At his trend-setting San Francisco antiques gallery, Coup d’Etat, Darin Geise displays alluring and elegant one-of-a-kind furnishings, along with edgy vintage collections, John Dickinson tables, armillaries, and bold industrial-inspired lighting by Jefferson Mack.
Newell Turner, House Beautiful’s brilliant editor-in-chief, called Coup d’Etat ‘one of the most exciting new design galleries in the design world today’.
But there’s another, very surprising private side of Darin Geise.
Come for a visit and be inspired.
|Darin at Home: Antique dealer Darin Geise, owner of the acclaimed Coup d’Etat gallery in San Francisco.
I’ve known the great antique dealer Darin Geise since he first opened Coup d’Etat in San Francisco about a dozen years ago. His collections are always provocative, modern and alluring. A jolt!
Decorators flock to acquire his over-scale wing chairs, orb-shaped rusted metal lighting, chrome lamps, fetishy sculptures, paint-chipped found objects (lots of those, his eye is fantastic), velvet-upholstered ottomans, lush silver, and a bit of weirdness and lots of wonder. The gallery has action and elegance, rough contrast and shock, and perhaps even terror (skeletons, skulls, medical diagrams).
It’s all soothed with the fragrances of French Cire Trudon candles with a whiff of frankincense and myrrh, and with romantic chandeliers thrown in for a glorious boost of Beaux-Arts beauty.
Geise’s deft placement of tufted crimson velvet sofas with rusted military lockers and bronze busts draws avid collectors.
Darin moves you forward. You move with him.
Today we’re making a detour, an adventure trip to visit sunny Potrero Hill, where San Francisco antiques dealer/designer Darin Geise has created his own dreamscape. His interiors are populated with a compelling collection of centuries-old European portraits and venerable antiques. It’s not what you expect from Mr. Subversive. Follow me.
With his shaved head, charcoal Lanvin pants, vintage Levi’s denim jacket, black American Apparel t-shirt, seventies gold Rolex with a peacock blue face, and trend-setting antiques gallery, Coup d’Etat, Darin Geise looks like the ultimate South of Market denizen.
But when Geise, whose new antiques gallery has floors (by Erin Martin) of raw salvaged scaffolding boards, and divider walls of concrete block, heads home in the evening to Potrero Hill, his interiors turn their back on today.
A gold-framed panoply of noble eighteenth-century portraits of alluring ermine-robed French kings, handsome Belgian soldiers, foppish English dukes, Dutch nobles, and handsome princelings is enhanced with subdued lighting.
Handcrafted barnwood cabinets, massive tufted sofas, and a metamorphic chair with the original red velvet worn to a silken sheen invite reflection--or perusal of perhaps a club journal. Geise's collections, edited and perfected, make his residence feel like a turn-of-the-century private men’s club in a secret corner of Pall Mall. With an edge. Geise brings a knowing wink to the elegant scene, throwing in a few nudes to crank it up a notch.
“I admire and appreciate modern interiors and full-on contemporary design but for myself and my Brussels Griffon dogs, I want a big sofa, thread-bare rugs, a sense of tradition and design history,” said Geise, originally from North Platte, Nebraska. “I light the fire, select favorite jazz singers. Candlelight sets the mood. I’m in my own world.”
|Steady Gaze: Geise’s collection of portraits includes a seventeenth-century painting of a Dutch soldier in ceremonial robes. Geise designed the sofa in the Beaux-Arts style, inspired by a classic design by French decorator Jacques Garcia.
Geise’s living room is framed with burgundy velvet curtains the color of the finest claret and a marble fireplace with a glowing fire adds to the clubby atmosphere.
“I’m fascinated by English country houses, where you can sit by the fire, read a book, sip a good claret with friends, and it’s all very comfortable, and that’s my inspiration,” said Geise. “I wanted the rooms to have a sense of history.”
Natural curiosities (shells and rare minerals), small bronze sculptures, and antique oriental rugs create an ambiance that seems to have leapt straight from the pages of The World of Interiors, the fusty-chic London design magazine so beloved by young fogeys like Geise.
“I started my portrait collection about ten years ago with a Regency-period dandy in a blue velvet jacket, and I was hooked, so later I found a Dutch nobleman in full body armor, and a seventeenth-century king in a plumed head-dress, then a French courtier and two Italian noblewomen in carved oak frames,” said Geise. “I love the humanity of these portraits. I wonder about the artists. These people have such soul and resonance.”
Geise recently participated in two by-invitation San Francisco Decorator Showcase houses (a mountain chalet in a former wine cellar, a moody study). His clientele grew.
But while his gallery is a compelling mix of sleek Danish glass, handcrafted chandeliers, and no-holds-barred compositions of rare and precious, rough and smooth, rusty industrial and gilded and refined, old, handcrafted and machine-made, Geise’s house came together with sedate elegance toughened up with an addictive frisson of transgression and provocation.
A slew of top editors of national publications and design locomotives like Holly Hunt, in town recently, have raved about Geise’s fresh style. Hunt, who brought the highly influential Paris designer Christian Liaigre to the US, is reported to have told her designer colleagues that “Coup d’Etat is the most exciting gallery in the US right now’ and called it ‘world-class’.
At Coup d’Etat, Geise surrounded a vast pock-marked antique jeweler’s work station with whimsical photographs of birds nests, or circling a grand aristocratic red velvet sofa, very ‘Fanny and Alexander’, with industrial relics, rough and cocky in their factory-made rusted surfaces.
Geise’s jolt of steampunk-meets-Louis XVI shakes up fixed concepts, and illustrates masterfully how antiques can be used playfully and with abandon, at home and in his gallery.
Geise's confident approach offers liberation from debunked and out-dated notions of ‘good taste’. 'Taste' in any case, is a highly dubious concept in the twenty-first century.
His vocation and avocation mean that Geise is always looking for extraordinary decorative objects and art for his shop—as well as for his burgeoning private collection.
“I have more than forty antique portraits in my collection,” said Geise, who travels to Paris and to remote English and Belgian country towns, as well as estate sales, near and far, to find his treasures.
“I’ll go into a dusty auction house or arrive at a flea market before sunrise and hope to find a portrait or a mirror or de-accessioned military furniture that no-one has noticed,” said Geise. “I’ve run out of wall space at home, so now I’m stacking the framed portraits on the floor, a look I love. I’m a bit obsessed. I can’t stop collecting.”
Geise is a master at creating mood.
“I especially love the house at night with the candles lit, a fire burning, wine in the glass, and the lights of the city shimmering in the distance,” said Geise, seated in a Louis XV-style fauteuil with a verdure tapestry upholstery. “There is nowhere I would rather be than here.”
111 Rhode Island Street
All photography by Philip Harvey, used with express permission.
Philip Harvey is a commercial photographer with nineteen years of experience creating evocative images for clients. Philip guides his clients through the creative process from the early conception of the shoot--helping to creative the “look”, select locations, and find models-- through final printing. After completing his degree in literature and psychology at the University of Oregon, Philip graduated Brooks Institute of Photography with honors then moved to the Bay Area and began shooting for editorial, advertising, architecture, and catalog companies. Philip’s clients include L.L. Bean, Restoration Hardware, and Target. When not photographing Philip can be found canyoneering in Utah, whitewater rafting in Montana, or canoeing in Idaho. But most of the time he has a camera nearby.