Cover Photo: Amy Neunsinger

In one of the most prestigious neighbourhoods in Los Angeles, US designers Robert and Cortney Novogratz reimagined a 1930s Spanish-style villa

The Bird Streets in the Hollywood Hills have long boasted some of the most desirable real estate in Los Angeles. A-listers have been flocking to the exclusive enclave for decades: past residents include Leonardo DiCaprio, Dr Dre and Christina Aguilera. 

So when US interior designer couple Robert and Cortney Novogratz spotted a Spanish-inspired villa in the area that was originally constructed in 1931, they were smitten. “It was all about the location,” says Cortney. 

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The plan was to restore the house to its former glory—something the Novogratzes are no stranger to. The husband-and-wife duo specialise in buying older homes, adding their signature mid-century-modern-meets-DIY touch and eventually selling them. Over the last 25 years, they’ve flipped more than 10 homes, and also starred in their own reality TV shows highlighting their design prowess. 

Things didn’t go quite according to plan here, however. The original 4,500 sq ft house was not structurally sound, so the couple ended up taking it down and rebuilding it—no mean feat, thanks to the house being located on a hill. “Los Angeles construction can be very challenging,” remembers Robert. It became the biggest project they’ve ever undertaken, he adds.

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It took 60 days for the duo to create a design blueprint for the new home, and the entire project took around 18 months to complete, thanks to delays associated with the Covid-19 pandemic. But even though the original property was no longer, its spirit remains. The designers had kept the layout of the house, and doubled its size by adding an additional floor. “We still design on the fly sometimes too as the work evolves,” notes Robert. 

The new home is described as a “contemporary revival” of the old. With 7,500 sq ft of interior space, it has five bedrooms and five bathrooms. It also boasts an outdoor terrace of around 500 sq ft, complete with a saltwater pool. 

The goal was to create a “luxurious outpost with privacy”, says Cortney. The first thing that comes into sight at the front entry is a balcony that overlooks the pool, which the Novogratzes say seclude the home from paparazzi snaps. Decked out with white stucco, the home has a terracotta tile roof, white oak floors and steel-framed windows throughout. It was important for the house to have spacious rooms with large windows and super-sized bathrooms, she adds. 

The pièce de résistance of the home is the courtyard, described by the Novogratzes as the “focal point” of the property and designed with California’s famous indoor-outdoor living in mind. “Lots of grand homes have theatres, pools and gyms—but few have an interior courtyard,” explains Cortney. It brings the outside in, [has] amazing light, and opens the house.” Featuring red and white encaustic tiles from Cle Tile, it is decorated with a Vesta Design table and chairs from PK1 by Poul Kjaerholm. Euroline doors lead to a “great room” with cathedral ceilings and a custom-made fireplace mantel.

Inside, find plenty of luxe features: aside from a theatre and a gym, there’s now a sauna, walk-in closets, plus a decadent poolhouse. This space is decorated with Charlotte Perriand’s Les Arcs bar stools, white oak cabinets, as well as Calcutta countertops—a style of counter consisting of white quartz and a blue-gray veining. Outdoor furniture by Vesta surrounds the pool. 

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Over in the living room, a custom fireplace by Los Angeles interior designer Noor El-Mohandes creates an inviting space. It’s surrounded by a Slauson sofa and a uniquely shaped wood table. The adjourning dining space has a table by Ethan and chairs from Dashain, plus a chandelier by Stahl and Band.

The kitchen’s design is in keeping with the minimal yet rustic aesthetic, with white oak cabinets, Venetian plaster walls and an oven and cooking range from French manufacturer La Cornue. Other features include appliances by Sub Zero, counter stools from Trias, and Waterworks faucets.

The designers also populated the rooms with pieces from their eponymous home decor collection—the guest bedroom, for example, features a bed and rug they created. 

White oak floors, oak accents and cream-coloured walls are found throughout the house. The neutral tones of the interiors allow for the pieces inside the home to stand out—these include a variety of art the Novogratzes placed in the home. “The house is very glamorous, in a modern way,” says Cortney. “We chose art that we felt reflected that: bold, modern pieces, but still with a lot of opulence and desirability.” Art on display include the works of Diego Uchitel, Erwin Olaf, Tracey Emin and Enoc Perez.

The master bathroom is a luxurious space, complete with fixtures, tiles and a bathtub all from Waterworks.

The property was originally envisioned as a “family dream home”—the Novogratzes are known for appearing on TV with their seven children. But their game plan once again changed: “After the pandemic hit, we decided it was best for our family to be in New York,” explains Robert. 

Even though they won’t remain in Los Angeles, the project is far from a waste of time. “We love taking a neglected space and turning it into something desirable, well-designed, [and] always with a bit of whimsy,” says Cortney. “We love what we do, and getting to share it together makes it even more special.”

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