Tour fashion designer Joseph Abboud's Boston home
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.
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.
Neoclassical Coffee Tables
The room’s neoclassical bent is articulated by Ionic capital coffee tables from RH.
Living Room Game Table
A pair of chairs flanking a pedestal table creates a symmetrical scene in the living room.
An iron spiral staircase accesses the five-story tower in the family’s pied-à-terre.
Joseph Abboud in his Boston home.
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.
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.
Kitchen Bar Area
An antique hand-carved bowl warms up the island’s Carrara marble countertop.
Hallway Sleigh Bench
A kilim rug and sleigh bench sit in the hallway below a large black-and-white photograph by William Curtis Rolf.
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 Room Wooden Console
Two antique horses and rustic artifacts lend masculine sensibility to the dining room’s console area.
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.
Cool Tower Stairs
A spiral staircase winds up inside the tower.
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.
Tower Library Bookcases
Library Bookcase Details
Animal skulls are hung from the bookcase to give the library the masculine feel of a hunting lodge.
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.
Vignettes of weathered mementoes around the Abbouds’ home lend interest and texture throughout the sepia-toned spaces.
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.
Guest Bedroom Desk Area
A corkboard with women’s fashion sketches personalizes the desk area of a guest bedroom with grass-cloth wall covering.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Contrasting Winery Details
The winery’s ebony palette leaves room for lighter pieces to pop against the dark walls.
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.
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.