If you already had seven kids, a busy design business and you move from property to property multiple times a year, would you want to have cameras along to film the daily chaos? If you're Bob and Cortney Novogratz, the answer is yes and, the result is Bravo's latest reality series in "9 By Design." The Novogratzes have made a career and a name for their company, Sixx Design, by taking rundown urban facilities and transforming them into some of the most coveted real estate properties in Manhattan. "9 By Design" not only follows their design business but also tracks the antics in their home where newborn Major has just joined the rest the uniquely named clan - Wolfie, twins Bellamy and Tallulah, Breaker and twins Five and Holleder. Despite being a man who doesn't really know what 'free time' means, Bob took a call from our Jim Halterman to talk about the business decision to do the show, why it's not anything close to Jon & Kate's show and the only other place besides New York where they'd live in the United States.
Jim Halterman: With everything going on in your lives, what was behind the decision to add camera crews to your very busy household?
Bob Novogratz: We obviously didn't take it likely. We had almost every network offer us our own show and we really thought about it for six months and then one night we said 'Let's go for it!' We thought Bravo was the place to be. We're New Yorkers and design is very New York-friendly. We researched a lot of other family type reality shows. I had never seen any of them. The film crew side of it wasn't hard; it was fun. We always have people constantly coming in and out of our house - big family, seven kids, coaches - so the house is what you'd think with people coming in and out of your house all the time so that wasn't the issue. The hardest part of the show is really being fun, exciting, relevant and not making fools of ourselves but also being very interesting and cool in a way that hadn't been done before and Bravo was great. We wanted the show to be more design-driven but the first two episodes is really about the kids and the whole pregnancy thing but the third is more design.
JH: Did the kids have a say about whether they wanted to be a part of the show?
BN: Yeah, of course the baby wasn't asked. [Laughs.] The other six we did and we sat them down and said 'This is what we're going to do...' but we didn't want to make it too big of a deal. With the kids, it's more about not disrupting our lives but they were all into it. A few were really into it, a couple of them were a little shy and the four-year olds were like a whole other species.
JH: In being another reality show about a big family, did Jon & Kate's now-finished show come into the mix at all?
BN: I watched that show for ten minutes and I couldn't watch it. I don't know those people from Adam other than the news I've seen but I don't think they had a good relationship while they were filming; they didn't seem to have a lot of fun. Cortney and I are a great couple. It's kind of our joke to risk a great career and a great marriage for a reality show. When things are great and you're having success you want to share it with someone and when the shit hits the fan or the world comes at you then you really have to have someone there for you. Cortney said if we didn't have each other, we've got nobody. I wasn't so concerned with Cortney and I. We've had a lot of success living in Manhattan for twenty years so the reality show isn't really going to change our lives that much. Call me na�ve but we'll see.
JH: There's a chance the show could really take your business to an even higher level. Was that a motivation for doing the show?
BN: [kids heard yelling in the background] Well, it already has and this is why we did...hold on...Courtney, could you please keep the kids quiet? Please? [kids quiet]...we did it as a total business decision. We already get recognized in malls, get invited to big parties so it was purely a business related decision. You look at this time as a developer and it's been a brutal business for two years. Look at the economy and you've got architects that can't find work. It's kind of like you're a band and then you hit it big and the original followers fall out but you're showing your brand and your music to the rest of the world, which is exciting. I think any business, especially as the economy changes, if you don't keep moving you're not going to go forward. We'll see. It took us 15 years to get into Japanese and Dutch uber-snob design magazines and we just threw it away by having a reality show. [Laughs.]
JH: Before the show came along, what was it that took your business to a new level.
BN: It was about 8-10 years in the business and we did Central Market. We did that entire small block in Manhattan on the outside of Soho and that's what did it. It's funny, we were 'Bob and Cortney' for ten years, then we became 'Sixx Design.' We got cards, got a website but that project people were crazy over it and that's when the tide totally turned. We did a lot of projects before then but you get better if you keep doing things and it took years of being better workers, better budgets, making small mistakes and we were learning.
JH: The names of your kids are pretty unusual. Can you tell me where the names came from?
BN: Nobody has asked me that question! We're Austrian so Wolfgang is from Wolfgang Amadeus but our joke is that in New York and LA they think we named him after Wolfgang Puck. Bellamy we just heard it when we were in France and I think the correct pronunciation is Bel Ami, which means 'beautiful love.' Tallulah is very Southern and there's a town in Georgia called Tallulah Falls. Breaker was named after the movie 'Breaker Morant' and Harry Breaker Morant who is the man, a horseman, a poet, a soldier and that's one of my favorite movies ever so that's Breaker. Five is kind of random and, of course, he was our fifth child. My Mom pressured us even after he was born to change it and we almost switched to Felix but we didn't. The older generation likes it. With Holleder, my father was an All-American football player at West Point and the quarterback on the team was Don Holleder and he was killed at Vietnam. He was on the cover of Sports Illustrated for football and then the cover of Life for dying in Vietnam. My father thought he had two heroes in his life and that was one of them so it had a meaning to it. Going back to the army thing, my father was a Colonel but when I was aged 7-12 he was Major so that's where we came up with Major (the newborn's name). We thought that was a cool name and he was pretty touched by that. So each of them has a story and they're not just crazy names.
JH: You and Cortney come off as true New Yorkers but would you ever move anywhere else if the offer was right?
BN: LA is the only place we would move in America. We love LA. I would live in the Hollywood Hills. I still like the urban setting where you can walk to things. The downside of LA is being in your car a lot but I like the LA art scene. I like LA architecture. I like that whole vibe out there. I think that that would be the one place.
"9 By Design" airs Tuesdays at 10:00/9:00c on Bravo.