See San Francisco: Through the Lens of SFGirlbyBay — Photo courtesy of Victoria Smith and Chronicle Books
When blogs were the Wild West of the internet, San Francisco resident Victoria Smith turned her hobby website SF Girl By Bay–a compendium of design and lifestyle posts based in the Golden Gate City–into a full-time gig in 2006. She never expected the gold rush of bohemian-modern decor enthusiasts from across the world to flock by the millions(!) to her inspiration-filled site. We chatted with the blogger-turned-author of new book See San Francisco about her photography-filled page-turner, favorite neighborhoods and the elephant in the room (we’re looking at you, Facebook.)
When did your love affair with San Francisco start?
I was born in Los Angeles, but spent the summers of my childhood taking family road trips to San Francisco (in a red VW Bug no less–it was the 60s). I was a curious kid, and fell in love with the colorful and exotic neighborhoods, especially compared to the suburbs of LA. Jump to 1994: I was looking for a change from LA and decided to move to the Bay Area where I only knew one person. She moved two weeks after I arrived. I, however, have been calling San Francisco home for 21 years now.
So your blog SF Girl by Bay–how’d that happen?
It started in 2006. (Remember: Facebook was a toddler, Pinterest was a dream and you were probably talking on a Motorola RAZR.) I’ve always loved decorating, and when I learned about Apartment Therapy’s homes tours, I wanted to submit my space. I created SF Girl by Bay and posted pictures of my apartment and sent them the link. But I realized that I really enjoyed writing about interior design and sharing my photography. And so began what I thought would be just a hobby.
Your new book See San Francisco is peppered with vibrant photography of popular neighborhoods. Which hub do you call home?
Noe Valley: It’s a quiet, laid-back neighborhood that feels like a small town while still being close to everything. I love the charming storefronts, sweeping views of the city and dog-walking neighbors. Even though it’s off the beaten path, it is still an easy walk to tons of fun and funky spots in The Mission.
Picturesque Victorian home in Noe Valley — Photo courtesy of Victoria Smith and Chronicle Books
If you could live anywhere in the city, it would be_________?
I love Upper Mission, it's a vibrant, diverse social hub that’s steeped in history (home of the oldest building in town, Mission Dolores) and decked out with colorful street art. It’s also home to the see-and-be-seen Dolores Park that is always bustling with activity from every kind of San Franciscan. Mark Zuckerburg agrees–he recently purchased a home in the neighborhood.
Street art in The Mission — Photo courtesy of Victoria Smith and Chronicle Books
On that note, what’s your opinion on the criticism San Francisco receives about the deep-pocketed tech industry moving to town?
San Francisco is experiencing its second gold rush. But even as people come chase opportunities, the city’s charm remains steadfast. San Fran’s personality hasn’t changed…hopefully it’s changing those who come here.
The city seems to connect with color.
Yes, color is intrinsic to the city. Even when it’s gray and dreary, the traditional Victorian and Edwardian homes that are painted multiple colors–as seen in Haight-Ashbury–still look gorgeous. Maybe they painted with those colors on purpose way back when?! But on beautiful days, the way the light streams into the city is stunning, completed with the most colorful sunsets. There really is no place like it.
Vintage shops and tattoo parlors in Haight-Ashbury — Photo courtesy of Victoria Smith and Chronicle Books
You love decorating with flea-market finds. Favorite thrifting haunt?
You have to cross the bay for that! Alameda Point Antiques Faire is open the first Sunday of every month. I’ve been trying to pare down, but recently took home some wired swivel chairs. Oops!
Any San Fran makers you’re admiring at the moment?
The prints and linocuts from husband-and-wife duo 3 Fish Studios are fabulous. Eric Rewitzer and Annie Galvin started their studio in 2007, and turned a former liquor store into a welcoming art studio and teaching space. They’re doing great things for the city.
Author Victoria Smith — Photo courtesy of Victoria Smith and Chronicle Books
If someone only had 24 hours in SF–what should be on their itinerary?
Start with a walk at Fort Funston. Originally a military fort established in 1900, this beautiful natural space is nestled along a scenic highway by the Pacific Ocean in the southwest corner of San Francisco. It’s now a national park, and has gorgeous sand dunes and 200-foot high bluffs, perfect for an afternoon walk. The Outer Sunset neighbor is a great place to go for brunch at Outerlands or shopping at General Store for unique gifts. The great thing about San Francisco is that it’s relatively small–around seven miles by seven miles–so you can see a lot in a short trip.
What’s next for SF Girl by Bay?
Actually, after more than 20 years in San Francisco, I’m moving back to LA to be closer to my family. But SF Girl by Bay isn’t over! Be on the lookout for SF Girl in LA content as well.