For many designers, it would be the call of the lifetime: Robert Downey Jr. wants you to find him a Hamptons home and decorate it. But for Joe Nahem, who received this very call a few summers ago, there was one big caveat: As soon as the house deed was signed, he and his team at Fox-Nahem Associates would have only six weeks to completely furnish the home. “[Downey Jr.] said, ‘We want the house completely emptied out, completely painted, and we want it decorated, even if it’s not one hundred percent how we’re going to want it eventually. Can you get it done?’ Who says no to Robert Downey Jr.?” Nahem says with a chuckle. The Downeys also tasked him with outfitting the house with everything they would need to live there for the summer, from pots and pans to sheets and mops.
Luckily for Nahem, the Downeys had previously stayed in one of his Hamptons properties, so he had a decent sense of their aesthetic. “They’re playful!” he says of Downey and his wife Susan. “They don’t like anything too serious. And comfort—they literally like to be able to lie down on almost everything.” In his Architectural Digest December 2017 cover story, which featured the family's Hamptons hideaway, Downey described his own style as whimsical: “We definitely don’t like boring,” he said. “Robert is the type where I’ll show him three fabrics for a dining chair, and he’ll say, ‘Let’s do all three,’” Nahem explains.
Since the designer knew this first renovation was temporary—his team embarked on a serious redesign of the home’s bathrooms and kitchen at the end of the season—he looked beyond his usual purview for furniture sourcing, finding ready-made pieces at Wayfair, Restoration Hardware, and ABC Carpet and Home. “I didn’t even know about Wayfair until then, I’m embarrassed to say!” he reveals. To make sure the home didn’t read as a showroom, however, Nahem mixed in vintage items from local dealers, like Gustav Oliveri.
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