The Best of San Francisco: City Guide

The Best of San Francisco: City Guide

Sarah Coffey
Jul 23, 2010

San Francisco is one of our all-time favorite shopping cities, full of cool vintage stores, boutique galleries, and high-style design shops. Apartment Therapy bloggers have been visiting and reviewing neighborhood shops there for years. Here are the best of the bunch. (P.S. We're limiting this guide to the SF area, since we're compiling an Oakland/East Bay guide separately...look for that one soon!)

Cole Valley

a7b64606e91a0cb2cd41b4af5b1ea05be88b6b32. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Mendel's
Smack in the middle of the Haight, Mendel's is a true San Francisco experience. The store's been around since 1952, owned by three generations of the same family, and carries strange and unexpected fabrics, including a particularly vast selection of oilcloths.

75b68b325ffa8d51271a6e7de9f9d0e816cdbcac. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Urban Mercantile
The shop has a beautifully curated selection of contemporary home accessories, including pillows, tableware, glassware and lighting, a small selection of unique furniture pieces, and paintings and ceramics by local artists.

Cow Hollow

b7c011a3c35f906e647bb4c71312bb0d7de66ca0. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Artesanias
A good place to look for affordable, high-quality furniture. The primary focus here is on sofas, which can be custom ordered with a variety of options - dimension, legs, configuration, fabric, etc.

Downtown

799ebcbc57e9e32874bf890589a2811ce3aeb346. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Ferry Plaza Farmers Market
The Ferry Building hosts three markets per week: Tuesdays from 10 am to 2 pm, Thursdays from 10 am to 2 pm, and Saturdays (the largest and most popular market with special demos and events) from 8 am to 2 pm.

6c245074d66a61a929ec97d0554d07a54c9d9ab8. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Kar'ikter
This European design store carries classic accessories, like Tintin and Le Petit Prince paraphernalia. They also have an impressive selection of wall clocks, lucite furnishings, colorful glass, mobiles, and Finnish design classics.

5bb62349b9de0386cf3512e39bfbaec62f48214c. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Heath Ceramics
Officially opened for business on March 29th, the Heath Marketplace was designed by Commune (also responsible for the fabulous LA store). The store features five heath tile installations, as well as the full line of tabletop.

Hayes Valley

493aec63a960f61d1bfc363ecd194efd5711f3f7. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Peace Industry Rugs
Owners Melina and Dodd Raissnia have a store in Hayes Valley and they own and operate their own workshop in Iran which allows them to control the manufacturing process. Their rugs are hand-made in small batches ensuring that each piece is unique and exceptional in quality.

a91b55b6b4c8d084ecc6863ec2ac21c247f71a51. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Quatrine
The showroom boosts an impressive array of stylish upholstered goods that don't sacrifice a single detail. These are the sofas you keep for your lifetime, and then probably pass down to the kids (in short: they're sturdy).

ec7f5f7af966415419846ea7d9e08a3b515120a9. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Modern Artifacts
The store's owner has been collecting and refurbishing mostly mid-century modern vintage furniture, art and home accessories for a little over 20 years. Lots of rosewood and teak tables and credenzas, brightly colored Knoll upholstered sofas, and Bauhaus-esque table lamps.

d78dcf285b3664c804d4c8f26336163fea913520. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Propeller
While the store's owner and buyer loves Eames and Saarinen, he founded Propeller to give emerging and contemporary designers a platform in San Francisco. All of the pieces are either designed or produced in North America.

b0718aeabfbfcc0862746a7bddbda390beac4635. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Flight 001
A must-visit store for anyone who travels a lot, they have multiple locations throughout the country, including a shop in Hayes Valley. Shop here for designer luggage, space-saving bags, and cool accessories.

7d1c91ad6a300003673763344873fb89c25ced3b. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Inside Modern
The shop is owned and operated by a husband and wife team, Emmett and Deanna Marrujo, and everything in the shop is made right here in the USA, and mostly in California (in the Mission)! They're also the exclusive northern California retailer of Modernica.

f81a7e1a8ee358fcc44da1567ba451d39d50db13. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Zonal Home
Zonal's owner, Russell Pritchard, scouts folk art and salvages American country furniture from the 1860's through the 1940's. Most of it is made from solid wood and iron, and all of it has a hand-made, rustic quality that can cushion the grind of city life.

7071dddf3efcc42d60bbada2d10ac466cc58e5ed. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Rare Device
This small shop carries beautiful and unique products, and the store is a wellspring of creative and inspirational designs from a wide variety of designers, artists and artisans.

Jackson Square

d7e2ae3c175064fa290cd2db36cc46ef2d0af6b8. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop AREA
Owner John Giacomazzi has been in merchandising for many years but AREA is his first independent venture, and it's a labor of love. John's a true connoisseur of design, gardening, and craft, and his store is a paean to the mix of the three.

7b6021bfac817653e0efddc465bcc123c057bf97. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Eden & Eden
This is a place to seek things that you won't find anywhere else, either because owner Rachel Eden imported them from Europe (like Karin Eriksson ceramics) or because they are one-of-a-kind vintage pieces that she updates by refinishing them in bold, modern colors.

a8dd35e25821b99cdfefa1daa69130ed929de664. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Urban Burp
Owner Electra Skilandat is as vibrant as her inventory, and her passion for fabric is seen through her shop. From Art Deco to Mid-century Modern, Urban Burp has a pattern (or texture!) for everyone.

Noe Valley

97f7a3488d2f1f7b5b6c8c4efe40cf39bf428d83. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Omnivore
Housed in a former butcher shop in Noe Valley, they specialize in books about food, particularly vintage and hard-to-find books. The illustrations, fonts, and graphics in the books are so much fun!

a596be600cd290baebb4da91ce94cf7bf516c5df. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop The Urban Nest
Here you can find the perfect gift for a housewarming, baby shower, birthday... pretty much any occasion. However, unlike many similar places in the area, the store manages to feel calm and inviting, rather than overwhelming.

a985fe6f5aadfd8f86ed08cf05f4286483114d8a. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Echo Furniture
Echo dubs itself a "transitional modern" furniture store. These pieces would be great for anyone who is trying to get away from their more traditional roots but aren't quite ready to splurge on the ultra contemporary furnishings. The prices are very reasonable.

Potrero Hill

c5ec064493c7ec47cf20aaf235b850f944d7c608. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Collage
Owner Delisa Sage started the business years ago as a gallery to display her collage-style artwork, hence the name. The art is still there, but throughout the years the shop has grown to encompass a broader range of beautiful things, including items for the home.

4c61f6b311cb675a0984656b4bc1434459ee6aa0. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Forgotten Shanghai
Owner Margarat Currivan stocks the store with everything from beds to consoles to modular bamboo storage cubes, all of it sourced or commissioned in the various provinces of China on her frequent trips there.

Russian Hill

8b8f1239a153499b2301ec973ef329131a790804. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Flipp
The store's owner, Daniel Kowalski, takes his "fashionable living in petite places" motto seriously. Think lamp shades, clocks, small but comfy lounge chairs, affordable throws, etc — all with a modern, high-style aesthetic.

SOMA

359bba9382e97931b4e54686ca23b9d99308a1fb. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Public
He's back with a cool new project — Rob Forbes, the founder of Design Within Reach (who left DWR in 2007) launched PUBLIC on April 15th this year. The store carries a collection of modern bikes and gear inspired by a "passion for bicycling in style."

624285bc173a334b4cd3c0564bd24a1328fce57f. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Lost Art Salon
Nearly all of the artwork here is under $1000. "We want our clients to feel like they're walking into our own living room, not a stuffy, cold intimidating art gallery," says Rob Delamater, who along with Gaetan Caron, founded Lost Art.

26a4f012005494ca9a2644a1fb3cb2313aa4a3c7. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Building REsources
It's sort of like an organized, sanitized version of the proverbial County Dump. If the Dump offered classes. Their Amador Street location is bursting with useful things they do not picture on their website, like salvaged bricks, flooring, lumber, molding, plywood, windows, etc.

346ae4873beff0eab8b961a2bbfba974942dba80. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Zinc Details
A fantastic shop on always buzzing Fillmore Street, Zinc Details is a good resource for lucite lamps, modern kitchenware, funky and vintage inspired textiles, and pretty much anything else you'd need to make your home (or a friend's!) hip and contemporary.

The Mission

6b022659c8fa88d165c00408cae40c8b15fd2f5c. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Currents
The boutique setting offers handmade soaps, scented candles, handmade jewelry, and a bounty of accessories for the home. It is a small, locally-owned shop that is a great stop for simple pleasures and great gifts.

8e0f1776d3de39573b65fad94751919cba9f13fe. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Therapy
They carry well-priced furniture that doesn't sacrifice style. They also have a great selection of stuff for your walls, including retro clocks for under $50 and Rex Ray prints mounted on wood.

7d19808b4bced63918a33b34bc714084e5f60807. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop The Apartment
San Francisco's Mission district is chock full of vintage thrift shops, but The Apartment is one of our favorites. Partners Lann Ballard and Lino Beles run the funky shop and are helpful, knowledgeable and are often known to strike a bargain.

893667b7a0d52b49dd7d4d6058581a807f887715. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Needles & Pens
A Mission staple for art lovers, appreciators of DIY, and zine lovers. Owned and operated by "fanzine enthusiast" Andrew Scott and "thrift store junky, seamstress, and Strandid Clothing designer Breezy Culbertson, this shop offers a beautiful selection of handcrafted items.

17b8eb9e6dd69464727877812c95e154ffeb6163. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Room 4
For such a small location, the store has a nice selection of vintage furniture and kitschy accesories for the home. The owner, David, is striving to keep pricing low to promote high turn-over. This translates not only to great deals, but exciting new finds on each visit.

8dcb1fc7f4378f7a6abfb7795dca3af203bf75ef. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Little Otsu
This is a local publishing company that peddles its wares on always fun Valencia Street. They carry stationery, planners, calendars, journals, and great art.

58d3561b87c352e8e90c2b5ccacfc71d819340ff. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Paxton Gate
In its seventeen years, the scope of this well-known Bay Area destination has expanded beyond plants and taxidermy to include architectural elements, vintage furniture, unique home accessories, fossils, lighting and beyond.

d2850be6703325b94aa269aa47a7b192e9d90da8. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop The Curiosity Shoppe
Owned and operated by design-world DIY gurus Lauren Smith and Derek Fagerstrom, this is a small shop with a well-edited selection of artist-designed accessories and artwork for the home.

4ccb3f8c596660cfb1e57dc92ce9e5542c09e495. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Branch
Everything they sell — bedding, furniture, lighting, tabletop items — is sustainable in some way or another. Furnishings are cool looking and modern, and are made from organic, recycled or reclaimed stock, or from naturally occurring, renewable materials.

Other Neighborhoods

6f1e05d54c0754ce6146437bb31a2587aebea99a. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Mollusk Surf Shop and Gallery
Founded by John McCambridge in 2005 in the Outer Sunset neighborhood, Mollusk sells posters and photography, as well as sell clothing, boards, and gear — all curated with West Coast surfer style.

502d9f282bc45b1cd2362e4475e99ec18d570e5f. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop General Store
This Outer Sunset shop was recently opened by Serena and Mason, whose house tour you can see here. Local Artisans and Craftspeople contribute to the mix of furniture, clothing, tools, plants...a little bit of everything useful.

cc9b4c0b02c556691b99cd2efbca72506c194226. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Succulence
It might be a little tricky to find upon first visit, but after you make your way through Four Star Video in Bernal Heights you'll enter a lush world. While the main focus is plants, the store also features artwork, tableware, vases and kitchen supplies.

7fdf19b7a1f3676e118a0a657744f4a1a594fafa. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop The Perish Trust
If you're looking for an alternative to MCM vintage stores, The Perish Trust may be your go to source for wares from bygone Americana. Typical items include antique typewriters, dusty old books, and beautifully worn vintage furniture.

31b971db40f14d95400578a0678508e56a5fa655. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Flora Grubb
Apartment Therapy's own Susie Nadler works at the cutting garden at San Francisco's Flora Grubb. We think her arrangements are gorgeous, but you can check out her work online and see for yourself. Flora Grubb offers local delivery and pick-up, and they also do events.



This post was compiled from several years' worth of Apartment Therapy bloggers visiting and reviewing stores in San Francisco, and it's just the tip of the iceberg. To see all our Bay Area listings, click here.

• Do we have an address or listing wrong? Send us an email and let us know!
• Have we missed your favorite SF home store? Send us an email and ask us to add it to the guide!

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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