Simply Fabulous: David Fierabend’s Repurposed NoLibs Penthouse

You've seen his work at Morgan's Pier and CHOP, now check out the landscape architect's enviable digs in Northern Liberties.

Muted living room colors pop in ample natural light.

Though his Groundswell Design Group has headed up major landscape design projects—from the Sea Garden at CHOP to the beer garden at Morgan’s Pier—David Fierabend’s first opportunity to design his own abode came in the form of the Northern Liberties penthouse he purchased a year ago. He didn’t waste time realizing his vision for the space.

An old B.F. Goodrich tire sign serves up a whimsical dash of bold graphics.

Sitting atop the redesigned Lighthaus condominiums, Fierabend’s pad has a mixed design sensibility, which might be called “bucolic with splashes of modern chic.” The result is a living area that is both comforting and forward-thinking. “’Post-industrial eclectic’” is Fierabend’s term for it. “It’s definitely my space,” he says. “There’s no doubt about it.”

The apartment’s funky-yet-clean vibe is the result of a clever mix of repurposed materials, used as accents for Fierabend’s thoughtfully curated collection of modern furniture. Walls are strewn with old barn wood and salvaged chicken-coop tin, adding to the rustic vibe and careful patterning scheme throughout. “It’s just my style,” Fierabend says. “I like to repurpose, but I wanted it to be in an eclectic way that makes sense.”

The bar is made up of live edge poplar and rusted supports from worn bleachers; a hulking ship piping mold, picked up from Provenance, has now been re-imagined as a side table. The plywood table that sits in the center of the unit’s relaxed office is an original that consists of “hundreds of cuts all glued together,” Fierabend says. “So it has a lot of texture to it and natural lines in it, which are really terrific.”

Much of the design grew out of a single piece of art hanging near the dining area—a long canvas of parallel horizontal lines whose colors clash and divide. “I actually got it in an estate sale. I don’t even know who the artist is,” Fierabend says. “I just liked the color in it. And it seemed kind of a little bit of an immature-ish kind of painting, and I like that about it. Kind of like me.”

Sean Gallagher's graffiti mural adds splash to the kitchen.

Strict geometry and tight horizontal lines dominate, but juxtapositions abound in the penthouse’s color and assorted furniture styles. The “pop art” created with oranges and greens are as crucial to the aesthetic and mood of the apartment as the massive, geometric wooden murals in the office. An extensive graffiti mural, a commissioned piece by local artist Sean Gallagher, frames the kitchen. The only other noticeable non-wood touch throughout: glorious coffee-table books on landscape design, a nod to the owner’s ardent love and profession.

An old wall was knocked down and replaced with a sleek bar.

But perhaps the penthouse’s biggest attraction is the one Fierabend didn’t bring to the mix: an unbeatable view of Philadelphia, which the designer has further enhanced with a small balcony bar perfect for watching summer fireworks. “It’s bright, it’s airy,” Fierabend says, “and the views at night of the Ben Franklin Bridge are amazing.”

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