NY Spaces Jan/Feb '07, "Countdown To Cool"
pages 104-107 by Catherine Warren Leone
The thirty-something bachelor, an art collector and dapper dresser, had just signed a three-year lease on a plain-vanilla two-bedroom apartment on New York's Upper West Side and moved in with nothing but a box spring. He wanted the apartment to morph into a sophisticated and functional living space, and he wanted it done in three months.
Three months? In designer time, that's yesterday. Or as Joe Nahem of Fox-Nahem in New York, puts it: "That's extreme makeover to the extreme." But Nahem, whose work the bachelor had seen in a coworker's home, knew it was doable. To save time, he decided to bypass typical designer resources, with their 12-to 20-week lead times, and instead find unique vintage pieces or design the furniture himself. Nahem knew he could rely on his own cadre of loyal craftsmen to expedite production.
Built in the late 1980s or early '90s, the apartment had a standard layout, no high ceilings and no moldings. What it did have were spectacular views of Central Park and the East Side. To not distract from the view or the client's collection of modern art, Nahem decided upon earthy colors - "but not beige." Grays and browns, tinged with eggplant for depth and drama, give the apartment a visual flow.
In the dining area, which is carved from the entry hall and flows into the long, narrow living room, a banquette designed by Fox-Nahem adds seating without usurping too much space. The leather banquette's cushions reverse from eggplant to white, the latter matching the seats of vintage walnut dining chairs from Lobel Modern. A drop-leaf table, another Fox-Nahem design, accommodates six.
The living room, its walls clad in Donghia silver hemp and its floor covered in a handmade gray shag rug, is clean-lined without being minimalist. A veil of curtains woven with iridescent metallic thread blocks the sun's rays by day and adds glamour to the night. Early 1950s James Mont club chairs flank a Fox-Nahem-designed sofa with a Lucite block base, making it a "comfortable hangout room," says the designer, as well as a space for entertaining. Adding a quirky presence to the room is a Finnish-designed stem of lampshade lights from Jacksons in Sweden and a huge photograph that hangs over the sofa.
The acrylic and chrome four-poster bed, a one-of-a-kind Charles Hollis Jones design from R 20th Century, was "a hard sell to a single guy," Nahem confesses. It no doubt helped that the headboard is upholstered in a gray menswear-looking fabric. The second bedroom, which serves as a home office, has a 1960s Jansen desk and a brown leather bucket chair from Zographos.
"Shocked" is how the designer recalls his client's reaction to the transformation. "He couldn't believe it was finished to this level and that it was done on time," Nahem says. "It was like he'd won on a game show."
Postscript: No longer a bachelor, the client is moving with his wife and baby to a larger residence on the East Side. Nahem is doing the apartment. "His wife likes muted colors, so it's a variation on the theme," says the delighted designer.