Joe Nahem, Principal of Fox-Nahem Associates in NYC, has over three decades of experience and multiple AD100 awards in interior design. Joe is not only a valued design partner of Carlisle, he is also a client who has our floors in his own home. He graciously invited us into the Hamptons beach house he shares with his partner, Jeff Fields, to talk about his design approach and reflect on the selective and unique character of his custom handcrafted Reclaimed Oak wide planks. As it turns out, what others might call “imperfections” are precisely what he loves most about his floors — their natural character!
When asked how it feels to be acknowledged by the industry as an AD100 Joe modestly expressed his appreciation, “It’s a real honor to be on the list among such a talented group. I truly do appreciate it and don’t take it for granted.” Joe began his career in his early twenties when he launched Fox-Nahem Design with his late business partner, Tom Fox. Since then he’s lent his signature style to clients in an effort to design spaces that truly reflect the people who live in them. While some designers are focused on executing their distinct style within their client’s homes, Joe remains committed to honoring his client’s tastes.
If there’s one word to describe Joe Nahem’s design style it is “authentic.” Joe’s talent for diving deep into the minds of his clients is evident in his newly released book published by Abrams, “Fox-Nahem: The Design Vision of Joe Nahem.” In the two weeks the book has been available on Amazon it has quickly skyrocketed to the number one new release in its category. The book, written by Anthony Iannacci with a foreward by Robert Downey Jr., features fifteen projects of various styles, each reflecting Joe’s talent for creating harmonious environments based on a client’s distinctive taste.
“When you pick things that you love, the look just automatically evolves. It’s your space. What it ends up looking like is really about you.”
Nahem is comfortable working with a wide range of materials and using a number of different building styles to express each client’s personality. Each of his projects begins with trust. He works under the cardinal rule that clients are not allowed to see the big reveal until the project is finished. “I tell clients if you are working with a professional, trust them and take a leap of faith.”
Nahem has earned that trust, as demonstrated in a handwritten card from a client which reads, “You reached into my brain and pulled things out I didn’t even know I thought.” At the end of the day, that is his job as a designer and one of the greatest compliments for the firm.
“Probably the most flattering and greatest sense of fulfillment for me as a designer is when you walk into a place that I’ve done and it doesn’t look like I did it. What it looks like and reflects are the people who live there.”
Nahem’s passion for tailoring his design to each individual client requires constant innovation and pursuing a vision others would deem unattainable. Where others would see a sheet rocked wall as a blank canvas for hanging art work, Nahem envisions transforming the entire wall into a piece of art. He recently collaborated with Annabelle Selldorf for a project in Sagaponock and suggested Reclaimed Barnwood to use as paneling in the study.
“As designers we often come up with things most people think are unachievable. Sometimes I ask for ridiculous things… for a designer everything is custom. In the Selldorf project, we suggested Reclaimed Barnwood from Carlisle, and in the end, the clients told us it was one of their favorite rooms.”
Nahem described the renovation of his beach house as a “fun adventure.” What he once referred to as a wreck has been transformed into the dream house that he, his partner and their beloved dog call home. When asked how the project came to life, Joe reflected, “When people ask me how to pull a room together I feel it really is about curating. Curation is the arrangement of objects in a space and it is really a lot of what I do.” Joe’s inspiration isn’t restrained by a certain look, a brand name, or a time period, but instead embraces the simplistic balance of how pieces look together.
The open concept home flows freely from room to room and boasts distinctive pieces that span the generations. There are mid-century pieces, pieces from the forties, artisanal twenty first century pieces, and Joe’s favorite — the Frits Henningsen chair that he acquired at an auction. They weren’t going for a decorated or finished look when they began the process, but opted for collecting favorite objects and works of art that they loved. The end result was a design that truly reflected them and revealed Joe’s talent in perfecting a thoughtfully curated space. The home has also doubled as a showcase for exposing potential clients to what they do. “They see how we live and design. And after all, isn’t that what great design is all about?”
“As you enter our beach house I think the first thing you will notice is that it has a really nice flow from room to room. There are really not a lot of defined spaces — there’s a living room, a dining room and a kitchen — but each space flows from one to the other.”
Choosing the right floor for the dream home was an important step in the renovation. Nahem knew it needed to provide a backdrop which would unify the open space and the home’s overall design, while honoring his prized furniture and art pieces. “The floors gave us the theme for the whole house. The house is modern, but the floors balance it out with the varying widths of the wide planks, with the knots and character in it.”
Nahem chose highly custom graded Reclaimed Oak floors to run throughout his home because of the species’ durability, versatility and imperfections. Reclaimed Oak is known for its organic beauty, yielding nutty brown hues and dramatic grain patterns.
Nahem’s floor was custom graded by Carlisle’s artisans. They hand selected boards to include the rustic worm holes, knots and wavy grain patterns the homeowners desired. Nahem was adamant about showcasing these boards in highly visible areas. He worked with the installer to make sure the boards with the most character showed up in the best spots in each room.
Selecting the right color tone for the site-finished floor was carefully thought out as it would either enhance or clash with the other wood finishes and pieces in the home. “We wanted the floors to be a nice background — with brown, no red in it — to lend itself to the rug and the furniture and the other woods that were going to be used throughout the house.”
The couple opted for random widths versus one single width in their floors. This increased the odds the artisans would be able to maximize the wider widths that the tree logs would yield. It also created an authentic historical appearance as the wider planks were notorious in older homes. “We really like the random widths with some 12” wide planks. We wanted our floors to have that look like they have been here as long as the history of the Hamptons.”
“Our goal is to have everything NOT look brand new. The variation and the inconsistency of every piece not looking exactly alike are very important to us. You have knots — you have holes; some people might see these as imperfections, but for us as designers that’s perfection.”
Nahem values the consistency in quality he has come to expect in Carlisle flooring. He has found that many of his clients are reluctant to put wood floors in their bathrooms, but if the right quality, material, and type of wood are used, the options are limitless. Four out of the five bathrooms in his home have wood floors. Nahem finds this important for unifying the free flowing space. “Being able to open a bedroom door that leads into a bathroom and see the wood floor flow right in is very special… That is one of the reasons we love working with Carlisle. We know there is a consistency in quality and the way the floors are milled. It’s a consistency we expect.”
When asked to describe Joe, Dan McMillan, Carlisle’s New York Managing Director said, “He is as kind as he is talented.” We hope Joe Nahem never retires from the design industry, but if he ever did he would want to start serving a new population — one with four paws. When asked he revealed, “I think I would want to start a dog rescue.”
Although Joe has no plans to retire in the near future, and we would hate to see him go, we’re grateful for the legacy he will leave on the industry and we’re honored to call him a trade partner and a client of Carlisle. After all, Joe’s client-centric approach mirrors what we at Carlisle believe is most important — supporting the lives of our clients and helping them live their lives on works of art.
Carlisle is pleased to feature the talented professionals we had the pleasure of working with to yield the amazing outcome of this project.
FOX-NAHEM DESIGN and Joe Nahem
With worldwide recognition, and projects across the United States, Joe Nahem’s designs can be found in the former home of Jacqueline Kennedy at 740 Park Avenue, and the famed Dakota. Joe has worked on buildings by, or collaborated with renowned architects – from Stanford White to Charles Gwathmey. Born and raised in New York City, Joe and his late business partner, Tom Fox, started Fox-Nahem Design in their early twenties. After three decades of experience, Joe, along with his dedicated team, have loyal vendors who help bring to life his original designs, specific to each and every project. Joe Nahem‘s design signature lies in his ability, from the first meeting on, to dig deep into his client’s minds, and to realize their ideas, needs, and individual tastes. The results are luxuriously comfortable, elegant, and livable homes for active families: spaces that reflect the people who dwell in them.