(Over in Baghdad by the Bay [this really is a nickname - we looked it up], Lisa digs up a great furniture store in Cole Valley. Comment away.)
Raw wooden furniture always seems to me to be screaming "creative opportunity." That's why Stumasa intrigues. A mom and pop neighbored furniture store with a DIY spin, Stumasa custom builds reasonably priced bookcases, cabinets, desks, and tables, and also stocks the finishing materials to make them your own.
Stumasa is a laboratory for the talents of husband and wife proprietors Gregory Stukuls and Maybelle Imasa. Gregory is the designer and carpenter behind the furniture, and Maybelle, an illustrator and calligrapher, curates the accessories on shopping trips to Japan and elsewhere, with an artist's eye for quirky beauty in everyday objects.
She's usually on the floor to help you sketch out a piece of furniture or to guide you on the creative possibilities of finishing it yourself. The store is peppered with models that she's painted to demonstrate Stumasa's environment-friendly line of milk paints, such as this star-spangled step stool for a child's room.
Among their standard designs, the "Murphy Desk" is a standout problem-solver for small spaces: a tall narrow cabinet that flips down to form a sleek writing desk.
The unfinished wooden LP cubes, on display right now in red, linen and black milk paint finishes, were originally designed to help DJs haul records to gigs. Now they sell to nesters looking for a simple, modular storage solution. One customer arranged them in a stepped configuration, like a Japanese tansu.
Stumasa is also packed with tempting impulse purchases: offbeat ceramics, paper goods, woven baskets, and sturdy lab glass vases. So be forewarned: it's all too easy to enter looking for a bookcase and to leave with a new set of teacups as well.