California Dreamy: A Design Blogger's Pad
When Victoria Smith pretended to be sick so she could stay home from school as a kid, she didn't lie in bed watching cartoons all day. Instead, she redecorated her room. “I would move all the furniture around and rearrange stuff, oddly enough,” she says. This early love for personalizing a space—hers included a lot of yellow and David Cassidy posters—eventually led to the 2006 launch of her home-and-lifestyle blog, SF Girl By Bay, which highlights everything from of-the-moment design trends and vintage finds to California hot spots and beautiful photography.
At 58 years old, Smith says she’s “one of the oldest bloggers out there,” but her blog is anything but passé. Her army of millennial fans proves it: She has over 200,000 Instagram followers, more than 600,000 Pinterest followers, and 350,000 unique visitors on the blog per month.
The bespectacled blog maven is also the author of See San Francisco, a photographic ode to the city she lived in for 20 years and where she rose to internet fame. Now based in Los Angeles, Smith co-launches her first furniture and accessories shop, Super Marché, this month. The online store is a physical representation of Smith’s design philosophy: Keep it personal and eclectic, and don’t hesitate to take chances.
How did SF Girl By Bay get its start?
I didn’t even know what blogs were back then, but I was always into interior design. My friend told me about the blog Apartment Therapy. I checked out their home tours and thought it would be fun to be featured because I’ve always been really into decorating my spaces. There was this thing called Blogspot at the time, so I made one of those and put photos of my home on there and called it SF Girl By Bay—stupidly, because it’s the dumbest name, but it was my old Match.com handle. I sent Apartment Therapy the link; they loved the house and came out and photographed it, and I was in one of their home tours. I realized that I really liked the process of it. I was also a photography major; I loved design and liked to write. So I kept up with it—I’d write about the flea market or something I had done around the house. I think those early posts are still up, frighteningly enough.
Victoria Smith’s own Los Angeles home is often the topic of conversation in her posts, and rightfully so. It balances a lovely mix of contemporary and vintage pieces, such as the dining area’s Thonet and Knoll Saarinen chairs, Anthropologie console table and Armadillo & Co. sisal rug.
When did you realize it could be a full-time gig?
It was pretty gradual. Apartment Therapy and Grace Bonney [of Design*Sponge] asked me to be a contributor, and that sent a lot of traffic my way. Sunset featured my apartment after seeing it on Apartment Therapy. It was this organic evolution. I would work in advertising all day and then come home at night and blog. At the time, I also started those “Keep Calm and Carry On” posters—they were selling them in the U.K. in one color and they weren’t produced very well, so I printed them on recycled paper in all different colors that would suit every home, and I sold them on Etsy. I sold thousands and thousands of them in 2007 or 2008. I saved all that money and quit my job. I decided I would be a blogger full time, and I haven’t looked back since.
A vintage painting from EBTH hangs in the guest bedroom.
What’s your design philosophy?
Take a lot of chances. If you bring things home that you love and keep it kind of eclectic, you’ll have a really unique personal space that means something to you, and not a cookie-cutter style. Keep it unique. That’s what I love about European homes. There are so many different styles passed down from generations, I can’t even understand some of it.
Texture abounds in Smith’s bedroom, with a vintage crocheted bedspread from Etsy and a Moroccan rug from Pink Rug Co.
Tell us about your new furniture shop, Super Marché.
It’s an online shop selling a mix of vintage furniture and some new pieces we’re creating, and then a whole line of textiles and dishes and home accessories. I partnered with a woman [Laurie Furber] who already has an online shop called Elsie Green. She specializes in French vintage antiques. She and I went to France earlier this year and shopped and came back with a container of furniture. There’s a lot of unique, funky lighting that we found, and great ceramics. There will be some great vintage art, portraits and things like that. It runs the gamut. We’re going to be making some interesting new things that I’ve seen a little bit over in France but haven’t seen in the U.S. yet.
A CB2 bar cart is used as a couchside end table rather than a liquor cabinet.
We were surprised to hear that SF Girl By Bay now lives in Los Angeles. Why the move?
I love San Francisco and I always will, but it was getting really expensive and it’s changing a lot. My mother is getting older and I wanted to be closer to her because I wasn’t around when my father was sick. So I learned from that. I was also hoping to buy a house, and there was no way in hell I could afford to buy a house in San Francisco. Also Bri [Emery, of California lifestyle blog Designlovefest] and some other friends were encouraging me to come to L.A. It seemed like a good time to do it; it felt like time for a change.
Her 2015 book, See San Francisco (Chronicle).
What is your favorite space in your home?
The living area. It has a white beamed ceiling, floor-to-ceiling bookcases and a really nice view of the hillside. That’s my home office. I sit on the sectional and work on my laptop all day.
Favorite design blogs?
There are so many. Design*Sponge, a Berlin-based blog called Freunde von Freuden, Designlovefest], The Selby, The Sartorialist, Remodelista, Design Milk, The Socialite Family.
The Rattan Day Bed is one of many vintage finds available through Smith’s new online shop, Super Marché.
Favorite places to shop vintage?
I go to the Rose Bowl Flea Market a lot. Pasadena City College is great for smaller accessories; they don’t have as much furniture. The Long Beach Antique Market for sure. I go to all three of those usually. I shop online a lot too. I use Etsy if I am jonesing for vintage stuff and can’t go to a flea market. In San Francisco there’s also a great shop called Nest in Pacific Heights that I love. It’s a beautiful store.
Florals dress a CB2 bar cart for a photo shoot.
What is one design trend you’d love to see go by the wayside?
People are going to hate me, but I’m really over the whole cactus and leather chairs and dream catchers thing. I can’t see another room with that on the wall. I feel like it’s a look that everyone emulates without it having any personal meaning, and that’s not the way I like to decorate.
Even the closet acts as a gallery; print by Dorothy Shain.
How would you describe your wardrobe?
I wear a lot of black. I have an Erica Tanov coat with bell sleeves that I just love; it’s a staple of mine. I have a lot of vintage handbags. I have a [Emilio] Pucci bag that’s colorful with black leather straps. I have a lot of Clare Vivier clutches; it’s an obsession. I have a vintage vest that I wear with blouses and T-shirts underneath that’s sort of Annie Hall-ish. I’m not a big designer shopper really. I wear a lot of jeans and an interesting jacket or top, usually vintage.
Smith’s recently remodeled bathroom features a Kohler tub, hexagon Clé tiles and a Venetian glass fixture found on Etsy.
Who are your greatest inspirations/influences?
Diane Keaton, for sure. She’s my hero. She followed me on Twitter and Pinterest and I freaked out. I’ve been hoping to run into her at the Rose Bowl because she goes all the time. Also Amélie. I know she’s not a real person, but I love that movie. Diana Vreeland is pretty cool. I love that documentary about her. And probably Grace Coddington; she’s pretty brilliant.
What is one trend you consider timeless?
I’m always about a really eclectic mix of things. Just about everything in my house, with the exception of a few basic pieces, like my sofa, is vintage. I like mixing periods; I think it’s much more interesting.