The starting point for this stylish home’s new look wasn’t its kitchen or living room, nor any of the other conventional ‘main’ rooms that so often drive a full-house renovation. Instead, this house developed from its heart – a central courtyard in the center of the yard with the other key living spaces radiating from it.
The courtyard is not only the heart of the house, it also sets its tone. Understand the soul-nourishing oasis of its inner sanctum and you will appreciate the aesthetic in the rest of this beautiful property. A sense of calm and relaxation fills every space of the redesigned home, making it one of the world’s best houses.
We spoke with Robert and Cortney Novogratz, the design duo behind The Novogratz (opens in new tab)about the inspirations for their latest project and asked their advice on creating calm, relaxing living spaces.
Robert and Courtney Novogratz
Cortney and Robert Novogratz are the husband and wife powerhouse behind this renovation and design firm The Novogratz (opens in new tab). For over 20 years, they’ve been bringing the joy of glorious design to spaces across New York and right across from LA. This is indeed the location for this latest and very personal design project – the family’s very own vacation home in the Hollywood Hills. The couple say that of all the projects they have undertaken over the years, this has been their most ambitious and challenging yet.
Central courtyard – a real oasis
For designers Robert and Cortney Novogratz, the Spanish Modern villa in the iconic Hollywood Bird Streets of Los Angeles was meant to be their own family home. The house was originally built in 1931 and the couple bought it in 2019, with a gut renovation, which continued into the pandemic.
‘Our vision was to bring back the house’s original charm,’ says Robert, ‘but digging through the layers of the tired corner property revealed countless problems. The only option was to tear down the house and start over. We repeated the original layout (wrapped around a courtyard) but extended the ceilings and added another level, bringing the bedroom count to five.’
Maintaining the tiled courtyard of the home’s original design was the main focus of the couple’s outdoor living room ideas. This enhances the possibilities for indoor-outdoor living, an important aspect of the California lifestyle.
‘The original courtyard, where inside and outside merge, reminded us so much of ‘old Hollywood’, so we made it the focal point of the house. We wanted to play off the whole house,’ explains Cortney. ‘Many big houses have theatres, swimming pools and gyms, but few have a courtyard. It brings the outside in, has great light and opens up the house.’
Relaxing living room
The home’s main indoor living spaces wrap around the central courtyard, so wherever you are in the home, you’re never more than a few steps away from the tranquil oasis. The play of light from there into this high-ceilinged living room is dramatic and uplifting. New steel-framed windows give the rooms a modern aesthetic, but also frame the outdoor space, literally.
Living room ideas layer the whites and neutrals, with natural light wood tones to add warmth to the scheme. ‘To maintain the airy feel of the villa, we chose a sophisticated palette of creamy neutrals,’ says Cortney. Over the art-deco fireplace (designed by Noor El-Mohandes) hangs a watercolor painting by Enoc Perez. The vintage wooden sofas are from Orange Furniture in LA.
Pure white wall perfection
Something about this corner of the living room exudes relaxation. Who wouldn’t want to spend time – quite a lot of time – here?
High ceilings, white oak floors and oak accents, and white furniture against cream-colored walls all create the airy Italian villa-inspired look the designers wanted. It also happens to be the perfect recipe for relaxed interiors. A powerful plant brings life to the room and blurs the lines between indoor and outdoor life.
Occasionally within meals
To the rear of the family lounge is a relaxed space for indoor dining. Although the courtyard dining area is admittedly the preferred location for summer meals, this space comes into its own on rare cooler evenings. Dining room ideas is in keeping with the living room’s palette of blonde wood and natural textures and when not in use, the dining table blends in with the rest of the space, so there’s nothing to shock or overwhelm the look. Even the Ophelia brass chandelier from Stahl + Band keeps a low profile, but is no less stunning for that.
Anyone looking kitchen ideas will surely find inspiration in this simply beautiful design and layout. Clean lines, and the warm wooden stools and island create a clutter-free look that’s minimalistic and organic at the same time.
Cortney Novogratz explains how they continued the calm vibes in the kitchen workspace. ‘We replaced the original bulky cupboards with open shelves and chose a sleek La Cornue range hob and wooden Trias Counter bar stools,’ she says. “We completed the look with vanilla colored Venetian plaster walls, limestone counters and white oak cabinets.”
Primary bedroom – a relaxing haven
Sweet dreams are never far away in the light-filled primary bedroom. It is located on the top floor and features an open private balcony with city views. Bedroom ideas continue the color palette of off-whites and bleached wood from elsewhere in the house. While key accessories include the chaise discovered in a flea market on one of the couple’s many trips to Paris, and Charles Dudouyt table lamps from their favorite LA store, Orange Furniture.
Guest bedroom with garden views
Happy overnight guests sleep in an environment that, thanks to the steel-framed double doors, feels like an extension of the inviting outdoor space. It’s the Californian way. The bed and rug are Novogratz pieces, artwork by Tracy Emin, light from Audoux Minet, and vintage French chair from Orange Furniture.
Bathroom – the ultimate relaxation zone
Bathroom ideas creating for the primary ensuite a relaxing, secluded look where the striking steel framed windows are a key feature, along with the elegant Waterworks bath and tiling.
Backyard and bar
Looking for garden bar ideas? Well, how about these for the perfect setting for a cocktail party? Robert Novogratz says this is his favorite part of the redesign. “I’ve designed so much for so many rich people, but I’ve never done a pool house bar, and I’ve always wanted to,” he explains.
And what about the pool in front of it? ‘We reduced the original size of the pool to make room for a spacious pool house. We used our hotel design experiences to create a boutique environment and even planted a lime tree next to the bar to produce fruit for fresh drinks!’ Now that’s impressive attention to detail.
“We wanted to pay homage to the neighborhood and the old Hollywood feel by staying with a Spanish design, from the classic terracotta roof tiles made in Santa Barbara to the copper gutters and white stucco,” Robert says of the renovated exterior.
‘The house is very glamorous, in a modern way. It was all about the location. We have added many amenities such as the pool house and bar, a sauna, the courtyard, a gym and a theater. We wanted to create a luxury outpost with tons of privacy, and we did,’ adds Cortney.
And if the designers sound a little nostalgic as they reflect on all they’ve achieved here, that’s completely understandable. After renovating the Hollywood property to their liking, they finally decided it was best to sell it and return to their roots – and another renovation – in New York City. We can’t wait to see it.
Photographers: Amy Neunsinger (opens in new tab) and Gus Black (opens in new tab)
Design: The Novogratz