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At Home with Fashion Designer Joseph Abboud

Tour fashion designer Joseph Abboud's Boston home

Written by Candace Ord Manroe
  • Eric Roth

    Even after three decades of high-profile living and award winning in New York, menswear designer Joseph Abboud remains a Boston boy at heart. The first clue is how he describes his suburban home in Bedford, just north of Manhattan. Forget the leafy town’s easy commute to the city, or how its residents (including his own two daughters, both now students at Boston College) start riding horses young. For Joseph, the most relevant fact is that it’s “a two-hour-and-47-minute drive to Fenway Park.” Not to put too fine a point on it. When talk runs to the Red Sox or anything else Boston-based, Joseph’s in deep.

    Make that deeper, and for keeps. Back home to visit family in 2011, he stumbled upon the perfect property for a pied-à-terre. With the chance to replant roots after so many years away, he wasted no time sealing the deal.

    “I can’t tell you how many thousands of times I’d passed by this building as a boy and admired its strength,” says Joseph, referring to the 1887 Waterworks Building on Beacon Street in Chestnut Hill. This time, however, was different. A “for sale” sign was a heads-up that the stately Richardsonian Romanesque structure was going multiuse with a museum and a few tony condominiums. The residential pièce de résistance—the center apartment with a whopping 8,800 square feet of living space—includes a five-story tower that imbues the hand-hewn stone facade with castle-like romance. It also affords stunning views overlooking glassy Bradlee Reservoir from a private rooftop deck.

    For Joseph, the tower apartment really was love at first sight. With the blessing of his wife, Lynn, and a Ulysses-like sense of a past-due return, he was home again.

    And what a home. “I live in a tower,” he says with a pinch-me-I-must-be-dreaming awe that’s unflagging two years in. “Pretty cool.” So cool he gives in to gushing—itself uncool according to the New York social code of which he has pitch-perfect command. But he’s not in New York now, and any faux-jaded veneer melts to expose real joy. “All these years, I’ve still had my emotional compass set for home. This was meant to be. This place is pure magic. Listen! Can you hear it? Even the sounds here are romantic. That’s the trolley running just outside.”

    Inside the apartment, a foyer leads to the main living areas, which are open, large, and loft-like. On the foyer’s opposite side, mysteriously veiled behind a drapery, a narrow iron staircase spirals up to the five tower levels.

    “Basically we staked out the two main floors for family living and turned the tower over to Joe for his man cave,” explains Lynn. Joe agrees, recalling conversations with daughters Lila and Ari. “The girls say things to me like, ‘Dad, the tower is yours. Go there and brood.’ ”

    Brooding is what creatives do best. On good days, it brings brilliance. That’s what occurred when Joseph contemplated his new home’s interior design. Known in fashion circles for his all-neutral palettes and mix of sumptuous textures, Joseph’s taste in interiors is the same. Undyed raw cashmere throws and plaid wool pillows crafted in Scotland—fabrics from his menswear collections—warm his rooms, and not a trace of color is to be found. Anywhere. Little wonder he named the home “Sepia.”

    But how to furnish the Boston home without depleting the family’s primary residence in Bedford remained a problem. And then there was that prickly matter of how to physically convey furniture and custom features to the tower rooms, which have cramped, limited access.

    Enter brooding and brilliance. “I’m usually pretty good at this sort of thing, but I was stuck,” says Joseph. His a-ha moment came when he decided to seek a collaboration with the furniture manufacturer that best embodies his own style. “I realized my aesthetic in colors and fabrics exactly mirrors that of Restoration Hardware. My clothes fit beautifully in their environments, and their color schemes are easy for me to live with.”

    Happily, Restoration Hardware, recently rebranded as RH, was on board, naming two of its senior designers from San Francisco as project coordinators. The design team puzzled out space planning and, with the exception of the Abbouds’ antique accessories and original art, furnished the apartment with RH.

    The prevailing style is neoclassical, Joseph’s favorite. “I love pieces with substance and heritage. If you told me I had to live with midcentury modern, I would rather live in a tent. I like richness and romance,” he insists. Organic fabrics in pale natural hues combine with light paneling and wall paint or Venetian plaster to show the style at its best. Only in the tower do rooms grow darker and moodier upon ascent. The top-floor winery, Joseph’s favorite, “is pure dark romance,” he says.

    What made Joseph’s collaboration especially timely was RH’s opening of a design gallery in one of Boston’s most notable architectural landmarks. Situated in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood, the building was formerly the city’s historic Museum of Natural History and home to clothing emporium LouisBoston, where Joseph first worked in fashion (and met his wife).

    Joseph is back in Boston as often as work permits, savoring precious time in the mini-castle he regards as his “sanctuary” and “strong, safe retreat.” Unless, that is, there’s a Red Sox home game. Fenway is a mere 12-minute drive. Either way, he’s home. 

    Photography: Eric Roth 
    Styled by Kelly McGuill

    Interior design: Joseph Abboud in partner with the design team at Restoration Hardware, now RH.

    Sofas (“Belgian Roll Arm Slipcovered Sofa” ); sofa fabric (Natural Linen); floor lamps (“Hand-Carved Corinthian Column Floor Lamp”); coffee tables (“Distressed Ionic Capital Coffee Table”); wooden-armed chair (“18th C. French Burlap Chair”); chair fabric (burlap with sepia chalk stripe + Joseph Abboud flannel): Restoration Hardware (now RH), 800/910-9836. Plaid pillows (undyed cashmere, from Joseph Abboud); striped pillows on sofa (antique kilim); small bolster pillow (antique); throw (undyed wool from Scotland, from Joseph Abboud): owner’s collection. Area rug: for similar, RH, 800/910-9836,

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    Living Room Sitting Area

    A Roberto Dutesco photograph of horses creates a focal point at a console table supported by neoclassical columns. A pair of RH, Restoration Hardware, porter’s chairs recalls the design popularized in 16th-century France.

    Pair of chairs (“Versailles Chair”); chair fabric (“Natural Belgian Linen”); console/desk (“Corbel Glass Desk”); bench (“Toscane Nailhead Bench”); light over art (“Picture Light”/Bronze"): RH, 800/910-9836.
    Throw (Joseph Abboud menswear fabrics): owner’s collection.
    Photograph of horses (by Robert Dutesco): The Wild Horses of Sable Island Gallery, 212/219-9622,
    Horns on desk (Bavarian); box; rug: antique.
    Paint (custom): Iris Lee Marcus &Co., 978/333-9637,

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    Neoclassical Coffee Tables

    The room’s neoclassical bent is articulated by Ionic capital coffee tables from RH.

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    Living Room Game Table

    A pair of chairs flanking a pedestal table creates a symmetrical scene in the living room.

    Pedestal table (“Vintage Foyer Pedestal Table”); pair of chairs (“1910 English Nailhead Chair,” not available); chair leather (Vintage Cigar”); bookshelves (“St. James Bookcase”): RH, 800/910-9836.

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    An iron spiral staircase accesses the five-story tower in the family’s pied-à-terre.

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    Joseph Abboud in his Boston home.

  • Eric Roth

    Foyer with Hand-Painted Coffered Ceiling

    Acanthus leaves hand-painted on canvas in the ceiling coves are “an ode to all the beautiful things I’ve seen on my travels in Italy,” says fashion designer and homeowner Joseph Abboud.

    Decorative treatment on ceiling: Iris Lee Marcus &Co., 978/333-9637,
    Round table (“Pedestal Salvaged Wood Round Table”); hanging light (“19th C. Salerno Streetlight Pendant”/Weathered Zinc); wall sconces (“Lorraine Architectural Railing Sconce”); drapery to stairwell (“Belgian Sheer Linen Drapery”); mirror (“Entablature Mirror”/Natural): RH, 800/910-9836.
    Area rug; chair: for similar, RH, 800/910-9836,
    Drapery hardware: custom.
    Pillow on chair (sepia herringbone with menswear buttons, from Joseph Abboud); daybed (antique): owner’s collection.

  • Eric Roth

    Open and Contemporary Kitchen

    Located on the same level as the living and dining rooms, the kitchen includes a small staircase that leads to the master bedroom. A Faber range hood and Fagor cooktop are backed by a wall of copper slate stone and Olympia marble.

    Cabinetry: Alno,
    Cabinetry hardware: Alno Inc.,
    Range hood: Faber,
    Cooktop: Fagor,
    Countertops: Carrara marble. 
    Refrigerator: Liebherr,
    Backsplash (copperslate): Olympia Marble, 781/455-0199,
    Bowl on island: antique, owner’s collection.
    Armoire (“Montpellier Armoire”/Natural Walnut): RH, 800/910-9836.
    Tile on floor and wall: copperslate.

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    Kitchen Bar Area

    An antique hand-carved bowl warms up the island’s Carrara marble countertop.

    Bar stools (“Vintage Toledo Bar Stool”): RH, 800/910-9836.

  • Eric Roth

    Hallway Sleigh Bench

    A kilim rug and sleigh bench sit in the hallway below a large black-and-white photograph by William Curtis Rolf.

    Sleigh seat (“Hungarian Sleigh Bench”); fabric (Burlap); light over photograph (“Picture Light”/Bronze); wall sconces (“Loire Architectural Railing Sconce”): RH, 800/910-9836.
    Striped pillow: antique kilim.
    Photograph (limited edition, by William Curtis Rolf): William Curtis Rolf, 925/872-8333,
    Area rug: undyed kilim.
    Wall paint: custom. 

  • Eric Roth

    Neutral Dining Room with Farm-Style Seating

    Symmetry is created by a pair of sconces that flank a Jeffrey Terreson horse painting and wing chairs that bookend the console table. Nailheads trim natural linen on the turned-wood dining chairs as a quiet detail. Juxtaposed with smoother wood, the farm table’s scrubbed look adds another layer of textural interest.

    See details from this room on the following slides.

    Dining table (“Trestle Salvaged Wood Fixed Dining Table”); chairs (“18th-century French Burlap Armless Chair Upholstered”): RH, 800/910-9836.
    Chandelier: for similar, RH, 800/910-9836,
    Horse art over server (by Jeffrey Terreson): Jeffery Terreson Fine Art,
    Wall sconces (“Brittany Architectural Railing Sconce”); wing chairs (“French Upholstered Wing Chair”); wing-chair fabric (Natural Linen): RH, 800/910-9836.
    Paint (custom): Iris Lee Marcus &Co., 978/333-9637,
    Server; area rug: for similar, RH, 800/910-9836,

  • Eric Roth

    Dining Room Wooden Console

    Two antique horses and rustic artifacts lend masculine sensibility to the dining room’s console area.

    Horse sculptures under server: antique.

  • Eric Roth

    Table Settings

    White plates, crystal stemware, and linen napkins set the table in a simple yet elegant style in keeping with the rest of the home.

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    Winding Staircase

    Behind a mysterious curtain on the home’s main floor, the iron staircase spirals up the five-story tower. The top floors were designated to Joe for his “man cave.” Grated arches overlook the rooms below, and give the staircase a medieval tone.

    Stairs and railing: original to house.

  • Eric Roth

    Handsome Tower Library Sitting Area

    Eight antique botanicals and a late-1800s weathered English chest join new pieces from RH, Restoration Hardware, including the leather chaise, tripod lamp, mirror, bench, and sconces.

    See more of the library on the following slides.

    Chaise (“Oviedo Leather Chaise”); throw (“Luxe Faux Fur Throw”); floor lamp (“Royal Marine Tripod Floor Lamp”/Antique Brass and Brown); wall sconce (“Brittany” Architectural Railing Sconce); mirror (“Bistro Antiqued Brass Leaner Mirror”); light over mirror (“Picture Light”/Antique Brass); bust on window ledge (“Bust of David”): RH, 800/910-9836.
    Wall paint: custom.
    Upholstered bench under mirror: owner’s collection.
    Chest to right of chaise: antique.
    Botanical prints (antique); floor covering (antique rugs): owner’s collection.

  • Eric Roth

    Tower Library Bookcases

    A worn leather sofa in front of the bookcases looks the part in the tower library.

    Leather sofa (“Churchill Leather Sofa”); sofa leather (“Vintage Cigar”); wall sconces (“Brittany Architectural Railing Sconce”); wing chair (“Os De Moun Wing Chair”); wing-chair fabric (“Belgian Linen”/Charcoal): RH, 800/910-9836.
    Bookshelves; ottoman; ottoman fabric (antique kilim rug): custom.

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    Library Bookcase Details

    Animal skulls are hung from the bookcase to give the library the masculine feel of a hunting lodge.

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    Tower Deck with Stunning Views

    The private deck at the top of the tower overlooks Bradlee Reservoir. The columns honor the neoclassical style Joseph loves.

    Benches (“Leagrave Bench”); chairs (“Leagrave Luxe Lounge Chair”); coffee table (“Leagrave Luxe Coffee Table” ); side table (“Leagrave Luxe Side Table”): RH, 800/910-9836.

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    Vignettes of weathered mementoes around the Abbouds’ home lend interest and texture throughout the sepia-toned spaces.

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    Guest Bedroom with Wood and Grasscloth Details

    Grass cloth covers the walls in the guest bedroom.

    See more of this room on the following slides.

    Large mirror (“19th-century Belgian Scroll Mirror,” not available); drapery (“Belgian Sheer Linen Drapery”): RH, 800/910-9836.
    Area rug: for similar, RH, 800/910-9836,
    Drapery hardware: custom.
    Wall covering: Phillip Jeffries, 800/576-5455,
    Bed (“French Empire Bed”); wall light (“Atelier Swing Arm Wall Sconce”): RH, 800/910-9836.
    Bed linens; bedside tablehanging light: for similar, RH, 800/910-9836,

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    Guest Bedroom Desk Area

    A corkboard with women’s fashion sketches personalizes the desk area of a guest bedroom with grass-cloth wall covering.

    Desk (“Garment Factory Desk”); desk lamp (“1930s Studio Task Table Lamp”); desk chair (“18th-century French Burlap Armless Chair Upholstered”); drapery (“Belgian Sheer Linen Drapery”); horse head sculpture (“Horse Head
    ): RH, 800/910-9836.
    Carpet: for similar, RH, 800/910-9836,
    Wall covering: Phillip Jeffries, 800/576-5455,

  • Eric Roth

    Guest Bedroom Sitting Area and Mirror

    A linen chair and ottoman are warmed with a throw from Joseph’s menswear collection. Custom hardware at the window joins an antique Belgian mirror and RH furnishings.

    Chair (“Lyon Chair”/Burnt Oak Finish); ottoman (“Cabriole Ottoman”/Brown Oak Drifted Finish); chair and ottoman fabric (“Belgian Linen”/Sand); pillow on chair (“Vintage French Grain-Sack Linen Pillow Covers”): RH, 800/910-9836.
    Throw (menswear fabric from Joseph Abboud Menswear Collection): owner’s collection.

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    Marble-filled Master Bath

    A Corinthian capital as shower seat pays homage to neoclassicism. Walls are custom Venetian plaster. Art behind the Kohler tub is by Grant Ernhart.

    Tub: Kohler, 800/456-4537,
    Photograph behind tub (by Grant Ernhart): Grant Ernhart Photography, 415/812-5031,
    Wall treatment (custom color): Venetian plaster.
    Mirror (“19th-century baroque Revenna Etched Mirror”); upholstered chair (“Professor’s Upholstered Chair”); chair fabric (“Belgian Linen”/Sand); cabinet (“Pharmacy Large Bath Cabinet”/Burnished Steel); pedestal in shower (“Scrolling Corinthian Capital Side Table”): RH, 800/910-9836. 

  • Eric Roth

    History Behind the Designs

    Written by Estelle Bond Guralnick

    Joseph Abboud wanted to be a teacher, relishing the idea of a tweed jacket with leather elbow patches. In college, he studied literature and spent a year at The Sorbonne in Paris. While an undergrad, he worked at clothing emporium LouisBoston, which ultimately changed his destiny. After graduation, he turned down a teaching post to stay on full-time, traveling and buying. He also met his wife, Lynn, who sold shirts and ties, at Louis. “It was a marriage made in retail,” he quips.

    Pair of chairs (“Marseilles Chair”); bookshelves (“Dutch Industrial Tower”): RH, 800/910-9836.
    Desk, desk chair: owner’s collection. 

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    History Behind the Designs

    But the capital of the fashion world is NYC, and Abboud joined Ralph Lauren there in 1981, becoming associate director of menswear design. In 1988, his own label, JA Apparel, was launched; in 1990, he became the first to be named Menswear Designer of the Year for two consecutive years by the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA).

  • Eric Roth

    Dark and Alluring Wine Room

    An antique French bronze clock with a 66-inch diameter was conveyed to the upper level of the tower by a freight elevator with only a quarter inch to spare. “Good karma,” says Joseph. The darkest room in the apartment, the winery is also his favorite.

    Paint (“Rialto” #32-21): Pratt & Lambert, 800/289-7728,
    Chandelier (“Foucault’s Iron Orb Chandelier”/Rustic Iron, Medium): RH, 800/910-9836.
    Table; stools at table: for similar, RH, 800/910-9836,
    Clock (antique French clock face); cabinetry (antique): owner’s collection.
    Photographs: by Charlie Waite,

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    Contrasting Winery Details

    The winery’s ebony palette leaves room for lighter pieces to pop against the dark walls.

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    Antique Marble Bust

    An 1850 marble sculpture of Napoleon in Joseph’s tower office is one of his most prized antiques. It shares space with new Napoleon busts from RH.

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    The home’s neutral palette is warmed in the master bedroom, where pair of tufted benches sits at the foot of a wooden bed with carved details. Antique rugs cover the nubby flooring underneath.

    Bed (“St. James Bed”): RH, 800/910-9836.
    Bed linenssquare pillow shams: for similar, RH, 800/910-9836,
    Wall hanging behind bed: antique.
    Area rug: antique.
    Table lamp on left table (“Greek Key Baluster Table Lamp”); table lamp on right table (“18th-century Belgian Wall-Anchor Table Lamp,” discontinued): RH, 800/910-9836.
    Bedside tables: for similar, RH, 800/910-9836, 
    Demilune (French iron): antique.
    Photograph: owner’s collection.
    Benches: for similar, RH, 800/910-9836,
    Bench fabric (Joseph Abboud fabric): owner’s collection.
    Paint: custom.