GRAND MASTERS OF DESIGN:
FISHER WEISMAN GO FOR OVER-THE-TOP GLAMOUR AT HOME / Elle Decor
At home in San Francisco, designers Andrew Fisher and Jeffry Weisman forsake their trademark understated interiors for over-the-top glamour — and more than a soupçon of whimsy.
The circa-1926 building can only be described as pure 18th century French château, from the authentic crémone-bolt hardware on the ten-foot-high French doors to the ornate plaster molding and the walls of Versailles-like antiqued mirror and trompe l’oeil. The question is, How did Marie Antoinette’s salon come to be perched on the top of San Francisco’s Nob Hill?
“Elsie de Wolfe,” says Jeffry Weisman, grinning, “Legend has it she was the design consultant.” Apocryphal or not, the ghost of the famed decorator and social maven does seem to hover over both the building’s good, if somewhat eccentric, bones and, in particular, the apartment Weisman shares with Andrew Fisher, his partner in the San Francisco-based first Fisher Weisman Design & Decoration. The space’s nod to old-school grandeur is whimsically coupled with the small-scale reality of its 1,800 square feet.
Take the bathroom-sized living room, with sweeping views of the city as a dramatic backdrop, the trove of antiques, modern furnishings, and art runs the gamut from ancient Roman capitals (once owned by Michael Taylor) that serve as cocktail tables to an 18th-century Italian writing desk from Lombardy, half a dozen of Louis XVI armchairs, and an Art Deco sofa based on one designed for Elsa Schiaparelli, it becomes clear that this is no show house, however, but rather a real home for real people the moment the couple’s huge standard poodles, Rock and Billy, start lolling upside down on the sofa.
“We wanted it to feel comfortable,” says Weisman, “not uptight.” Historical accuracy wasn’t part of the equation either. “We don’t do period rooms, period,” insists Fisher. What’s exciting to them is “the mix,” Weisman adds. “You could say it is an assemblage of our favorite things.” Perhaps, but these favorite things come with an unusual pedigree. Fisher worked with Tony Duquette, and several pieces in the apartment, including an 18th-century Portuguese mirror that once belonged to actress Agness Moorehead, were gifts from the late designer. A series of 1804 drawings by architect Sir John Soane hangs nearby, the ornate mantelpiece is Louis XV, and a pair of early-19th-century Russian side chairs are upholstered in a fabric of woven peacock feathers.
And everywhere is evidence of the resident artist, Fisher, known for his fantastical objects. His high-end arts and crafts projects have earned him the nickname “Fabergé with a Glue Gun,” and here his pieces range from an extravagant shell-encrusted chair with figures wrought from modeling clay to more subdued walnut and gilded steel twig-base side tables in the living room.
Redesigning the warren of smaller rooms in the rest of the apartment posed as much of an engineering challenge as an artistic one. The antiqued kitchen got bigger, and the entry was transformed into a slightly larger, albeit windowless, dining room.
“A bit controversial,” admits Weisman. But wildly successful, he and Fisher didn’t shirk from drama; They lined the walls with hand-blown antiqued-mirror panels from Germany and wood trim lacquered with a dozen coats of dark (brown with a touch of green) Dutch enamel paint. The massive dining table — a Fisher Weisman design in hand-carved mahogany topped with black mother-of-pearl veneer — took one craftsman an entire year to complete. Overhead, the shell-adorned chandelier (a Fisher creation, of course) was constructed, he says, “to look like it has been underwater for 100 years.”
Another look they were going for was a nocturnal one. “It’s a night-time entertaining spot,” Weisman says. “We’re never here in daylight and nighttime rooms need to be deeper in colors. So we let the whole place go dark, which makes it feel more spacious.”
In the master bedroom (which the previous owner had converted from the original dining room), the only way to comfortably fit a king-size bed was to cover the windows—literally. Weisman and Fisher docked them and nearly everything else with yards of lush flannel-like cloth. “It works because we can see through to the dressing room windows,” says Weisman, “but it is a shocking idea. I can’t imagine trying to convince a client to do this. I mean, it’s just so weird!”
A similar muted color scheme was used in the guest room, from the custom-dyed carpet to the wall covering that looks like sharkskin at first glance but turns out to be vinyl. Weisman laughingly calls the room “the busiest hotel room in San Francisco.” And no wonder. Who wouldn’t want to experience a decorator fantasy land where even vinyl walls convey an aura of glamour and fun?
Text by Anne Bogart / Photography by Grey Crawford