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Holiday 2009


FEATURES

White Out
By Sarah Firshein
Photographs by Matthew Williams

NOTHING'S OFF LIMITS IN AN AMAGANSETT RANCH THAT OPENS UP AND KICKS BACK A LITTLE

Click on any photo for a larger view.

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BLANK CANVAS
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IF YOU SUBSCRIBE TO THE NOTION that anything can be beautiful, you're likely to accept the driving credo behind the work of husband-and-wife design team Cortney and Robert Novogratz: Bring it on. Nothing's too ruined or ravaged for the principals of NYC-based SIXX Design, who embrace the oft-daunting abyss between what is and what could be with a gusto that some may call, well, just plain batty.

"I definitely have a love affair with beautiful, classic, gorgeous old homes. But you can buy things that most people wouldn't want. Is it a gun shop—could it be a home? Is it a parking lot—could it be a home?" Cortney, a Georgia native, muses. "We prefer the worst shape possible: It's all the better for us."

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"It's a remarkably stress-free house because everything is really out in the open," she says. "You don't need to worry about where the towels are and where to find dishes. And that white? You can simply wipe."

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SIXX Design has made national headlines (and earned starring roles in Bravo TV's 9xDesign, a reality show about the couple and their brood of seven that's set to launch in January) by crafting order out of mess—conversion of gun shop (or BMW garage) into chic residences included. So when a client approached them about a poorly built ranch on Amagansett farmland that he envisioned as a weekend hangout or crash pad for friends, the Novogratzes didn't hesitate to wreck it. They gleefully knocked down every wall on the main floor and reconfigured the staircase. Dated sliding doors were replaced with French ones; plywood floors were ripped up; a kitchen island was installed; and the master bath was gutted—all on a strict budget and within a span of two months.

"They key is to be able to open up walls and do your thing," says Bob, who honed his interest in design on visits to flea markets as a child. "I think the hardest thing is to come in and do piecemeal design. If you really have the opportunity to redo everything from the ground up on these gut jobs, you create an entirely new canvas."

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CARROT TOP
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From the ashes rose a high-gloss, all-white space that's sturdy but not too serious. An open floor plan is an unobtrusive setting for the collection of furnishings and art the client already owned. Pieces the Novogratzes introduced include black chandeliers, which dangle above an all-IKEA kitchen; a pink bar from Adelaide in NYC's West Village; and a romantic, oversized bathroom mirror that might live a far less interesting life if it had been placed in, say, a bedroom. Stair risers are painted with typographical graffiti that unfurls nonsensically. "This is a summer home, so it was super important that the house be relaxed and very chill," the client says. "Yet we wanted it to look cool—the whiteness of the whole place with the pops of color produce a fun, summery vibe."

If that whiteness has you thinking that this home is too "museum," Cortney says the interiors are actually livable to the umpteenth degree. "It's a remarkably stress-free house because everything is really out in the open," she says. "You don't need to worry about where the towels are and where to find dishes. And that white? You can simply wipe."

"This is a summer home, so it was super important that the house be relaxed and very chill," the client says. "Yet we wanted it to look cool—the whiteness of the whole place with the pops of color produce a fun, summery vibe."

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Click on photo for a larger view.

Houseguests are encouraged to help themselves. A basement game room with a spicy orange '42 Brunswick pool table also stocks a minifridge and a draught-beer dispenser, as well as bins for books and toys in case visitors tote along kids. "Nothing is so precious," the client says. "You can come in all wet and sandy and not worry about it." The fact that the Novogratz children range from 1 to 12 years old informs the couple's treatment of client projects; ease of use is one of their natural concerns.

Cortney was raised in Southern homes where grand dining and living rooms were reserved for special occasions. Now, quite the opposite holds true—she and Bob make use of every part of their own home and aim to create similar experiences for clients. "Every party we have—everyone always ends up in the kitchen. Everyone's trying to grab that last bottle of wine!" she says. "Our work is about family and time together." Here, says the owner, there's no formal dining or living room; it's the kitchen that's "everyone's favorite hangout."

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BRUSH STROKES
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This, after all, is what the place is about—kicking back, letting loose. The team is stunned at how successfully the project played out. "Sometimes that seems like the hardest part when you have such a tight budget—getting creative. But if you go there, all the way, you can do fun things," says Cortney. "You can put stripes on the kitchen island."

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