SHELL SHOCK: Andrew Fisher’s San Francisco Apartment / Interior Design
Andrew Fisher’s San Francisco apartment is a place to discover, not to describe. Fisher, a longtime partner in the traditional San Francisco decorating firm of John G. Hallock Interiors, also works wonders as a decorative artist, turning his visions into reality with a hot glue gun, a treasure trove of fabulous trinkets acquired on his travels, and the remarkable wizardry of his hands. The story of this apartment is, more than usual, his story, because he made virtually everything in it. As he says, ‘I’ve always done things with my hands. My mother taught me to knit when I was ten.
‘It all started,’ he flashes back, ‘because I saw a Baroque carved console table, which I loved but couldn’t afford. The best way to have one was to make an approximation. One day, I woke up and thought ‘seashells.’ Because I often do these kinds of pieces on commission for other designers, I decided to make the shell-encrusted secretary for myself. And then it just escalated. Basically, when I moved into this box – 1,100 sq. ft. with 18 ft. ceilings – I started decorating and couldn’t stop. And, of course, it became something of a gallery, a live-in work space for trying out new ideas.’
The ‘box,’ as Fisher refers to it, measures 22 by 50, and is one of six cookie-cutter, loft-like traits in a brand new San Francisco building. A long dark hallway opens onto the gleeful surprise of the dining room, dominated by an extravagantly ornate chandelier. A brown block, as the designer describes it, divides the dining from the living area: ‘Anything having to do with the 20th century lives in that block. The 18th-century Portuguese mirror, a gift from my mentor Tony Duquette, which once belonged to Agnes Moorehead, slides on a track,’ and conceals all electronic flotsam and jetsam. The wiring runs beneath the hardwood floors. Fisher has also covered up each and every light switch. The bedroom occupies a loft upstairs.
‘Most of the stuff here is like Martha Stewart on LSD,’ he explains. Martha Stewart, whether tripping or not, probably doesn’t have such a fantastic dream life, the inspiration for Fisher’s concoctions. Nor does she have his background in jewelry design and metalsmithing, both of which inform his small- and large-scale projects.
Part of the enormous joy of this space comes from discovering how – and from what – Fisher actually created this blooming delirium. The shell-encrusted, pagoda-pedimented secretary (see cover) is the first piece he made for this interior. Its swagged crown illustrates the technique he used to trim a set of coral-backed chairs he made for the living room and, most brilliantly, for the elaborate cornice attachments framing the bed. ‘All these drapes are made from sheeting that I sewed into festoons or swags, dipped in plaster and then hung up to dry. Once they were dry, I coated them with layers of urethane,’ he explains. For the 18-ft.-high window draperies, he used a considerably less extravagant process, layering yards of natural linen gauze over dark brown black-out lining.
The chandelier dominating the dining area yields more evidence of Fisher’s prodigious imagination and wizardry. A confection of dowel poles and toilet plungers, the crustacean encrusted fixture sports pie and tart tin fittings wired to support the luminaires.
And, okay, he needlepointed the pillows on the sofa, which he built from oak plywood, painted with a rosewood faux bols finish and ornamented with sea shells. The wall hanging consists of used coffee filters, stitched together and finished with a polymer medium.
Fisher’s residence teems with reflections of his virtuosity: bedding he quilted from African textiles, Easter egg jewel boxes concocted from finials, nails, antique Indonesian temple hangings and glass beads from India, table lamps with Tibetan hat shades, bedside tables devised with intricate Indian applied to marbleized drums, and a stainless steel bar sink encrusted with sea shells on the exterior and silver leafed on the interior. This is the stuff that dreams are made of.
Text by Judith Nasatir