Home: Couture at Home

More than 25 years in custom clothing design has given Frank Agostino an eye for the perfect fit. The couturier and his wife, Grace Ann (a women’s handbag designer, also from Philadelphia), found theirs in a 200-year-old house with several exposed pipes and sconces once used for gas lighting. All it needed was some tailoring, which Agostino supplied with the same atten-
tion to detail he puts into his elegant eveningwear.

The initial renovation took more than a year, but, says Agostino, “We wanted to do it right.” Next, they decorated, inspired by fashion role models including Geoffrey Beene, James Galanos and Jean Paul Gaultier. Like the handmade gowns he designs, Agostino’s home doesn’t have a lot of ornamentation to distract from its simple, stately refinement. Minimal window treatments — only in the dining room, kitchen and powder room — keep the look clean and tailored. What he does have in abundance is art and antiques. The couple has been collecting both — lots of blue-and-white porcelain and 19th-century English and French lithographs — since they married in 1967. Their first purchase was an antique travelers’ inkwell they found in a small shop just across the road from Westminster Abbey while honeymooning in London.

“Art and music have always been a part of my life,” says Agostino. “Even as a kid, I was visiting museums. Other kids would be skipping school to hang out … I would skip school and visit the Frick Museum.” Judging from his walls, the designer’s art appreciation has few boundaries: surreal landscapes, 18th- and 19th-century prints and lithographs, and dreamy landscapes by New Orleans artist Simon Gunning dot the walls. There are portraits of Grace Ann and their son Christopher by Brian Stonehouse, the British portraitist whose clients included members of the British royal family, and an abstract painting Agostino spotted at the Philadelphia Academy of the Fine Arts student sale.

“We only buy what we love, regardless of investment value or whose name is on it,” says Agostino. “Ever since I was a child, I have always had an eye for ‘the right thing,’ and if I didn’t get it I would rather have nothing.”

His childhood in Brooklyn with his large Italian family inspired the designer’s favorite space in the house, the generously proportioned entrance hall. “My mother would have music playing on the phonograph or radio all the time,” says Agostino. “We were brought up with it. I love this room because it’s always where the family gathers for big events. We congregate around the piano and play great music. This space reminds me of that feeling of togetherness.”