Joe Nahem TRADE:
Interior designer, Fox-Nahem Associates VIBE:
Midcentury modern meets coastal eclecticism. ABODE:
Five-bedroom, four-and-one-half house in Amagansett, New York.
Interior designer Joe Nahem lives in what he calls "a small big house." On a little more than an acre, with five bedrooms and four and a half baths, the 4,200-square-foot home, which he shares with his partner Jeffrey Fields, is relatively modest compared to those of its neighbors on Amangasett's elite oceanfront Further Lane. "Lorne Michaels lives on one side, and Jerry Seinfeld is a few doors down, so it's kind of funny to be right in the midst of all that. You don't feel like it when you're there though. It doesn't feel fancy at all." Despite Nahem's modesty, the Manhattan-based designer's part-time Hamptons home has all the bells and whistles, including a steam room, gym, and 50-foot swimming pool, accompanied by a cabana with a fireplace and changing rooms.
As striking as the well-appointed property, Nahem's collection of contemporary artwork was a long time coming. "I started collecting when I was in college. I was very lucky," Nahem says. "There's a Warhol print of Jackie Kennedy [in the dining room] that I bought when I was 22 years old. I took some big chances then." In the foyer, an acrylic and crayon collage by Richard Prince makes a lasting first impression. Hanging above the master bed is an oil and wax abstract, La Venus del Jardín (Venus of the Garden), by Spanish artist Alejandra Icaza, while Moon Art Rat by Canadian artist Thomas Ackermann makes a landing in the master bath.
| Moon Art Rat by Thomas Ackermann, Price Upon Request, Phillips
||Araucaira by Alejandra Icaza, Price Upon Request, 1st Dibs
|| Chic by Mel Ramos, Price Upon Request, Artnet
Despite Nahem's ever-growing art collection, the interiors of the house are not bright white and gallery-like. "A lot of people who work with art collections are so afraid of them that they make everything beige or white," he says. "I didn't do that. I didn't want it to intimidate me, so I found a fine balance." Nahem blended natural materials, including mahogany windows, reclaimed wood floors, interior barn-wood doors, painted knotted pine, and pecky cypress paneling (in the master bedroom), to create a neutral background for his collection. "Almost none of the house has any sheetrock on it," he says." All the walls are wood or some kind of material."
Echoing the natural materials in the structure of the house are some of Nahem's greatest finds: a black walnut kitchen island and matching cantilevered shelves that were custom made by George Nakashima's daughter, Mira Nakashima. "I designed the whole kitchen based on that island and those shelves, and then I just added very, very simple cabinets."
The rest of the house is fairly transitional with a mix of midcentury, vintage, and custom furniture. "I think it just looks like a bunch of stuff that looks good together," he says. "The way the architecture is set up with the materials -- the wood and the stone fireplace -- there's a very good background for a mixture of different styles." Nahem's interior design comes with an exercise-with-caution warning: "I think a lot of people think that you can just throw things together and call it eclectic," he says. "I've seen some very unsuccessful combinations of that though."
The house's ocean views also directed the color scheme -- or its lack of it. A lime-green kitchen wall and a pair of wooden stools with aqua hide "are about as colorful as I get," Nahem says. Otherwise, the tones are earthy. "The Hamptons are so special, particularly in this area, because you don't just have views of ocean and beach, but you also have beautiful local trees. There's a certain kind of cherry tree that only grows here." The landscape changes year-round, so Nahem chose a versatile palette that would complement the ocean and foliage views each season. "It's always pretty shocking. I mean, I never really thought I was going to have a house on the ocean in the Hamptons," he says. "It's very lucky. Every time we pull in the driveway, we look at each other and we say: 'How did we do this?'"
Photographs: Peter Murdock