A Sheltered Life Interview with Victoria Smith of SFGirlByBay


As a recent San Fran transplant, I couldn’t be more thrilled about today’s Sheltered Life interview with Victoria Smith, the editor and writer of SF Girl by Bay. Part bohemian, part modern, SF Girl by Bay details tricks, tips and tid-bits on achieving that oh-so-effortless West Coast chicness.

In addition to home decorating, Victoria’s blog features art, photography and design resources and home entertaining and lifestyle stories. From vibrant before and afters, to totally unique product features, SF Girl by Bay is a feast for your eyes.

You’re a self-proclaimed “flea market queen” – and for good reason! Any tips on what to look for or things to keep in mind while scouring flea markets, garage sales, etc?

I am really not one to get up at the crack of dawn for a flea market, although I have done it! I find going a bit later, I still can discover great vintage finds, and the prices tend to drop as the day goes on – especially at the flea market. It’s a lot of work for those vendors to unload all their inventory and the last thing they want is to have to load it all back up again. So there’s usually some pretty great bargains to be had later in the afternoon. I still try to be fair – they work hard so I don’t want to take advantage, but you can get some great pieces at a good price.

What was the most surprising thing you learned about sustainable design while compiling features for SF Girl by Bay?

I think I was kind of surprised to learn that people may have not considered that vintage furnishings are a part of great sustainable design. Maybe it simply hadn’t occurred to people that by buying antiques and vintage pieces, you are simply recycling, or repurposing a piece of furniture or an old industrial cart, or wood from an old barn, that may have ended up in a landfill, and giving it a whole new life, and continuing its story. I love that idea. I recently saw some fantastic home furnishing from Søren Rose Studio in Copenhagen, made from reclaimed wood gymnasium floors. I thought that was brilliant!

In your opinion, what’s the most important room of the house? And the most over-looked

I suppose the living room is a pretty important room – and rather than have a very formal room, I like to make my living room a cozy, welcoming space that guests will feel comfortable and relaxed in. I don’t care for an overly fussy room – I love a warm fireplace, lots of books, night lighting and comfy sofa to curl up in and have a chat.

Maybe the most overlooked room might be the kitchen. Guests tend to gravitate to kitchens for some reason, and although I like to keep mine pretty functional, I also want it to feel inviting, and stylish. I have a lot of my favorite dishes and serving pieces on display on high shelves, and an herb garden in my window which is so nice to grab from when I’m cooking. It makes me feel a little extra proud when I’m cooking to have added ingredients I’ve grown myself – it’s like an extra secret pleasure or feeling of satisfaction, I guess you’d say.

What is your personal favorite flea-market find?

I have an art-deco dining buffet that I found for $5. It was covered it gross, beige paint, and I stripped it and sanded down to a warm honey wood glow. That was a pretty great find!

What does “home” mean to you? (Feel free to tell us all about your recent Pinterest pinboard!

I definitely lean to an eclectic mix of things in my home that really have meaning for me, or remind me of where I found them, where they came from and have a bit of history, or a story to tell. On SF Girl by Bay, I recently collaborated with Pinterest, a new software bookmarking tool to help you visually remember all the great things you find on the web. We had 300 bloggers from all over the world all create their own unique ‘Pinboards’ representing what home means to them. It was really inspiring to see what each person brought to their pinboards that was unique. I think that’s how I feel about home – I feel strongly home should encourage individuality and unique, personal style. Not be some cookie-cutter look you ordered out of catalog. Home to me is filled with good friends and family, relaxing, cooking, listening to good music and great conversation. It’s not so much about the things you have, but how they make you feel about yourself and represent you as an individual.

What’s the simplest tweak you can make to a room that has the biggest impact (other than a can of paint)?

I love fresh flowers. I try to make a habit of heading to the San Francisco Flower Market on Fridays for fresh cut flowers. They’re a lot cheaper there, and again if you go later in the day, they’ll give you discount on beautiful bunches of fresh flowers. They just add great color and fragrance, and make a home feel just a little bit more special. I also cut clippings from my garden – lavender, mint, basil, rosemary and keep them in old jelly jars around the house. I like the natural look of that, and how it smells!

What are your five favorite eco resources? (online or national stores)

I consider salvage yards and vintage shops part of my eco sources, so here’s a few:
Ohmega Salvag
Hindsvik Vintage
Three Potato Four
Re-Found Objects
Uniform Natural