The House Next Door: Architects Eric Fisher and Bea Spolidoro design a life in Shadyside
Thanks so much to writer, Patricia Sheridan and photographer, Pam Panchak, for their fine documentation of the Fisher ARCHitecture home/office, and for their portrayal of the (ahem) couple that happens to live there. You can check out the original piece here, which contains a 7 minute long video featuring Bea and me talking about the house.
March 30, 2020
Tucked away and boxed in on every side, the lot was not most people’s choice to build a house. But architect Eric Fisher saw potential and memories.
“I saw this lot and it was adjacent to the house where I grew up, so I knew the neighborhood well,” he said.
The original house on the lot was too far gone to save. “It was infested with termites, the roof was gone, the windows were bad, and it didn’t have a foundation,” noted Mr. Fisher.
Who better to design a new home than the founder of Fisher ARCHitecture? He learned his craft from a generation of Los Angeles architects who had been inspired by Rudolph Schindler and Richard Neutra.
Drawing on their modernist approach, Mr. Fisher created a 2,500-square-foot house with a living roof in 2007. He chose a copper exterior to pull together Pittsburgh’s industrial heritage and the environmentally sustainable experience he creates for his clients.
“All of the windows bring the outside in,” he said.
He put a green courtyard between his house and the neighbors while designing an open concept interior.
“The outside literally becomes an extension of the inside. … The experience of the house continues on as far as you can see.”
The house’s only interior door is disguised as part of a paneled wall in the den. It opens to a bathroom.
Mr. Fisher noted that people are building smaller houses than they used to.
“You don’t need 4,000 square feet if you are two people,” he said. “The thought was to build smaller but to build with higher quality.”
Mr. Fisher shares the house in Shadyside with his Italian wife of over a year, Bea Spolidoro, also an architect and a principal at the firm. The house is the office for Fisher ARCHitcture during the day and their home at night.
“Coming from Milano, a very Italian city, I love this house,” she said. “It is so modern with the light and the way we use everything is very much European.”
Ms. Spolidoro especially cherishes the kitchen and dining table.
“I make a big deal of always eating at the table and being this is a home and office sometimes there is a little bit of confusion,” she admitted.
Ms. Spolidoro was initially surprised to see people working at the dining room table. “For me that was a huge no-no because the dining table is sacred!”
Decorating the walls and some surfaces are architectural renderings from completed projects and works in progress. The home is a true reflection of the architects’ private and professional lives. It is also creating income. “We rent the lower level,” he said.
Ms. Spolidoro said the open concept kitchen made her change her cooking habits.
“I have a very specific idea of the kitchen: I love four walls and no man in the kitchen,” she said. “Everything happens in front of my guests. The magic happens and I cannot hide anything, so I had to change my style of cooking a little.
“It is a wonderful space — very efficient. You just have to be really neat and clean.”
The glass backsplash over the stove is covered in Italian phases.
“Eric is learning Italian, and every week there is something different from a grammar point of view,” Ms. Spolidoro said with a laugh.
Mr. Fisher said the house changed when his wife moved in two years ago. “I did not want the house to be a mausoleum, so it was important that I was flexible.”
Her family photos hang on the wall in their bedroom, and a desk was built in the room for her. The second floor holds their bathroom and bedroom, which opens to the green roof, one of the first in Pittsburgh. There are two skylights over the bed.
“We appreciate the light and the open space,” he said. “In the city life is about people, and we appreciate that. It’s been a really positive experience for us.”
Patricia Sheridan: firstname.lastname@example.org.