Inside the fashion designer’s home.

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The Joseph Abboud Touch In Ties, Pillows, Buicks and Bedford

Inside the fashion designer’s home.



The Joseph Abboud Touch In Ties, Pillows, Buicks and Bedford

 

Inside the fashion designer’s home.

 

By Esther Davidowitz • Photos by Phillip Ennis

 

Joseph Abboud does not want to talk business. He does not want to talk fashion, either. Joseph Abboud wants to talk home, his home.  And after you step inside the trim 52-year-old’s 10,000-square-foot French country home in Bedford, you understand why.  After all, it’s well designed, really well designed—which should come as no surprise. Joseph Abboud, the award-winning men’s fashion designer, knows a thing or two about design.

“I do have a pretty good track record,” quips the warm and likeable father of two, sitting in his spectacularly appointed living room dressed head to toe in—what else?—Joseph Abboud clothes. “I wear only my own-designed clothes,” Abboud says. “Only my underwear is not Joseph Abboud. We don’t do underwear.”

 

No underwear, alas. But Joseph Abboud, the company that is, the reported $250-million-and-then-some company the designer founded 15 years ago, does do ties, sweaters, chinos, shirts, suits, belts—practically everything a fashion-savvy man today may need to build a sophisticated yet casual, elegant yet comfortable, wardrobe. And recently, as he certainly wants you to understand, thanks to Joseph Abboud Environments, the fashion-savvy man and fashion-savvy woman can accessorize their home with Joseph Abboud home goods—from dinnerware and flatware to bedding and mattresses, from beach towels and bath towels to throws and pillows. (Some of his own-designed decorative pillows sit atop the hand carved European rustic bed in the Abbouds’ master bedroom.)

There’s more as well. Besides Joseph Abboud chinos and crewnecks and Joseph Abboud cups and comforters, there is also a Joseph Abboud-designed car: the Buick Regal GS Joseph Abboud Edition.

 

All of the many things Abboud designs share his signature look—a stylish mix of warm, neutral earth colors, elegant subtle patterns, and rich, luxurious textures. That signature is apparent in his house, the home he shares with his wife of 26 years, Lynn, and their two daughters, Lila, 12, and Ari, 8. You can’t help but notice his characteristic touch the moment you step inside—and find yourself standing in a startlingly beautiful earth-toned entranceway. The colors—browns and grays, mahoganies and cherries, tans and beiges—are all so earthy, so neutral, so Joseph Abboud. 

 

“I love all the natural colors,” says Abboud, who, in the highly competitive world of fashion, is credited with having changed the color palette used in menswear. He is so aware and taken by earth colors that on a Nantucket beach vacation years ago, when he became smitten by the colors of the rocks in the water (“They were russet and peachy rose”), he collected about 80 pounds of them, and stuffed them into a bag. Abboud took that bag to Scotland, where he knew someone who, he hoped, could recreate that color in yarn. “People on the plane wanted to know what was in that bag,” he recalls. “They were really puzzled when I told them rocks.” The rock-colored yarn was used to make sweaters. “It was the best sweater collection I ever made.”

 

Abboud’s clothes are sold in better department stores including Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s and in exclusive local shops like Rothman’s in Scarsdale and Mitchell’s of Westport. Later this year, a 7,000-square-foot retail outlet is scheduled to open in Columbus Circle. 

 

Besides natural color, Abboud also clearly loves natural materials—wood and stone, leather and silk, iron and marble, slate and granite: you can see these and other real-earth materials throughout the house—from the Connecticut fieldstone walls in the living room (“I love stone and Connecticut fieldstone has a rich brown in it,” he says) to the hand-hewn South American hardwood beams in the ceiling and the madras slate floor crisscrossed with heart pine beams in the adjoining den.

 

More natural material can be found in the family’s glorious kitchen where whitewashed ash cabinets, limestone floors and a honed marble countertop make for a very elegant yet inviting country look. And still more natural material can be seen in beautiful hand-wrought bronze and iron gates throughout the house. Abboud recently installed an eye-arresting Italian hand-wrought iron and bronze fence around his property “to keep the deer out,” he explains. “This is the only way for me to protect my plantings.”

Says Abboud: “Just as I love the character of clothes, I love the character of wood and stone and iron. They are more than one dimensional.”

 

They also have an appeal that (you need only visit Europe for proof) tends to last forever—which may be still another Abboud signature trait: timelessness. Unlike many other designers, Abboud eschews the look of the moment (“I don’t like flashy”), preferring a more European, more sophisticated look—a look that stays in style no matter what the latest fashion trend may be. His house is only 10 years young, yet it has that timeless look, something his friend Tom Brokaw certainly noticed. When the news anchor came over for dinner one night, he told his host, “This house looks like it’s been here one hundred years.” Says Abboud, “That was the nicest compliment.”

 

Born in Boston, the son of a working-class mechanical engineer and a nurse’s aide, both of Lebanese descent, Abboud attended on full scholarship the University of Massachusetts, where he studied English and French literature, intending to become a teacher. “I thought teaching was a noble thing to do.”  But even then, he says, he dreamed of the clothes he’d wear while practicing that noble profession. “I pictured a tweed sportcoat with elbow patches.” Says Abboud: “I always loved clothes. As a kid I thought if I dressed well, it would open doors.” At age 17, he says, he bought a Ralph Lauren sportcoat that was so expensive (“It cost $150, which then was like $1,000”) that he paid for it in the only way he could: $10-a-week on a three-month layaway plan. “I saw more than sleeves and buttons. I saw style.” It’s no coincidence that Abboud was voted “Best Dressed” student in high school.

 

When in 1970, he was a college junior, the University sent the nattily dressed student to Paris to study at the Sorbonne on scholarship. “It was a great experience,” he says. “It opened my eyes to style.” He graduated college with honors and, though strongly encouraged to go on to study French, which he speaks fluently, Abboud instead decided to try his luck in the world of fashion.

 

For 12 years, he worked as, among other things, merchandiser and buyer at the prestigious retail store, Louis of Boston, where he not only learned a great deal about fashion but got to meet, and eventually work for and befriend, fellow Westchesterite Ralph Lauren. “I think he’s brilliant,” Abboud declares. He worked for Lauren for four-and-a-half years (he rose in the company to become the associate director of menswear) before launching his own label in 1986. “I realized I had something new to say, something that wasn’t already out there.” And he was so sure that American men would be receptive to what he had to say, he didn’t bother to do any market research. “I went by instinct. I designed clothes that I wanted. I was a pretty good guinea pig for my line.”

He showed the same willingness to simply dive into unfamiliar waters when it came to designing his house. It wasn’t easy. “It’s why my hair turned gray,” he quips. “Building and designing a house is a monumental task—the details, the decisions, the problems. It can be a nightmare.” Not to mention, expensive. “The house was way over budget,” Abboud admits. “I certainly poured more money into it than I had planned to.”

 

So, why did he do it? Why did he not just buy a house, hire an interior decorator and be done with it? “Maybe it’s because we fashion designers have big egos,” he answers joking at first, then  adding more seriously: “The house is just a continuum of the creative process. Being creative is what drives me.”

 

He began the domicile stage in that creative process a decade ago, after his wife Lynn discovered that there were eight acres of land on a lake for sale in Bedford. “It was the last piece of buildable property in Bedford that was not in a subdivision,” Abboud says. “I fell in love with it. It was all woods and stone cliffs.” At the time, the Abbouds were living in a much smaller but “quite charming” house in Pound Ridge. They had first moved into Westchester in 1984. “I discovered Westchester through friends,” Abboud says, “and I fell in love with it. It really felt country.”

 

Today Westchester is, he says, “my community.” It’s where his daughters attend school and ride their ponies. It’s where home is—even though, he admits, he still has strong roots in Boston. Indeed, Abboud remains an avid Boston Red Sox fan. “The house is two hours and forty-three minutes from Fenway Park.” 

 

He shops at the local Food Emporium and works out at the Saw Mill Club in Mt. Kisco. To relax, he fishes in the lake by his home and gardens “until my back aches.” And while, like many other Westchester commuters, he used to take the train to work, he now drives in because, he says, “People on the train wanted to talk to me about fashion all the time.” Although he adores fashion, he notes, “It’s really not all that important in the world.”

 

Increasingly what is important to Abboud is helping others, especially children. In May, he plans to hold the Second Annual Mohegan Sun—Joseph Abboud Celebrity Tennis Classic at the Saw Mill Club to help benefit the special care nursery at Northern Westcheser Hospital Center, the CJ Foundation for SIDS and the Imus Ranch. “I’ll do anything for children,” he says.

 

Abboud’s house, he confides, is now his great pleasure—“my sanctuary.” That has a lot to do with the fact that he designed it himself,  even though he had no training in architecture or home design. “It takes a lot of confidence to trust your taste,” he says. “But you should trust it. Most people can do it.”

 

Perhaps. But few can do it as well as he.

 

 

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