This 1958 home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was a custom structure built for a young couple that contained a small apartment attached to a dentist office. The family lived in for the next 50 years, and have now passed on the torch to a new young couple who are serious about maintaining the midcentury residence's roots.
The former dentist office waiting room has its original built-in seating, laminate-topped tables and vintage smoked Lucite and upholstered armchairs. Tilkens-Fisher’s midcentury design business is run out of this part of the home, where a Seth Thomas wall clock hangs next to a 1972 acrylic painting by Tom Johnston on the paneled wall.

This 1958 home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was built by the young architect Irwin Stein for Mort and Elsa Wachs, who wanted a small apartment attached to a dentist office for Mort (part 1). Several kids and a remodel later, the midcentury residence was a four bedroom, 2,600-square-foot home the Wachs lived in for the next 50 years.

New Owners

In 2009, Mort and Elsa were moving to retirement housing and the residence was listed for sale, well above the budget that Bobbie Ann Tilkens-Fisher and Matthew Fisher could afford. Like many couples, they weren’t really in the market per se, and after viewing the available Philadelphia modernist homes with Realtor Craig Wakefield, decided to stay put in their downtown row house. But one of the first places he’d shown them, the Wachses’ virtually original home, stuck with them.

More than a year later, Wakefield emailed that the property was still on the market and had been significantly reduced. They almost lost it to another buyer this time, but by May 2010 they had moved in. Other than repainting some rooms, taking up bedroom carpet and removing wallpaper in a bath, the pair have embraced the vintage charms of the midcentury residence.

Getting a Feel for the Home

“Our main focus these first few years has been on cutting back a lot of the overgrown and dying trees and shrubs, and refilling the space with new plantings,” says Fisher, 43, president of an interactive design firm. “In the future we are looking to upgrade the electrical system and the kitchen appliances. I have also been researching custom-built interior storm windows that will allow us to retain the integrity of the original windows while providing some 21st-century insulation.”

The 2,600-square-foot home and attached office provide more than enough room for the couple. “When we first moved in, we really had no idea what we would use the former dental office for,” says Tilkens-Fisher, 38, an art history and museum studies college instructor. “But the house inspired me to start my own midcentury design business—At Home Modern—and gave me the room to run it.

“Initially, we were fairly certain that a kitchen remodel was our top priority. It’s been two and a half years since we’ve moved in, and I can honestly say that the kitchen is far more functional that I ever thought it would be,” she continues. “If we were to do a remodel, the ideal materials would be ceramic tile, laminate, walnut cabinets and concrete—all materials already used throughout the house. This home has been an inspiration in ways I never imagined.”

Furniture Basics for a Midcentury Residence

Stay tuned to learn about the iconic midcentury pieces that grace this home in Part 3.