Fisher Weisman puts its best foot forward with new headquarters in San Francisco's SoMa zone.
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 7/1/2001 12:00:00 AM
At this point in their careers, Jeffry Weisman and Andrew Fisher certainly don't need an office as a selling tool. The firm, with a staff of nine, has all that it can handle with a current project count of 35 residences nationwide and some carefully selected hotels. But after 13 years at the base of the Transamerica Pyramid downtown, Weisman and Fisher had had enough of San Francisco's spiraling rents and terminal parking ills. They spent three years in search of a place of their own, finally settling on a warehouse in the South of Market zone.
The 50-ft.-by-75-ft. empty concrete structure, built in 1926, included a wood bow-and-truss ceiling, factory sash windows, and a full-height metal garage door. The partners demolished the floor and excavated three ft., allowing them to exploit the volume and also create a proper garage. The intervention provided a 26-ft. floor-to-ceiling height, adequate for a 16-ft. mezzanine insertion and parking space for four. Additional structural work entailed pouring a new concrete slab, scored in a large-scale diamond motif; completing seismic upgrades; and adding skylights. New Sheetrock walls are painted a warm white, but some of the original concrete walls were left exposed.
Organization is simple and open. Within the 6,250-sq.-ft. space, expanded from its original footprint of 3,750 sq. ft., the first floor accommodates reception, a glass-fronted conference area (the only room behind doors), separate libraries for materials and reference sources, and four work stations. Currently, the entire staff works in open areas on the upper level. The partners face each other across a burnished-steel and pearlized-lacquer conference table, seated at identical glass-topped, linen-draped desks. Some of their other pieces, however, suggest design sensibilities that are strikingly divergent. Fisher is an exuberant artist, renowned for his ornate, shell-encrusted pieces. His area includes a pair of Louis XV-style bergères embellished with shells, with faux-bois painting of both the frames and the raw silk upholstery. Weisman, who did a stint at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, has two Brno chairs. "It's all about the excess and restraint of our personalities," he remarks.
Fisher Weisman specializes in richly layered interiors that freely combine antiques, modern classics, Fisher's handiwork, and Asian influences. Object choices are always correctly scaled to their surroundings, perhaps a bit esoteric, but not necessarily precious. The new office resonates with the principals' particular approach to design. The chandeliers are especially compelling. Collaborating with a metalsmith, the partners fashioned fixtures measuring six ft. tall and four ft. in diameter; the elaborate finish was executed entirely by Fisher and Weisman. They gilded the drums and glued squares of mirror and white oyster shells to the stems, arms, and bands, completing the process with an interstitial layer of papier-mâché to hold the tiny elements together. Another eccentric yet dazzling piece further attests to Fisher's versatility in mixed media—a tapestry sewn of used and painted coffee filters. The designers certainly have an eye for the unusual: the wall behind Fisher's desk is hung with antique Chinese hats, while its counterpart on Weisman's side anchors a collection of antique, blown-glass funnels in custom steel mounts.
Aside from the fantasia suggested by Fisher and Weisman's signature work, there are practical yet plush custom furnishings, like the sofas derived from a Robsjohn-Gibbings design for Elsa Schiaparelli and large-scale, Asian-inspired consoles, as well as a selection of antiques and modern classics. "Clever shopping is a skill, but it's not 'designing' in our way of thinking," says Weisman.
In addition to providing storage space for antiques and pieces of their own design, the new headquarters "has changed the way we work," Weisman continues. "Now clients can come here and we can have presentations with the full staff. The process becomes more transparent and it's more engaging for clients." The space is a recurring source of wonder not only for clients, but also for Weisman—"I walk in and feel elated every day."
The project was completed in six months for $100 per sq. ft. The team, in addition to principals, included Bryn Brugioni, senior designer, and Yenni Setiawan, designer.