Cortney Novogratz: Reinventing Our Family Life in Los Angeles
byCortney NovogratzApr 22, 2016
Moving to Los Angeles from New York was one of the most exciting things we've ever done—and one of the most difficult. I'm proud of my kids for growing deeper from this experience and rising to the challenge. To be honest, Robert and I have also grown tremendously through the struggles. Like most mothers, I put my feelings on hold to get everyone across the country and in a routine. Only once we were actually settled did I have that "oh no" moment, when I asked myself what we had done. The sunshine is refreshing and makes us feel happy, but no matter how bright it is outside, leaving friends and family behind still made everyone homesick.
Robert and I knew we needed to find a home fast and do what we do best—renovating and bringing life back to homes that have been neglected along the way. Purchasing the castle for all nine of us was a dream come true. Our kids are older and their tastes have grown into something real and pure, and Robert and I were pleasantly surprised at some of the ideas they had for our home. We wanted to keep the integrity of the house because it was built in the 1920s, but we are by no means purists and don't have the budget it would take to restore the house. We simply wanted to update it to how we live today. We were able to save the original staircase and some of the architectural details, like the castle exterior's turrets. But what we found by gutting the house and bringing all of our ideas together is that we were able to design a home that's allowed us to have the space we need to invite all of our family and friends from New York when we're missing them.
When we first purchased the house, it had seven bedrooms, which we brought down to four so that our kids would learn to share. We focused as much on the outside as we did the inside. I leaned on local guys to help me purchase olive trees, citrus trees, ficus trees. We wanted to enhance the home and bring the property back to its heyday. Over several months, I got to see the state of California—sometimes driving as far as three hours to get good deals on trees. There were times when those days fell during a week when I was hunting for new doctors, dentists, tutors for our kids and trying to re-create the community we built for so many years in New York. Pulling up to these citrus tree groves felt spiritual and made me realize exactly what our move represented for me.
With any renovation, there's money and stress, new building permits to follow, new guidelines, difficult contractors, phrases you've never heard like, "Earthquake this, earthquake that ... earthquake what?" But the nine of us knew we were creating a home we desperately craved and knew if we stuck together we could get through anything. With every bad turn, there are moments of true joy, like finding an incredible craftsman, learning that you saved a hundred-year-old citrus tree, or having some of the skilled workers make you homemade tamales, and realizing there are talented people all over this world.
At the end of the day, moms are the ones in charge, but it takes everyone in the family to create the home we all want to live in.
We chose to keep the exterior white with black trim and had some fun with black-and-white striped fabric that runs around the whole property. Inside the house, the first floor feels very loft-like and open so that we can all be together. After trying for so long in Manhattan to run our business from home, we feel lucky to have an entire floor devoted to our home office, with our employees and kids all working from the same table. We feel like we've arrived.
Whether you're painting a bathroom, gutting your whole place or getting ready to move, as a mom, I feel it's our job to stay positive but pull in everyone we're responsible for and have them be a part of it, too. At the end of the day, we're the ones in charge, but it takes everyone in the family to create the home we all want to live in.