Team of Artisans
Bucks County homeowners benefit from the combined expertise, creativity and commitment of a team of craftsmen led by Thomas K. Fischer, all striving for a timeless product and simple elegance
by Bill Donahue

Thomas K. Fischer considers himself part of “the old guard of craftsman” in his field. As owner of Thomas K. Fischer Building and Historical Preservation, an award-winning boutique residential building and land-consulting firm he founded in 1983, he has carved out a reputation for high-quality craftsmanship, integrity and a commitment to delivering an end product that stands head and shoulders above the client’s expectations.

Fischer has a proven skill for maximizing the value, appearance and enjoyment of any home, though he specializes in historic home renovation, preservation and restoration, particularly in Bucks County and its boroughs, such as Newtown, Doylestown and other desirable parts of Bucks County. His work has yielded considerable accolades, including the Historic Preservation Award, which the Borough of Newtown bestowed upon him in 2006 for renovation work on a historic property in downtown Newtown.

He has also learned, however, that with his success, it is important to collaborate. In the past, for example, when he required the expertise of likeminded craftsmen in areas such as masonry or landscape design, he had a tough time finding individuals with the skill and level of commitment his projects demanded.

That, however, is no longer the case.

Over the years Fischer has forged partnerships with some of the most talented craftsmen he has ever encountered—namely, landscape designer John Brunnet, architect Daniel Lloyd and stone mason Ettore Troia—and he now brings them into the mix whenever their specialized skills are needed. In these instances, Fischer acts as the quarterback; he not only directs the other “players on the team” and collaborates with the client but also infuses each project with his trademark brand of excitement.

“These craftsmen have substantial projects they do on their own, but when we collaborate it goes to the next level,” says Fischer, who sits on the board of directors for the Heritage Conservancy and the Washington Crossing Historic State Park 2026, as well as other Bucks County organizations rooted in preservation. “When I sell a job, I’m also selling their expertise, and they make it easy for me to sell. We work as a team, all operating under the same principle in that each of us has our own boutique operation and create a timeless product.

“We’re a really interesting group of artisans—carpenter, mason, architect, landscape designer,” he continues. “I’m on site loading trucks and operating the backhoe, Ettore is on the job cutting stone, John is planting trees—all working with the plans created by Dan—and we’re there to make sure it’s done right. I think what we’re doing here is really rare and tough to come by these days.”

The Architect
Daniel Lloyd has been tending his reputation as one of Bucks County’s most prominent architects for a quarter of a century. He first crossed paths with Fischer when Lloyd was working for another locally based architectural firm. They quickly discovered they shared the same work ethic, the same attention to detail, the same desire to deliver something extraordinary.

Lloyd’s firm, Daniel E. Lloyd/Architect P.C., which is based in Glenside, is focused entirely on residential design, with most of his projects based in Bucks and Montgomery counties. With each job, he brings the wisdom of 25 years of experience to the table, as well as a passion for architecture that was first stoked as a teenager. His skills have grown exponentially since then, yet he still draws architectural plans by hand—putting pencil to paper. He says clients appreciate the time and the level of detail involved, but, more importantly, it tends to create a better end result because it makes him consider every detail more carefully.

“My goal with every client is to listen and give them something that is better than what they hoped for,” says Lloyd. “Rather than saying, ‘Here’s my solution,’ I always like to hear what the client has to say, to hear what their ideas are. You’re putting your personal preferences aside and giving them options based on what they tell you, giving them more than what they think they were going to receive.

“I think Tom does that as well—giving [clients] the best solution even if it’s not always the easiest solution,” he continues. “Tom brings to the table clients who are ready to do something for quality’s sake, who are ready to do something special. He and I have been doing this together for a long time now, and I think each of us knows what to expect from the other. We feed off each other’s excitement, and I think that helps to get the client excited, too.”

The Stone Mason

When Ettore Troia says masonry is “in his blood,” he’s not kidding. Troia’s family had a stone quarry outside of Palermo, Sicily, where his grandfather, father and uncle, among other family members, all worked. Troia left his homeland at the age of 17, spending a few years in Australia before moving to the United States at the age of 22. He had already been working in masonry for several years, though mostly with brick and concrete, when he “kind of stumbled” into stonework—and something just clicked.

“I didn’t know I had it in me,” says Troia, who started his own company, Ettore Masonry, in 2002. “Besides using the right materials and the best stone from places around the world, structurally I’m always doing overkill with steel and concrete; it’s an Italian obsession. I was always good in the arts, so I have an eye and a certain way I want things to be done. If I see something is not right, that it doesn’t meet my vision, I will take it down and start from scratch. I want each job to be pristine, heartfelt and unique.

“You have to love what you do; I’m not looking to rush through a job, take a check and move on to the next one,” he continues. “You don’t want to do anything on the job that might keep you up at night. Some days I might take it too personally, like it’s my own house, but if I know something can be better, that’s what I always want to do.”

Troia tends to build long-term bonds with his clients. He treasures the friendships with people he genuinely enjoys and respects, but doing so also enables him to remain close to his work.

“If [a former client] is having a party or some other event, they’ll invite me, and when I go back—three months, six months, even a year later—and see that my work still looks pristine, it makes me happy,” he says. “Sometimes I will see that one of my patios needs power washing or some other attention, and I will go back and spend a day there. I don’t do something and just move on.

“I get back to Italy every year, and there you see stone structures that are thousands of years old,” he continues. “Those structures will last forever, and they will outlive all of us. That’s one of the things I like most about what I do: the fact that you can create something that will be standing a hundred years from now and people will look at it and say, ‘Whoever did this did a great job.’”

The Landscape Designer
John Brunnet knew early on—by the age of 15, in fact—what he wanted to do with his life. He was working for a nursery by his 18th birthday, while pursuing a degree in ornamental horticulture from Delaware Valley University in Doylestown. Today he has his own Yardley-based firm, Terra Flora Design Associates, which he founded in 2000. 

“I always had a passion for landscaping,” he says. “I’ve spent time working with a lot of different materials, and I’ve seen a lot of different trends come and go. I believe in a classic, timeless design. Sometimes a client might be tempted to use everything they like in a landscape design, but that can be sensory overload. I believe in using fewer elements and repeating them, which creates a nice sense of harmony.”

Like Lloyd, Brunnet prefers to draw his designs by hand. “I own some awesome CAD software, but I still choose to draw by hand,” he says. “I find it disruptive to try to do that kind of creative process on a CAD program. Producing hand-drawn designs takes longer, but it’s also something not everyone can do, and I think it’s something for people who care passionately about what they do.”

Brunnet particularly enjoys the collaborative process—not only with the client, but also with his fellow craftsmen Fischer, Lloyd and Troia.

“With all those minds involved, and the process we use that always includes the client, the final design the client selects is something they really had a hand in,” he says. “In many cases we are extended a lot of freedom [by the client], and I think when that happens it creates the best possible end product. Each of us has his own specialty, yet we all bring the same thoughtfulness to each project, so the freedom to collaborate usually results in something spectacular.”

One example of this collaboration was recently illustrated at a home in Newtown. The homeowners contacted Fischer regarding the possibility of updating a boudoir off the master bedroom by replacing sliding doors with more elegant French doors. When Fischer visited the home and spoke with the owners, “it blossomed into a wonderful conversation,” he says, through which he helped them see the possibilities for other parts of the home. The job quickly grew into something much greater.

Fischer then brought in Brunnet, Lloyd and Troia to lend their expertise to different aspects of the project, which Fischer led: expanding a second-floor office; the installation of a “off the grid” power-generating system; and a complete overhaul of an outdoor space to include a new deck, outdoor kitchen and fireplace, complemented by gorgeous landscaping and hardscaping. The homeowners were so thrilled with the results that they have opted to have Fischer’s team envision a plan to beautify the other side of the property with elements to mimic the landscaping, hardscaping and masonry work they have already done.

“With every job, we have this collaboration,” Fischer says. “We are all seeing the space through each others’ eyes, and I think having all those opinions really creates something unique that emphasizes our individuality as well as our cohesiveness.”

The “magic” of such collaboration, as Fischer calls it, stems directly from the result of each craftsman’s dedication to exceeding a client’s expectations.

“This is an unusual group,” Fischer says. “They have the same integrity I was taught more than 40 years ago. They all do what they say they are going to do. I can count on Ettore to put the extra effort in. I can count on John to stay late or to come in on a Saturday. It’s the same with Dan Lloyd; we all have the desire to create a timeless product and to please the client. I can count on them all to deliver the best possible product.

“Everybody is as dedicated, as respectful, as committed and as good as you’re going to get. You just don’t find that kind of collaboration with this level of talent anymore.”

Thomas K. Fischer Building and Historical Preservation
215-860-8053 |

Daniel E. Lloyd/Architect P.C.
215-885-0237 |

Ettore Masonry
267-718-4471 | 215-598-7575 |

Terra Flora Design Associates
215-369-3090 |

Photograph by Allure West Studios