One thing I have in common with Victoria Smith (other than we’re both fabulous bloggers! ok, ok, more so Victoria than I am :)) is that we both lived in SF for over 20 years. You may know her as SFGirlByBay, a top leading interiors and lifestyle blog in the west-coast, with a modern bohemian style and SF twist to boot.
I am, for one, a great admirer of her blog. It’s been one of my go-to source for interior inspiration, new decor trends and resources that I don’t normally find anywhere else. While a blog like Victoria’s is rare to come by these days, what is even more rare to find is that someone who can share old memories of our beloved city, San Francisco.
Some of you probably know that Victoria’s new book, See San Francisco, is launching in a week. In fact, if you follow me on Insta, you may have saw that VSCO and Chronicle Books hosted a Photo Walk this past weekend with Victoria to celebrate her launch. Search hashtag #seesanfrancisco on Instagram and you’ll see all the cool photos from the walk.
Her love for the city is evident through her blog and Instagram, and it really is perfect that she has turn her love for SF into a book. I was honored to receive an advanced copy. Flipping through her new book gives me so much joy in a way that no other city books has given me before. Perhaps, it evokes a bit of a nostalgia for me as it brings back childhood memories of when I first moved to SF in 1988.
But this book is more than that. It is not about capturing the new and minted and Michelin-starred restaurants (although Victoria does make some great suggestions in the book). Rather, it captures the essence and rich details of the city that I think many people, including a local like myself, often overlooks or even take for granted. This book feels honest and unpretentious, full of life and colors. You can even say it’s an inspiration for me to look at my city in a whole new way, and for travelers to experience SF like true locals.
I can’t emphasize enough what a pleasure it has been for me to get to know Victoria in the recent year. She is warm, grounded, down-to-earth, and has this big-sister quality that feels like she’s watching out for you. I have the utmost respect for her. And in despite of her hectic schedule traveling between SF & LA hunting down the perfect home, I feel beyond lucky that I got some time alone with Victoria for an interview along with a fun outing at Flora Grubb – another amazing spot highlighted in her book. Thank you Ashley Batz for shooting!
I am also hosting a giveaway on my Instagram for you to win a signed-copy of Victoria’s new book, along with a Made-in-SF surprise gift from me! My gift is not huge or expensive or anything, but I promise, it will be sweet. It’s just a way for me to say thank you and to support my own city. All you need to do is to “Like” this photo and tag a friend on Instagram to enter (international friends are welcome!) I will reveal the surprise and announce the winner to the book on an Instagram post. Be sure to follow and enter after the Q&A! See more details at the bottom of this post.
Many congrats to Victoria on her new book, See San Francisco!! Hope you enjoy our interview!
How long have you been in SF ? Where are you from originally? VS: I moved here 20 years ago. I was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, a suburb of Los Angeles.
What made you move here in the first place? VS: I was feeling a little restless and had always loved San Francisco, even as a child on visits here. I was freelancing in TV production and was mostly on location anyway, so since I could live anywhere, I decided to give San Francisco a chance.
How long have you been writing SFGirlByBay? What were you doing before that? VS: I’ve been writing the blog since June of 2006. I was Director of Creative Services, Print Production and Art Buying at an advertising agency when I started it, so it was mostly just a hobby I worked on in the evenings. I quit my full time job in 2008.
What inspired you to write See San Francisco? And the places you chose in the book? VS: My editor at Chronicle, Laura Lee Mattingly actually reached out to me with the idea, based on my photo series on the blog ‘Sunday in the City’ and I loved the idea. I’m out shooting all the time anyway, so to be invited to create a book from that was most flattering. And, it was a book that was affordable for me to create, on my own. Sometimes when you do a decor book, for instance, there’s a lot of styling, photography and travel involved, and as much as I’d love to do that kind of book, I couldn’t see managing that, and keeping up with the blog everyday. So this idea seemed like a good way to test the waters of authoring a book.
The book features the quirky bits of San Francisco that I love — the colors, the vibrancy and its uniqueness to any other city in the world. I think the places more chose me — they just caught my eye and beckoned to me to photograph them. And, I went out specifically to streets, and beaches and shops that I knew I wanted to include — special places like The General Store, or Mollusk Surf Shop, Sutro Baths, Chinatown and North Beach.
What’s one misperception people have about SF? VS: That it’s cold and foggy all the time. I actually love the weather here!
There’s so much talk about the “gentrification” happening in SF. How do you feel about this changing landscape? Do you miss the old SF? VS: I think San Francisco goes through a lot of changes and it still remains one of the most beautiful, and friendly cities in the world. I’m not particularly happy about the kind of architecture that’s going up — very modern and not really aesthetically authentic to the city. I feel like that kind of architecture is very trendy and in a few years will look very dated. I miss a bit the edge San Francisco had and it’s grittier aspects, but it’s still there if you know where to look.
What’s your biggest achievement since living in SF? What about failure? VS: Well, definitely making a career out of blogging; and now the book. I’m an utter failure in the romance department in San Francisco – no men in sight! Can’t remember the last date I had. ;)
When your girlfriends come visit, where’s the one spot you must bring them to see or do? VS: I love going to Zuni and sharing a long, leisurely dinner of oysters, Caesar Salad and their famous roast chicken; but I also love bringing people to Fort Funston for a walk through the dunes and down to the beach. It’s stunning.
How should someone spend their last day in SF? VS: Get up early and head to Tartine Bakery — try a least a couple of their delicious pastries. Then head to Fort Funston to walk it off – preferably with your dog if you have one. Then, stop in at The General Store and have lunch at Outerlands. Head over to the Sutro Baths and have a wander around. Then, maybe pop over to Hayes Valley and roam around the shops and cafes, stop for coffee at Blue Bottle or Ritual. A late afternoon nap and people watching at Dolores Park would be a nice way to rest up. Then a drink at The Royal Cuckoo on the back patio followed by dinner at Blue Plate. You’ll be really full and tired, but really, really happy.
Thank you so much again to Victoria for the interview! Don’t forget to enter this INSTAGRAM GIVEAWAY:
WIN A SIGNED COPY OF SEE SAN FRANCISCO + A MADE-IN-SF SURPRISE GIFT FROM SHOP SWEET THINGS!
TO ENTER: Like this photo on Instagram and tag a friend!
RULES: Giveaway starts 4/21/15 – 4/27/15. Winner will be randomly selected and announced on my Instagram @shopsweetthings. Open to international readers!
Photography by Ashley Batz.
Flora Grubb, 1634 Jerrold Ave, San Francisco, Bayview.