In 1958, Irwin Stein built this custom midcentury home for the a young family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. When they put it on the market, a new young couple moved in, determined to keep the original beauty and uniqueness of the home by going back to furniture basics.
In addition to two chairs from Matthew Fisher’s family, details in the hearth area include a built-in sofa recovered in Maharam wool, a standing sculpture by Jason Seley, a metal wall sculpture of unknown provenance and a triangular magazine table similar to ones designed by Arthur Umanoff. Beyond the Plycraft chair you glimpse the sunken dining room, and directly above it are the acrylic window shutters of the second-floor master bedroom.

In 1958, Irwin Stein built this custom midcentury home for the Wachs family in Philadelphia, Penn (part 1). When they put it on the market in 2009, Bobbie Ann Tilkens-Fisher and Matthew Fisher moved in, determined to keep the original beauty and uniqueness of the home (part 2). Next, they go back to furniture basics to turn their house into a home.

Furnishing the Wachs House

Beyond a few pieces inherited from their families, all of the vintage furnishings and collectibles have come from Tilkens-Fisher’s online searches and garage sales, flea markets, thrift shops and auctions. “What I loved most about studying art history were the stories behind the objects. I found myself wanting to find ways to get those tales out there to more people. I’m essentially a storyteller and a curator.

“At first, I only purchased items for our home in suitable condition, like the fantastic midcentury sectional sofa I found at an auction for $10,” she says. “The upholstery looked great, but our cats quickly took to shredding the fragile vintage fabric. We love this sofa, so I recently had it reupholstered in Crypton fabric, which is supposed to be rather resistant to claws. I had such a positive experience with this particular upholsterer that I’m no longer afraid to take on ‘project’ pieces for us or my clients.”

Her experiences with clientele and furnishing their own house on a tight budget have resulted in a thesis statement of sorts. “Sometimes, in a rush to furnish a newly purchased midcentury home, owners will go ahead and buy a house full of new (albeit midcentury-designed) furniture from a catalog,” Tilkens-Fisher remarks. “The end result is too homogenized and sterile and does nothing to reflect the personality of the people who live in the house. The most intriguing homes are filled with items that are old and new, perfect and imperfect and that tell a story about themselves and their owners.”

“It was interesting to see Bobbie and Matt’s furnishings; they weren’t wildly different than what Elsa had,” mentions Irwin Stein as he describes a huge macramé hanging that the Wachses displayed on the tall fireplace surround. “The fun of architecture is imagining something and then being able to walk around inside of it, realizing it’s gone from this dream to reality.”

The last word goes to Elsa: “We had become so accustomed to having expansive, exquisite views with natural light and colors that changed with each season. When we were condo shopping, it was difficult to find an apartment that would compare to that aspect of our living. I believe that the effect of almost 50 years in those light-drenched surroundings 24/7 became embedded in our souls.”