fcSTUDIO’s Julie Fisher on Blurring Design Borders
As co-founder of Chicago-based architecture and design firm fcSTUDIO and the owner of an impressive portfolio that spans North America, Julie Fisher is at the vanguard of a movement that blurs residential, commercial, and hospitality design. Yet no matter how innovative her interiors, Fisher keeps art front and center.
“We create spaces that have lots of layers and discoveries to keep things fresh, even when you see it every day,” she explains. “Clients come to us for our ability to use conventional materials in different ways.”
For Chicago’s WNDR Museum, her firm re-imagined the conventional gallery experience, creating an immersive space where visitors can engage with interactive technologies alongside works by Yayoi Kusama, Richard Prince and Barbara Kruger. Curiosity and a willingness to see things differently drive all that Fisher does, from the design of homes to workspaces.
The Fisher-designed Chicago headquarters of Envestnet Analytics attests to these talents. What could be a stark, minimal office space instead reads like a gallery, its modern lines, backlit niches, and open screens framing art and antiques in a purposeful way. For a firm that invites a wide range of clients into its offices, the layered design communicates a warm sense of hospitality. Textiles and rich textures bring depth to meeting spaces.
“The client is an incredible visionary with a unique design sensibility,” Fisher says. “We wanted to celebrate his appreciation for art and design, and it was important for the space to welcome in business partners from across the globe. Unique cultural offerings can bridge old and new and bring a layer of color and interest to any space.”
Fisher’s use of art and antiques fits the trend in contemporary office design towards residential-style collaborative spaces. As open-plan offices proliferate, companies face increasing demands to provide appealing, comfortable niches within them.
Cafés, kitchens and communal spaces are common in today’s workplaces, where casual interactions can bond teams and lead to creative ideas. Technology has rendered old barriers obsolete, facilitating new ways of working.
“The younger generation expects offices to cater to their needs,” Fisher says. “We create and design with the idea of total flexibility: comfortable-feeling, hip-looking spaces in which employees can work or eat.”
Helping this mission along are recent technological advances in textiles. “Technology has come so far in the past few years,” she says. “We’re able to turn residential fabrics into vinyl wall coverings, and we just met with a rep that can create wallpapers on a variety of surfaces and fabrics.”
Fisher also favors creating wallpaper patterns with photos and novel designs. “This has been around for quite some time, but was reserved for projects with huge budgets and lengthy time lines,” she adds. “Now everything is so readily available and can be done reasonably in a reasonable amount of time. I’m geeking out on technology.”
In residential designs, Fisher’s work evokes the same mixture of surprise. In a recent gut rehab and redesign of an historic Wicker Park home, fcSTUDIO appended an ultra-modern rear addition and kitchen. Throughout the process, Fisher was careful to honor the owner’s personal style by repurposing older pieces repurposed in unexpected ways.
“We layered her home with tapestries, created benches out of latticed doors, and fabricated a screen out of ancient roofing tiles,” Fisher says. “The client’s unique and eclectic style was a perfect match.”
In the end, Fisher believes her clients seek her out because of her determination to mix clean lines with rich materials.“This common thread works for both the commercial and residential sectors,” she says. “Most of our clients essentially want the same thing: durability, comfort, and warmth with aesthetic appeal.”
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