Interior of a Stanford White residence in New York's West Village reimagined by Hottenroth + Joseph Architects and designer Joe Nahem of Fox-Nahem Associates.
Photo: Peter Murdock

Fox-Nahem Adds a Contemporary Twist to a Historic New York Townhouse

Designer Joe Nahem reimagines an 1850s Manhattan home by preserving the past while looking to the future

More than a century separates designer Joe Nahem and architect Stanford White, but a townhouse in New York’s West Village has closed that gap. Built in 1856 on one of the city’s most beautiful blocks, the six-story residence was renovated from top to bottom by White at the end of the 19th century.

“He did it all,” says Nahem, a principal of Fox-Nahem Associates. “He designed the wood paneling and coffering, the stair railings, the plasterwork on the ceilings, and the crown moldings.” One of White’s most distinctive touches was the addition of Tiffany leaded-glass windows, which filter light from the street into the elegant reception hall.

Tiffany windows added by White grace the entrance hall, where Nahem lacquered the woodwork in a Benjamin Moore gray and added a midcentury Carlo de Carli table atop a Sacco Tibetan silk rug; an Andreas Gursky photograph is mounted over the fireplace. Photo: Peter Murdock

But the interior suffered when the townhouse was later broken up into apartments, remaining that way for decades until the current owners, a young couple with small children, enlisted Fox-Nahem Associates and Hottenroth + Joseph Architects to convert it back to a single-family home. “Most people do a gut renovation in cases like this,” Nahem says. “These clients wanted all the modern conveniences, but they also wanted to restore everything wherever possible down to the last original detail.”

Reconstituting White’s grand spaces and their decorative detailing was no small task. Floors and millwork were restored or meticulously replicated, and all of the walls were refinished in marmorino plaster, which was applied, Nahem notes, at the same generous depth as in White’s day. The one addition was a rooftop lounge area with a terrace that the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission permitted because it isn’t visible from the street.

In the space nicknamed the “library bar,” an expansive Ian Davenport painting overlooks a de Sede sofa, a Studio Van den Akker cocktail table, a pair of circa-1960s chairs attributed to Carlo de Carli, and a side table by Emma Donnersberg. An artwork by Forrest Bess hangs between the windows curtained in a Rogers & Goffigon cashmere blend, and the chandelier is by Achille Salvagni. Photo: Peter Murdock

Ultimately, work on the five-bedroom residence lasted more than three years. The upside, Nahem says, “was that we had more time to give the clients what they specified.” He and his team used the generous timeline to source an exquisitely curated array of standout vintage pieces that were paired with fabrics, floor coverings, and furnishings Nahem commissioned or designed himself.

“These clients wanted all the modern conveniences, but they also wanted to restore everything wherever possible down to the last original detail”

Joe Nahem

“The goal was to imbue the interior with serenity and calm,” says Nahem, who marshaled curvilinear forms and sumptuous textures to create an inviting feel in the entertaining spaces. In the paneled living room, the shapely contours of a velvet-clad custom sofa and a rounded Pierre Paulin lounge chair are complemented by mushroom-shaped velvet poufs and a pair of voluptuous Gio Ponti modern wing chairs in a silky velvet damask—perfect spots for curling up with a book in quieter moments.

Part of Stanford White’s ingenious design included floor-to-ceiling bookshelves hidden behind the paneling. “I wanted to leave some of them exposed,” Nahem says, but he was overruled by the need to display art from a collection that includes works by Andreas Gursky, Bridget Riley, Leon Polk Smith, Richmond Burton, and Abelardo Morell.

Working in collaboration with Hottenroth + Joseph Architects, designer Joe Nahem of Fox-Nahem Associates installed midcentury Holger Johansson chandeliers above a seating area punctuated with a Cynthia Daignault skull painting and furnished with a velvet-clad sofa of his design, a Pierre Paulin chair from Ralph Pucci, and velvet stools by Maison Gerard. The artworks in the corner are by Morris Engel (left) and Bridget Riley. Photo: Peter Murdock

On the opposite side of the stair landing, a correspondingly spacious room dubbed the “library bar” by the clients features smoky-gray walls and an expansively curving leather de Sede sofa that curls around an elegant circular table in brass and resin. “Even people who don’t drink like bars,” says Nahem, who upped the room’s appeal with the inclusion of a Brazilian midcentury game table in imbuia wood ringed by trim, bronze-framed armchairs. “It’s wonderful for puzzles or games,” he says, “but it also means extra chairs you can pull into other rooms when you’re entertaining.”

One of the home’s hubs of everyday life is the family-friendly kitchen and breakfast area on the garden level, where Nahem went for seriously durable without sacrificing style—silk vinyl on the walls, leather chairs that can be easily wiped clean, and indoor-outdoor floor coverings. No need to worry about children piling into the custom banquette that wraps partially around a blue lava stone breakfast table with a blackened-steel base. “A kid could take a hammer to it and not break it,” jokes Nahem, who added visual flair by installing exuberant vintage Stilnovo chandeliers above the kitchen’s walnut island.

Walls and curtains in a wool-alpaca Coraggio fabric add coziness to the primary bedroom, where an Abelardo Morell photograph overlooks the bed with a coverlet and custom pillows by Jouffre and Erinn V. nightstands. An Axel Larsson secretary, circa 1930, is paired with a Stahl + Band chair between the windows, and a Stuart Scott bespoke bench faces vintage Otto Schulz chairs and an Emma Donnersberg low table. Photo: Peter Murdock

A Murano glass pendant from Illustris crowns the primary bath, which features panels of painterly marble edged in bardiglio stone and a custom vanity Nahem matched to the existing White-designed millwork. The sink fixtures are by Waterworks. Photo: Peter Murdock

Upstairs, in the primary suite, White had rounded the corners on one side of the room, a gesture that’s echoed in the furnishings Nahem inserted next to the fireplace, where a pair of 1930s Otto Schulz curved-back chairs flank a toadstool-mimicking side table by Emma Donnersberg. In keeping with the luxurious materials found throughout the house, the walls are covered in the same gray wool-alpaca fabric used for the curtains. Not to be outdone, the primary bath boasts expanses of arrestingly veined marble trimmed in bardiglio stone beneath a spherical Murano glass pendant. Nahem had the walnut vanity custom made to match the existing millwork designed by White.

“The goal was to imbue the interior with serenity and calm”

Joe Nahem

In the rooftop extension, a ceramic panel by Peter Lane spans the wall behind a custom banquette and table, while Property Furniture chairs and poufs by Louise Hederström and Carina Grefmar from Hostler Burrows offer movable seating atop a Rosemary Hallgarten rug. The terrace, landscaped by Rees Roberts + Partners, is furnished with chairs by Paola Lenti. Photo: Peter Murdock

Nahem is especially fond of the extension at the top of the house, where a spectacular ceramic installation by Peter Lane spans the wall above a long custom banquette that’s ideal for watching movies or relaxing with drinks. On the adjacent terrace, landscaped by Rees Roberts + Partners, colorful Paola Lenti chairs provide playful perches.


Fox-Nahem Adds a Contemporary Twist to a Historic New York Townhouse

Inside and out, views north stretch to the Art Deco Empire State Building, an icon of the city’s next great design moment after the Beaux Arts era. “Stanford White was actually the modern guy at the time,” notes Nahem, who appreciates having the opportunity to put his own modern stamp on this little piece of New York architectural history. 

A version of this article first appeared in print in our 2024 Spring Issue under the headline “Future Past.” Subscribe to the magazine.

Cover: Interior of a Stanford White residence in New York's West Village reimagined by Hottenroth + Joseph Architects and designer Joe Nahem of Fox-Nahem Associates.
Photo: Peter Murdock


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