Have the Plastic Toys Taken Over? Perk Up Your Place With Family-Friendly Tips from Design Guru Cortney Novogratz

If your home decor is more “bouncy house” than “house of style,” design goddess Cortney Novogratz can help. Cortney is one-half of Sixx Design, the Manhattan husband-and-wife team who superhumanly manages to raise seven children while developing and designing properties around New York City and beyond.

Cortney and husband Robert are now the stars of HGTV’s new series Home by Novogratz, which premieres Saturday, July 16, at 10 p.m. ET. During the 13-episode show, the couple tackles different home design projects for a range of clients -- including a family with triplets in a two-bedroom New York City apartment and a suburban family of five in a large New Jersey home.

The husband and wife team -- who were introduced to the world on Bravo’s docu-series 9 by Design -- customize designs for their clients, creating unique, functional spaces with a funky, downtown-chic aesthetic. iVillage chatted with Cortney this morning to find out how we mere mortals can transform our homes from kid-centric chaos to family-friendly fab -- without breaking the bank.

What family-friendly design ideas can we look forward to seeing in this season of Home by Novogratz?
For several projects, we turned family photos into wallpaper. You can use one photo super large or create a collage of different photos. It’s an easy way to decorate a wall and make it really personal and a reflection of who you are as a family. There are amazing places online where you can create the wallpaper. In addition to the photos, you can also add graphics -- flowers, stars, whatever your family or kids are into -- to the wallpaper.

We also do a lot of stenciling with paint. It’s an easy way to dress up a kid’s bedroom or playroom. A more traditional, conservative way would be stenciling the child’s name on the wall, but we like to take it a step further and stencil phrases or things that inspire them. Let kids come up with the ideas.

What advice would you give families with young kids about designing their homes?
Parents have to have kids’s stuff, but pare down on how much plastic stuff you have. Be clever about what is going to hold the Legos or action figures. Put them in an antique basket or box, not just this plastic thing. Kids also don’t have to draw at a plastic table. For one family, we used a draftsman table with a high stool -- then the kid can even pretend he is an architect! Use real things that are pretty for us and that kids can use.

How can families have great design in their homes that can stand up to the wear and tear of young kids?I personally really like plexiglass and Lucite. You can bang a scooter into it and it doesn’t break or scratch. Plus, there are a lot of stores that have great things that don’t cost a lot, look great, and hold up. Ikea’s bookshelves are classic. I also like West Elm’s parsons desk.

Your design style merges high-end with inexpensive items. What tips would you give families for how to make tight budgets look like more?
Always start the room with one signature, great piece – a piece of art, a table, a chest, a chair, or a bed. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive piece, but the best piece. Feature that front and center, and work everything around it to pull the room together.

With kids, never go too theme-y. Everyone decorates the nursery and spends a lot of money, but a baby is not a baby for long. Get stuff that can go from room to room and last.

Seven kids, a husband, a TV show, your new product line Novogratz, and a design business—how do you find time to do it all, and do it all well?
I have help with the kids --  I could never do it without it. I definitely count on my dear babysitters and all my friends who help out. Plus, because my husband and I work together, we can juggle it. I’ll say, “Okay, you go to the soccer game and I’ll do this.”

I also work from home, so even if I’m at the kitchen table meeting with contractors, I’ll see a tutor come in and know what’s going on with my kids. And I get to have lunch with my two-year-old every day.

Just like everyone else, we’re doing the best we can and making mistakes along the way. Coffee in the morning and wine at night -- that makes everything better!

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