By the time husband and wife design duo Robert and Cortney Novogratz purchased a 100-year-old property on the foothills near Los Angeles’ historic Chateau Marmont, the “stylishly unconventional” Art Deco villa (known affectionately as “The Castle”) had a past fitting for is California locale. Originally constructed for silent film star Barbara La Marr, the three-storey, 715-square-metre mansion is a collage of spaces and architectural references, its profile defined by sloping roofs, pointed watchtowers and more. “The biggest challenge,” says the pair, who transformed the site into an expansive home for their large family, “was to keep its charm and period feel while modernizing the entire space.” To rectify the “nonsensical floor plan” and pastiche of materials, the designers leveraged a number of concise moves — from laying reclaimed floors to redressing the building envelope with all new windows and doors.
A grand wooden table (purchased in the UK) commands the open dining and living area. “Apart from enjoying meals, we use our dining table for everything,” Robert Novogratz says. “We play family board games, the kids do their homework and we make it our central workplace during the day.” Both spaces are illuminated by a run of custom steel windows and doors by local manufacturer Torrance Steel Window. “We felt that they were an important investment,” the duo explains of these features. “They made the house elegant and distinct.”
When pressed on what portion of the expansive residence is the family favourite, Novogratz is quick to reply: the living area. “It’s very big with an open, spacious, loft-like feeling and lots of natural light and incredible views of Los Angeles,” he says. The large custom sofa (where “we gather to watch our favourite movies”) that anchors the space is flanked by a rotating selection of side chairs – from Mies’ iconic Barcelona chairs to vintage Swedish seats sourced in Hudson, New York. All atop a Momeni rug.
“I love the bookshelves,” Novogratz adds of another focal point in the living area, “which houses many of our favourite design books, and cool objects we have collected through the years.” Insightful tomes on the likes of fashion designers Tom Ford and Yves Saint Laurent as well as design icons Charles and Ray Eames are carefully curated on the elegant blonde wood ledges, joining an equally refined and enigmatic selection of art by Laurie Simmons and Lisa Ruyter.
The Castle’s sprawling and airy custom kitchen orbits around a central island boasting a thick Carrara marble top. “We have used Boffi kitchens for years,” the designers say of their penchant for the Italian manufacturer, whose systems are shown here. “They’re beautiful.” Bronze mixers and details add a vintage flair to the largely monochrome space, echoing the playful variation of lighting fixtures — both old and new — throughout the home.
Riffing on the indigo hues of the eclectic stove, a deep navy blue wall defines the adjoining breakfast nook and provides the perfect backdrop to the idiosyncratic art collection and a combination of mid-century modern icons: Eero Saarinen’s sculptural Tulip table surrounded by Charles and Ray Eames’ Wire chair with tan leather seats. Two grand French doors (also by Torrance) flood the space with natural light and open on the inviting outdoor area just beyond.
The outdoor area is another favourite part of the home for the “transplanted New Yorkers,” Novogratz says. Due to its adjacency to the kitchen, the designers were easily able to create a unique “indoor-outdoor” experience, transforming the yard into a tiled terrace including a custom fireplace paired with a dining suite by Dedon. It became the prime spot for entertaining guests, relaxing as a family and much more. “We stay outside as much as possible,” he adds, “enjoying the incredibly beautiful southern California weather.” Stepped paths with lush foliage, a grand outdoor kitchen and an oblong pool also dot the surroundings.
Back inside, a multi-purpose space featuring a high-end ping pong table by RS Barcelona is nestled near a collection of plush and elegant custom-designed home theatre seats produced by a local craftsperson. “Los Angeles has more talented folks than anywhere else,” Novogratz says. He adds, “We feel like specifically designed home theatres are fun for larger family gatherings. Yet, we usually end up congregating in the living room.”
With its sinuous form wrapped in a handsome ornamental black metal railing, the original dramatic staircase is one of the property’s most impressive elements. “The stairway is perhaps the most distinctive feature in the house,” Novogratz says. “It is totally a Hollywood stairway.” Though much of the interior required modernizing, he says, “we did not change it, as it is perfect!”
In addition to providing a dramatic focal point, the staircase allows for a graceful ascension to the more private spaces, which include individual bedrooms for the family as well as guest suites. The reclaimed oak floors from Schotten Hansen, which knit many of the Castle’s disparate spaces together, are also carried through. “The floors [were] a big expense but really distinctive,” he says “and made to last a lifetime. They’re the focal point and the canvas for the rest of the home.” A feather-wrapped Pluma Cubic pendant by German designer Heike Buchfelder, a frequent collaborator of the Novogratzes, floats above.
The home’s upper levels house the bedrooms of the Novogratz children as well as a number of guest accommodations. But the master suite steals the show; it is a palatial respite perfect for such an eclectic residence. Like the floors below, the space features a deft mix of contemporary and vintage furnishings with the added charm of custom French doors that open to a private balcony, framing views of the city beyond.
Not to be outdone, the master bath is just as impressive, featuring a luxurious soaker next to an expansive shower encased in handsome smoked-glass panels. Lined in playful ceramic tile, it’s the prime backdrop to the designers’ morning and evening routines. This image of the space is one of many evocative photographs filling their recently released monograph, Novogratz Design Fix.