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After Robert and Cortney Novogratz bought a rundown 1917 farmhouse in rural western Massachusetts seven years ago, they couldn't wait to knock down the walls between the dark, cramped first-floor rooms. "People just don't live with separate living and dining areas anymore," says Cortney. "We wanted our family to be together in one space and to give the house a light, loft-like feel." Once the walls were history, they splashed the areas, including the floors, with white paint. "The goal was to create a blank canvas for colorful art and furniture," Cortney says. "And kids are going to scuff up floors either way, so it's easy to add more paint."
The scheme was all in keeping with the philosophy behind Six Design, the couple's Manhattan-based firm, which specializes in buying and updating neglected properties. (The company was named in honor of their six children—they now have seven but no plans to rename the business.)
From the exterior, with its rain slicker-yellow shutters, to the five upstairs bedrooms, each painted a different punchy shade, the house takes a bow toward tradition but exudes an edgy playfulness. Robert and Cortney are fearless about furniture and art, assembling a hodgepodge from all over—flea markets and thrift shops as well as discount chains and the closeout section at high-end stores. "If you budget right you can mix high and low," Cortney says, "which gives you the freedom to splurge on one item as a focal point."
Guided by passion, not fashion, the two buy what they love regardless of condition or cachet. "Imperfections give furniture character," Cortney says. And a little chipped paint or a scratch often makes a piece more likely to be affordable. Plus, with seven children running around, Cortney and her husband want the look to have an element of fun. "Home should be a sanctuary," she says, "but it should also have a sense of humor."