Family size in Manhattan is often determined by real estate. A small two-bedroom may limit you to one child, or you may consider a move to the suburbs if you have a couple of kids. Cortney Novogratz, co-owner with her husband, Bob Novogratz, of Sixx Design, doesn’t have just a couple. She has six children under age 11, with two sets of twins, and a seventh child on the way.
The logistics of this are staggering to those of us with only one, two or three kids. For example, my family of five can’t fit into a cab. But Cortney takes it all in stride, noting that a large car and a huge living space are central to her ability to manage.
Cortney and Bob take time from raising their kids (with the help of a nanny) to buy and renovate spaces around the city; they are living in the fruits of their labor, a townhouse near Chinatown. Both are from large families; she has four siblings and he has six. “We both wanted a lot of kids,” she says.
Despite having square footage that most people only dream of, the Novogratz’ have their children share sleeping quarters, with a boys’ room and a girls’. Her philosophy is that the kids “have to learn to share, get along.”
When they designed their current home, they were sure to include a large family space for gathering. “It’s important for me that kids aren’t stuck in their rooms on their computer,” she says. And having lots of kids around means “there’s always someone there to hold the baby,” Cortney says, remembering how she had to practically peel her newborns out of her older kids’ hands to feed them. She is confident that the older children will help out with the next baby, too.
Although the family now has a car, for years Cortney relied on public transportation, and notes that even now, she uses the bus and subway for afterschool travel. But the demands of getting kids to three different schools make driving a necessary evil. She points out, though, “I would live in the car if I lived anywhere else.” Cortney relishes walking to parent-teacher conferences, or spending the day hanging out with the whole family in Central Park. “Everything is here for us. We just have to be creative,” she says.
She admits that her brood can sometimes “make enemies,” when they enter a building with a small elevator, say, and monopolize the space. “But we also make friends,” she quickly adds.
Cortney laughs off the challenges of wrangling so many kids, though, she says, when she had a 15-month-old boy and newborn twin babies, “I gained a lot of strength that year.” She takes parenting one day at a time. When she was having her fifth child, she thought she had worked out the complexities of pushing a double stroller with the twins, holding her 4-year-old’s hand, letting her oldest walk alongside, and carrying the latest child in a front pack – and then she turned out to be pregnant with twins again. “I could have been overwhelmed with all these babies,” she allows, “but you can dictate what kind of life you want to have.” So far, Cortney has managed to dictate success.
Somehow, Cortney and Bob have also had time to write a design book, Downtown Chic (Rizzoli), coming out in May. But so far, Sixx Design will remain unchanged, even with a seventh child.