A Chat with San Francisco Designer Geoffrey De Sousa

Known as one of the top interior designers in San Francisco and regularly featured in national design publications, Geoffrey De Sousa brings a mix of tradition, cosmopolitan flair and modernism to his projects. De Sousa Hughes, the 30,000 square foot showroom at the San Francisco Design Center that he co-owns with Erik Hughes, is known for its bespoke collection of furnishings, textiles, lighting and accessories by designers and artists across the United States and Europe. De Sousa served as Designers Circle Chair for the San Francisco Fall Show from 2016-2018 and hosted several fabulous parties in honor of the show’s designer patrons.

Geoffrey De Sousa working from his double parlour

He’s a busy man, but lately, De Sousa, like the rest of us, has been spending a lot more time at home. We chatted by phone, he from his 1874 San Francisco Victorian, with a black facade. “When I renovated it in 2013 it was just me and little dog,” he said. “Then Jose and I got married, he’s an interiors and architecture photographer and has his office downstairs. The pandemic has informed us as to how we are living here, how we use the space. I had been debating turning the second parlour into a dining room; it makes us think about what’s comfortable.” The double parlour is currently a living room and is where De Sousa gravitates to for work, and a moment of quiet and calm. His morning staff meetings happen there. “Because Jose is a photographer, he has lots of tripods. I set up right there and we have staff meetings every morning with the iPhone on tripods.” Right off the bat, I was thinking, how can we get people into our showroom? I called a friend who is a Realtor who recommended the company Matterport. They did a 3D tour of showroom to put on our website, it’s fantastic.

Diana the Warrior, prepared for the pandemic

The most interesting piece in the living room was bought from former San Francisco antiques dealer, Ed Hardy “a 19th century bust of Diana the warrior 3 ½ ft x 2 feet that sits on a pedestal in the bay window in the living room,” shares De Sousa. “I’ve had it forever. People stop in front of the house constantly to talk about it. It is one of the finest pieces I bought from Ed when I moved to San Francisco. About 2 weeks into the quarantine, I turned it around to face the street and put a black mask on her. It has become very instagrammable.”

De Sousa’s wall of family photographs

For De Sousa, home has to have a sense of history. “It has to be about you, your trips, your family, the things that bring memories, a small piece of glass, an amazing photograph, having those pieces interspaced within your interiors, that juxtaposition and the ability to combine those things in a house gives it soul.” He says. “I have a wall that is 60 photographs dating from the mid the 1800s of my family memories; all different sizes, I have my great, great grandfather and grandmother. I have an amazing photo of my great grandmother at a wedding when she first came to America in 1917. My mother’s side has been in Boston since 1632. Walking by the wall and seeing these people everyday makes my house a home.”

Communication was the biggest change De Sousa encountered from the new virtual workday. “At first everyone went into shock mode and then had to get the projects rolling. How we deliver to clients is different, but people are now used to it, they are adapting pretty well,” he says, “There are people spending a lot of time in their homes and looking at things a little differently. They want the spaces to be usable and comfortable. Each client is so individual. I am really fortunate to have a wide array of clients with very different aesthetics.” De Sousa is seeing a change in attitude and in how clients are using their homes. “I don’t see people asking for home offices right now,” he says, “but I do see people coming to me saying that they are using some rooms more often now than before–using rooms for the first time–using their outdoor spaces more now, not just on the weekends. I also see people who left the city and went to their second homes and they are now really looking at how they use those homes and how they can make them equally usable. People are thinking about nesting, comfort, and entertaining again.”

With no social engagements due to the lockdown, De Sousa anticipated having lots of free time, “I always wanted to learn to needlepoint; I opened the box and never touched it. I bought a Georgian dollhouse for my nieces, but have not started it. Once we started our meetings in the mornings, the day gets away. I’ve taken on three large projects during the pandemic!

‘Passagem do Tempo’ Designer Vignette by Geoffrey De Sousa Interior Design at the 2015 San Francisco Fall Show. Custom wallpaper by de Gournay.
Photo by Drew Altizer Photography

In 2015, De Sousa was among the three designers invited to participate in the inaugural return of the Designer Vignettes for the Grand Entry Hall of the Fall Show. Taking on the theme “Time After Time”, De Sousa called his vignette ‘Passagem do Tempo’ (Passage of Time), paying homage to the mid-20th century Brazilian furniture designer Joaquim Tenreiro and his language of organic simplicity. It was surrounded by the sculptural Araucaria forest hand painted on silk by de Gournay. I asked him about a favourite show memory. “Really and truly”, he confessed, “the Preview Gala is one of the ultimate parties of San Francisco every year. When you are all wrapped up in your business and life, to be able to stand with your contemporaries, talk about business, see clients, catch up. You know everyone is going to be there. It kicks off the holiday season. It’s always an upbeat feeling. That will be missed the most in this year.”

But with the isolation, there is an upside: “Jose and I are relative newlyweds so this time we have had and with my dog has been really lovely. We spend a lot of time together, watching a great movie–we watched Hamilton the other night–it’s been great. And we’ve been reaching out to friends on Zoom that I probably would not be talking to so much otherwise.”

Truly a silver lining.

By Ariane Maclean Trimuschat

At Home with Designer Kendall Wilkinson

California native Kendall Wilkinson has spent over two decades creating beautiful spaces for both residential and commercial clients. Her sensibility is rooted in classical design, often creating authentic period looks or mixing modern pieces with older gems. Wilkinson has become one of the most sought-after interior designers and her projects span the globe. Her collection for Fabricut, launched Spring 2016, features indoor/outdoor fabrics in a sophisticated mix of neutrals, bold colors, and innovative patterns. 

In 2017, the San Francisco Fall Show invited Wilkinson to create a Designer Vignette for that year’s Flower Power theme. Each of the four designers that year was given a season on which to focus their vignette, and Wilkinson’s was Autumn. She dubbed it ‘The Secret Garden’ and it remains a favorite Show memory for her. “It was inspired by a Valentino dress and our amazing partners, de Gournay,” she shared. “They hand -painted and hand-beaded a floral motif onto an iridescent silk wallpaper in autumnal colors resulting in the most exquisite wall covering. We also incorporated wonderfully crusty stone garden elements from (Fall Show dealer) Finnegan Gallery in Chicago.” I chatted with Wilkinson about running her design firm from home, and how the lockdown has affected her business, her clients and her family life.

‘The Secret Garden’ Designer Vignette by Kendall Wilkinson for the Flower Power theme at the 2017 San Francisco Fall Show.
Custom hand-painted wall paper by de Gournay.
Photo by Drew Altizer Photography

When the lockdown started, Wilkinson and her sons stayed close to her office, in their home in the Sea Cliff neighbourhood of San Francisco. “The boys still had virtual school to attend”, she shared. “My senior team and I had to piece a plan together to organize my entire staff to work from home.  Once school finished, and ‘work-from-home’ became our new normal, we relocated to Stinson Beach close to where I was born and raised. The light, patterns, and nature of this magical place served as inspiration for my fabric collections, and I have realized they continue to inspire my color choices to this day.”

Living Room in Kendall Wilkinson’s San Francisco home Photo by Bill Reitzel


In Wilkinson’s view, memories make a home: “a house is a physical structure, a tangible edifice that is cold and empty.” She believes. “A home is when the house is filled with love, living life, and its inhabitants’ vitality. It’s the culmination of memories–photographs of trips taken, of children growing up, and trails of everyday life. Special pieces that pass on from generation to generation, gifts received, or the art and objects collected over time create a sense of home, belonging, and sentiment!” Her favourite piece is a photograph. “My dear friend Barbara Vaughn captured an exquisite reflection image in Sausalito, titled “Kyrtotis” and hung prominently in my living room, she says.  ‘I often sit watching the fire, reading and catching a view of my absolute favourite piece in my home.”

Barbara Vaughn photograph, “Kyrtotis” in Kendall Wilkinson’s Living Room
Photo by Bill Reitzel

While the lockdown has turned everyone’s lives on end, Wilkinson has found a silver lining. “I have enjoyed observing and interacting with my teenage sons during quarantine in a way that working in the office, going to events, and traveling for projects just didn’t allow me to see day-to-day. The constant companionship of my boys and seeing how they have grown in subtle and overt ways brings me endless joy.” But sharing a house with teenagers does have it’s hurdles “ When school was in session, my house was rotating musical chairs – some days, one of my boys would be at my desk in my “office” located in my upstairs library, and I was relegated to using my laptop on the dining room table.  Other days we flipped and sometimes worked on our laptops at the kitchen counter.  It all depended on the day! She laughs.  “Funny enough, I was the one who had to be utterly nomadic about finding a work spot–sidebar”, she adds—”I have now found my dining room chairs to be terribly uncomfortable and will definitely be needing to find new ones soon- hopefully I’ll be able to purchase them when the antique show comes next year!”

With all the chaos of three people working and home schooling together, Wilkinson retreats to her private space. “not many people know”, she reveals, “but I have a home sanctuary filled with meditative elements, a Moroccan prayer rug, and incense.  No one else, not even my beloved pup Biscuit is allowed here. It is the definition of calming and quiet!”

Kitchen in Kendall Wilkinson’s San Francisco home Photo by Bill Reitzel

The isolation of the past several months has changed us all. For interior designers, it is an interesting time as clients are spending so much time at home, and many of us are looking at our homes in a new way, and thinking about how we use our homes and what’s important to us. Wilkinson concurs, “my clients are now far more involved with the details than they were in the past,” she shares. “The extra time has allowed them to be more curious and engaged in the actual business and logistics of design and why we make certain decisions. There is a more inquisitive approach. Hopefully, that means a greater appreciation for what we do and the service we provide.”  Kendall Wilkinson Design has always prioritised comfort above form and for current clients she says “they are now fully experiencing their homes and what we designed and created for them.  I think they are developing more appreciation for the details and the comfort.”

Library in Kendall Wilkinson’s San Francisco home Photo by Bill Reitzel

Working from home has not slowed Wilkinson down, or opened up her schedule. “My days have been even more consumed than they were pre-COVID.  I am on at least 6-8 hours a day of Zoom calls with my team, clients, and vendors before any actual “work” gets done,” she says. 

Design is such a collaborative and hands on creative process and that has been the most difficult part of the quarantine for her: “I have missed my team’s interaction, being in the office with them, working with them, and the time spent in my office creating and designing.  I also miss site visits and installations, sounds crazy, but even travel! And most of all, the broader design community and my industry friends.”

Kendall Wilkinson with Hannah Cecil Gurney of de Gournay posing in front of
‘The Secret Garden’ Designer Vignette at the 2017 San Francisco Fall Show
Photo by Drew Altizer Photography

By Ariane Maclean Trimuschat

At Home with Paul Vincent Wiseman of The Wiseman Group

Paul Wiseman’s iconic design firm, The Wiseman Group was founded in 1980, just two years before the founding of The San Francisco Fall Show. And he has been an avid supporter throughout the show’s 38-year history. His whole team arrives to preview the show each year and I have watched Paul take them on his own personal guided tour, chatting with dealers and locating treasures. So it was an honor to have The Wiseman Group create a Designer Vignette for the Grand Entry of 2018 Show. Wiseman chose “Stars” as the focus for the vignette, from that year’s theme, The Sun, The Moon, and The Stars. Not surprisingly, the celestial imagery incorporated into the display, through a combination of surrealist works by American artist and filmmaker Joseph Cornell and custom wallpaper designed in collaboration with de Gournay, offered a sparkling deep blue night sky with an otherworldly aura.

STARS – Designer Vignette by The Wiseman Group at the 2018 San Francisco Fall Show
Photo by Drew Altizer

I chatted by phone with Wiseman from his home in Belvedere, CA, and asked about how he brings design into his own home and what turns a house into a retreat. “When people of all walks of life can be comfortable in your home, when the owner of the home has things that are very personal—things that make you real,” he says. Wiseman has an affinity for unique objects, antiques, and art “pieces that have soul-even if you don’t know what you are looking at.” But he doesn’t have a favourite piece. “Each piece is from a different realm of beauty,” he says. “I view all my objects as some aspect of myself. They caught my eye and gave me pleasure. My home is my sacred temple.” When pressed, however, he was able to name four pieces that bring him joy:

William Kentridge wall sculpture

A William Kentridge wall sculpture. “It is so much about shadow and dark and light, it’s made of black steel, is 5’ tall x 4’ wide and looks like a calligraphy stroke,” says Wiseman.

Han Dynasty 3-Footed Vessel

“A period Ming lacquered scholar’s desk that I use as a coffee table in my living room” and a Han Dynasty 3-footed vessel. “It looks quite contemporary” he shares, “but it is 2-3,000 years old.” If it looks familiar, you may have seen it on the cover of Wiseman’s design book Inner Spaces (Gibbs Smith 2014)

Opalized Ammonite

An opalized ammonite. “It’s the second largest in the world,” he shares (The Smithsonian has the largest). “It is 80 million years old and changes colors when you pass by it: green to red to orange.”

Wiseman has been working on his home in Belvedere for 20 years. “I’ve created a summer house environment. The staff is surly,” he jokes, “Spa Belvedere.” But he has created an oasis. “I have a 100-year old arbor, I’ve created an herb garden and a Bali Bed with pillows and cushions. I love going down there. I have a pair of 2nd-century Roman busts and they sit there between the columns, looking down on the bed. It’s heaven, it is its own world. I sit and watch the water and the boats.”

Color is important to Wiseman. “I was born and raised in California. The greens and golds of our landscape have always resonated with me. I appreciate so many other colors—nature shows you colors that you never thought could work together. I collect Wedgwood, I love the color. I bought three pieces from Bill Blass’s collection and sent them to Peru with Sandra Jordan (of Sandra Jordan Prima Alpaca) and she made me an Alpaca textile in that color.”

During this time of quarantine, I asked Wiseman how he is creating a space to separate work from personal life. “My home and garden is my workspace,” he says. “Even at my office, I don’t have a desk, I have a chaise.” And what is the thing he is indulging in during the pandemic that he normally doesn’t allow himself? “Baking! I’ve done three bread puddings with bourbon, raisins, brown sugar, pecans, and vanilla. I have leftovers for breakfast. Yesterday I baked Martha Stewart’s Meyer Lemon Upside Down cake. Instead of flour, you use ground almonds.”

I’d call that Home SWEET home.

By Ariane Maclean Trimuschat

At Home with San Francisco Designer Jay Jeffers

San Francisco designer Jay Jeffers knows a thing or two about beautiful objects. His retail showroom Jay Jeffers-The Store offers a collection of furniture and pieces discovered along his travels. When he agreed to create a vignette for the 2017 Fall Show, the theme that year was Flower Power and the vignettes focused on the Four Seasons. Jeffers’ boldly graphic, deep plum showcase beautifully conveyed the warmth of a cozy winter evening.

2017 San Francisco Fall Show Designer Vignette “Winter” by Jay Jeffers
Photography credit: Drew Altizer

I recently chatted with Jay about the many cozy days and nights we are all spending at home during quarantine, and how that has impacted his life, and his appreciation of his own collection of beautiful objects. “One of my favorite pieces is by New York artist Forrest Williams. It has a mysterious haunting quality that I love” says Jeffers.

Photography credit: Matthew Millman

In designing a house, there are certain things that make it a home. For Jeffers, it is the personal effects that create memories, “whether it is art you have collected, or family photos, books, some kooky object that you bought when traveling in Africa—those things that invoke memories of a time and place. This is what created soul in a home.”

Photography credit: Matthew Millman

Jeffers is spending quarantine in the Napa home he shares with his husband Michael Purdy. “I have commandeered one of the guest bedrooms as my office. The closet holds my papers and files. There is a small desk, though I admit most of my computer and zoom meetings have taken place on the guest bed with my laptop.”

The best part of spending so much time at home? “Well, my dog, Olive is by my side, basically all day long, which is so nice. We have been cooking, setting the table every night with candles and linen napkins, and just generally slowed down a little bit.” He shares. His favorite room is the living room, “A fire in the fireplace, with the fire going is a good spot for me. I’m an early bird and always the first one up. It is so nice to sit by the fire and have my coffee and slowly wake up.”

Photography credit: Matthew Millman

When it comes to the San Francisco Fall Show, Jay has discovered many treasures over the years. His favorite find? “A pair of art deco club chairs that were made in India out of rosewood. Their new home are clients of mine that are of Indian descent so these chairs fit perfectly with our design and reminded them of home at the same time.” Jay has been a longtime supporter of the Show “it is so great to see the entire design community out and supporting an amazing cause that I have been involved with for years” he says. “But also for me it’s a chance to see beautiful things from galleries all over the world that I may not have visited. The internet, 1stdibs and all of the other sights are a wonderful tool for sourcing, but nothing compares to seeing the beauty and the condition of a piece in person.”

Photography credit: Matthew Millman

With no social engagements, travel or commute, Jeffers is appreciating the extra free time, and using it well. “I’m finding more time to deep dive into inspiration—Pinterest, Instagram, etc. There are some crazy talented people out there I am just discovering. In the evenings, I’m taking the dog for a walk or going on an easy bike ride.”

With all that is going on in the world, I think we all get a pass to break a rule or two. What is Jeffers? “Cocktails every night!” Cheers to that!

by Ariane Trimuschat, Director at Large/Europe