A couple’s differences inspire a level design
Michelle and Brad Fisher are a very resourceful couple. His rock stacks and their outdoor sculpture choices display their creative force.
Photos by Rana Faure
Over the course of centuries, people have been stacking rocks—as cairns to mark a path, as funeral markers, wall décor, or priceless art in the hands of British artist Andy Goldsworthy.
Brad Fisher started stacking rocks at his house on Ramapoo Road as he was creating a backyard out of a wooded area. As anyone who has tried to garden in 06877 knows, Ridgefield soil is positively packed with rock.
Fisher had many stones left, even after he built a series of walls. “Building the stone walls made me feel good because I was creating something out of nothing,” explains Fisher, who bought this small gem of a house in 1999.
“Then I started stacking the stones. I’ve gotten better at it, but the wind or deer push them over. A lot of trees fall right on them.”
Fisher and his wife Michelle, who moved in when the couple married eight years ago, are continually curating their property. They have a four-year old son, who is at times an artistic collaborator and at other times a source of the rock piles’ demise.
At the bottom of the sloped property, Brad created a little pond with a seasonal creek. Says Michelle, “We hear the creek when the windows are open. It’s so sweet.”
“People stop by all the time,” Brad explains. “They comment on what’s new. This puts a lot of pressure on me because I know people appreciate it.”
One woman was so captivated by the couple’s property that she stopped by with a green-glass globe chandelier. The couple turned the stranger’s gift into a lamp th
at has a prominent place in their kitchen. Another neighbor poked his head in to say that his children call the house “the movie-ticket house” because of an orange sculpture that appears to emerge from the ground like a ripped ticket.
In addition to Brad’s rock stacks, the “ticket” sculpture, and other interesting sculptures, at the back of the house features a painting you can see from Barry Avenue during winter when the trees are bare. Michelle, herself an accomplished artist, made the artwork as an anniversary present for Brad. “It was my first installation piece,” she says. “I applied latex house paint and polyurethane on plexiglass.”
The inside of the house also reflects the couple’s creativity. “It’s not your typical magazine house,” says Michelle. “It’s small, there are low ceilings, and there’s nothing Pottery Barn about it.” But this small house has a big personality.
A precise history of the house is not known, but the large beehive oven in the living room indicates that part of the house is from the late 1700s. A map from the 1790s indicates that there was a Ramapoo Indian settlement at the site, and the family has found arrowheads and tools to support that.
The Fishers had to take down a wall near the stairs to open up the space. When the couple pulled out the 1930s-era kitchen, there was an open water source under the floorboards. “There was actually water there,” says Michelle. “It was creepy. Horse hair and newspaper were the insulation.”
The couple designed the modern kitchen themselves and had a friend build it. Theyalso designed and decorated their son’s playroom. “We wanted something playful but not Big Bird,” says Michelle.
The décor is mid-century modern. “I used to collect early American antiques,” says Brad, “but I started selling them and collecting modern pieces. I don’t like buying new things.” In fact, Brad and his son’s weekends are consumed with visiting local tag sales and antiques shops. “I’m a minimalist but I love to collect things,” he says.
One of Brad’s collections is painted mirrors from the 1960s. He also collects toys. “I’m hoping to bring back the 1980s for my kid with the toys we grew up with. I have an Atari downstairs that I want him to use.”
Brad, an identical twin, moved to Ridgefield in 1972 and graduated from Ridgefield High School in 1991. He recently started a new job on Long Island for a firm that manages soil and groundwater cleanup.
Michelle creates pillows, articles of clothing, phone cases, and other products from her bold acrylic paintings and has started selling them under the brand name Michelle2sday. (In fact, during our interview, I realized that my husband bought a pair of Fisher’s leggings for me. I have never worn them without receiving compliments.)
Many of Michelle’s paintings decorate the walls. She takes down “Knots in My Stomach” to show her process. She describes how the color helps to depict the feeling of worry or anxiety, and how the design incorporates shapes that grow into other shapes. She shows how the design of a pillow is a tribute to pop artist Roy Lichtenstein. A painting above the master bed is a finger painting by her son and her. “I love the colors,” she says.
Michelle cites the couple’s differences: “We’re yin and yang,” she says. “He’s calm and canbalance things. I’m crazy.” However, this couple seems well matched in their passion for design and creativity.
“We’re never satisfied,” says Michelle. “We never stop thinking about how can we utilize the space better. Our house is small, but it’s always evolving both inside and outside. That’s what makes it fun.”