Exposed brick and reclaimed wood are often used as ingredients for industrial and rustic design, but when conceiving a concept for Geist Bar + Restaurant, owner Doug Martin was careful to avoid ubiquitous design styles. In steering away from industrial and rustic aesthetics the Geist team leaned into an inviting space, inspired by the structure’s historic nature and infused with warmth and luxury. As Martin explained in an interview with Eater, “the overall principle is less is more.”
Celebrating its one-year anniversary, the restaurant occupies a storied structure dating back to 1886. A former blacksmith shop, it was thought to be the oldest family-owned business in Nashville before closing in 2006. Martin set his sights on the Germantown landmark and after three years of planning and construction, Geist unveiled a renovated interior celebrating the building’s historical significance by maintaining its integrity. “It’s hard to pinpoint one style of design,” Anne Marie Garcia of Sobremesa Design, who worked in collaboration with Martin, admits. “The important part was preserving the architecture and adding touches of elegance.”
Amid original architectural elements, brass fixtures, texture-rich materials, and sophisticated light fixtures employ a dynamic, Eater-award-winning design — and juxtapose the raw and natural beauty of the brick walls, exposed ceilings, and wood floors.
Guests are greeted by a bar that boasts a lively atmosphere and ample opportunities to be wined and dined. A custom-made, high-gloss walnut bar top seats 16 and stretches the length of the space. Three cozy blue booths and a second bar top overlooking Jefferson Street provide additional seating. “The idea was to have this cool, sexy bar,” says Martin of the space where custom finishes on are display.
A sizable crystal chandelier hangs from a central skylight and attracts the eye. Look closely, and you might spot an old horseshoe discovered during renovations. Martin conducted a ceremonial turning of the horseshoe because according to folklore belief, an upward facing horseshoe welcomes good luck.
Meanwhile, the central and back dining spaces invite intimate conversation and exploration of a menu as expertly edited as the surroundings. “Simple and approachable with complexity,” Martin describes the menu, and in turn, the design. Following the less-is-more mindset, the dining room’s design elements are limited to matching crystal chandeliers and an antique rug, sourced by Garcia who emphasizes the importance of finding pieces indicative of the era. The third dining area is outfitted with a wooden table designed for large parties and a covetable caramel leather banquette and smaller wood-topped tables for two; a gold and black wallpaper achieves understated elegance. “They are each their spaces with the common threads between them,” Garcia notes of the dining spaces, which are connected by the worn wood floors and separated by brick walls.
Downstairs yet another space welcomes diners, but you’ll need help uncovering its secret location. “It is a really sweet, very cozy little space with a big, beautiful oak table,” Garcia paints the picture.
The winning design wouldn’t be complete without its champagne garden, an extension of the restaurant and bar with reconstructed exterior walls and chimneys, a live wall, and inspiring ironwork. “It was a concerted effort to have a champagne garden, not a beer garden,” clarifies Martin. In the desirable dining and drinking destination, diners unwind as the champagne flows — cheers to that.