Book Review: Downtown Chic
Bravo TV launches Nine by Design in early 2010, and the cross media synergies have already begun with the recent release of stars Robert and Cortney Novogratz’s book Downtown Chic: Designing Your Dream Home: From Wreck to Ravishing. Part memoir, part design book, Downtown Chic chronicles the Novogratz’s life from their first project – a town home in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood to the the tropical vacation home of their dreams on the Brazilian coast – all while raising six kids (now seven), moving regularly and launching their company SixxDesign.
While following the couple from project to project may be a rather conventionally chronological narrative structure, it was also a thoroughly entertaining approach that made me curious about not only their style but also their life. Like what’s the deal with the yellow? The primary color factors into a number of amusing (and often curious) anecdotes, including a funny tale about yellow shutters (on page 80), the story of a yellow chair that made me green with envy (on page 102) and most delightfully (to me), a public humiliation involving yellow dresses (page 113).
Continued . . .
For those looking for a “takeaway”, Downtown Chic offers a number of practical tips about renovating and design. For example, on page 75, they point out that books often make great home accessories, and I tend to agree. I have the best intentions when I purchase a hardcover design book, but I usually just flip through it a couple times (or nonce) before trying to decide which stack of books it will most enhance. And intellectuals are just as guilty of it as I am; anybody who displays books they’ll never read or re-read may already be using their Chauncer as a tchotchke, so I think they should just admit it and at least purchase the best looking version.
With no disrespect to the Novogratz’s, however, I would not buy Downtown Chic for the cover, although the book looks lovely on my desk between Metropolitan Home’s Decorate book and Dwellings: Living with Great Style. But I don’t find the image to be particularly representative of the couple, the family or the book’s content. I finally read Downtown Chic (in one sitting), and surprisingly, I thoroughly enjoyed it despite the cover image’s clashing patterns. Perhaps people shouldn’t decide if they like a book until after they have read it – no matter what the cover looks like. You can write that saying down, because I have a feeling it’s going to catch on.
But I’d still buy Downtown Chic for the story, and I’d buy it for the writers’ slightly off-beat humor, which makes me think I’d like Robert and Cortney (is it OK for a reviewer to get that familiar?) and perhaps even the kids; and finally, I’d buy it for the Novogratz’s honest and unapologetic decor, which is always evolving, always interesting and often stunning. Downtown Chic also whet my appetite for the upcoming Bravo TV show Nine by Design, which I’ll be adding to my DVR’s record list.
Visit Amazon or other fine booksellers for more information about Downtown Chic.