design for?
No! For this season we did things we’ve never done before, a basement in New Jersey, a hipster place in Williamsburg, and another apartment in Williamsburg for supermodels. We also did a 180 square foot bedroom for a set of triplets in Hells Kitchen. We had a really well-known photographer shoot all the projects for us and he couldn’t believe the spectrum.

How is it different shooting a half-hour show versus the hour-long show you shot for Bravo?
An hour for one family in design can drag a little in spots, so this show moves a lot faster. The editing is one process I really don’t get, but they did a great job. We gave them over an hour of material and they found a way to cut it down for each show. We also wanted to include where to source things. We really wanted to show people there are great places to find things other than chain stores.

That sounds like a lot to pack into half an hour.
We had a lot of challenges, because you have to get permits and insurance. Most of the design shows do a lot of decorating, but we like to rip out whole walls because at the end you have a better product. It was a little difficult to do thirteen of those in twenty weeks.

You recently tweeted a picture of a treehouse in Brazil you have going up. Will that be part of the upcoming season?
Not this season, but they promise that if we get another season they’ll film the finishing of it. We own a home in Brazil that we use once a year and then rent out for the rest of the year. So we’re designing a treehouse apartment as a rental. There’s a hotel called UXUA in Trancoso, Brazil that is easily the most beautiful hotel in the world and the guys that built that are doing this.

You have said previously that people buy into your and Cortney’s lifestyle and that’s what you think attracts people to the television show. How would you describe your lifestyle?
Listen, there’s a lot of great designers out there. But you have to create a vibe of fun or happiness. I always use the example of Balthazar, which is one of my favorite restaurants in New York City. You can go there for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and it feels like there’s a party going on. The designer really achieved a lot there. They did more than just create a pretty place. With a house it’s the same. You can just walk into a house and Miles Davis is playing, or Dire Straits is on, and there are flowers and cool art. Our goal is for you to feel comfortable and happy. I’ve been to a lot of beautiful places, but they don’t have the feel that is important. I also think it is because we love Europe so much and that’s the kind of lifestyle we like. You work hard, you play hard, and you don’t take yourself too seriously. You enjoy life because it’s short.

· Home By Novogratz [HGTV]
· Watch A Sneak Peak Of Home By Novogratz [CN]
· The Novogratz [Official Site]
· UXUA Hotel [Official Site]
· @thenovogratz [Twitter]