Parsons Made Personal: Victoria Smith aka SFgirlbybay
Stylist, editor and photographer — all of Victoria Smith’s talents are evident on her popular blog sfgirlbybay.com. She inspires readers around the world with her eclectic style and eye for great design. Victoria recently shared her space with west elm and we’re thrilled to give you a peek into her home where she blogs daily from a west elm Parsons Desk!
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What inspires you?
It might be easier to tell you what doesn’t inspire me. I’m a pretty visual person, so wherever I go it’s likely I’m taking photos either with my iPhone (I’m addicted to Instagram) or with my camera. The city of San Francisco is nonstop inspiring to me and everywhere I look there’s something beautiful and colorful. My friends are very creative and they inspire me endlessly. I love films, and art and photography and books. Great stories inspire me.
How would you describe your style?
Vintage-modern and very eclectic. It’s not cookie-cutter and hopefully not expected — and it’s modern, but not cold. I think it says bohemian modern — a mix of old and new, with no rules. I love collecting unique vintage pieces from lots of different genres and eras and mixing them all up to create an eclectic space that reflects my personality, which is a little bit quirky.
What’s your most prized possession?
My dog Lucy. She’s not really a possession, though, more of a best friend. Other than that, I’d say my camera. It fills me with endless happiness to take it out shooting.
What’s your favorite place in the world to visit?
That’s a difficult question — I like different places for different reasons. Like London for shopping, Martha’s Vineyard for doing nothing but beaching it and riding bikes. But my all time favorite is probably anywhere in Italy. I love the way of life, the people, the architecture and landscape. It’s just a beautiful, happy, carefree place.
Who are your favorite designers?
She’s really more of a stylist, but I love Emily Chalmers. She’s got a great eclectic sense of style with a very British flair and she decorates quite unexpectedly. I don’t really have any favorite interior designers at the moment, I kind of take what inspires me from a few designers and put them together in a way that works for me. I do like the work of Abigail Ahern a lot — also very unexpected, and dramatic. And Sheila Bridges is great.
What are your go-to sources that you can always count on for inspiration?
I love European design magazines, like Living Etc., Hus & Hem, Marie Claire Maison.
A few of my favorite books are Devil in the White City; A Prayer for Owen Meany; My Year of Meats.
My very favorite film is Amelié – I’ve watched it probably 6-7 times. I love the story, but the set design is perfection.
Two of my favorite blogs are Door Sixteen, written by Anna Dorfman — she designed my blog. Anna’s restoring a house in Newburgh, New York and it’s stunning. And I love Emma’s Blogg — an unending source of Scandinavian inspiration.
I find great inspiration from my friends on Twitter. They tweet, and I follow. The amount of creativity I find there is constant — from photography, to great interiors, to design, and fashion or even a great laugh. I’m pretty well addicted.
What’s your approach to decorating? More specifically, how did you approach decorating around the Parsons table/desk/shelf?
I think designing is an extension of my personality. It’s the place I feel most comfortable and feeds my creativity. I decorate using elements that really mean something to me, or make me feel happy when I see them. If you do that, you’ll build a room that you want to spend time in. I bought a white sofa with slip-covers, and it works as kind of a canvas to build around. I can change up the throws and pillows, and add vintage pieces to the room and create a whole new look. It’s the same thing with my white Parsons Desk. It’s a well-made piece that can take on lots of personalities — from modern and sleek, to a great basic for adding vintage accessories. It just works with a lot of different styles — almost seasonal, as my moods change.
How long have you owned a Parsons Desk? Have you changed the ways you use it over the years and in different spaces?
I’ve owned the white Parsons Desk for about 5 years I think. I’ve used in three or four different rooms. For a while I had it in my foyer — as an entry table with a large mirror over it and a place for fresh flowers; then it lived in my old living room as my desk in a few different spots; and then in what’s now my office. It’s really versatile. It’s a well-made piece that can take on lots of personalities, as I mentioned. I love the drawers and it’s a really classic piece I’ll use for a long time to come, in probably many different settings.
The Parsons Desk comes in many different finishes — which are your personal favorites?
I definitely love the white (white is my thing!), but when I saw the pewter-colored hand wrapped metal finish, that was pretty stunning. Wonderful in a more masculine, or dramatic room.
How do you organize your desk? What is important for you to be able to show? What do you like to hide?
I’m pretty clutter-free, or I can’t concentrate on my work. I have a clipboard with a check list of ‘stuff to do’, my computer, a few photographs and a vintage deer planter stuffed with postcards. I have everything I need on the computer, so I don’t need much else — except that to-do list has to be done in pen and ink! I have to admit, the drawers can get pretty messy. I stash away anything I don’t want to look it — USB cords, business cards, stamps…it’s a mess right now!
When styling a table, are there any rules to follow or tips to take into consideration?
I take into consideration the meal, and the company. I like themed tables, so if I’m cooking Mexican food, I’ll probably pull out a vintage tablecloth I have that’s got a sombreros and cactus print on it. Or if I’m serving Moroccan food, the colorful striped tablecloth comes out. And I always have fresh flowers and candles. Even if it’s casual — it just makes people feel like I’ve gone to a little trouble for them, and hopefully makes them feel special.
How has your collection of books, objects and art grown over time? Where do you find/acquire these treasured objects?
It just grows and grows. I have a hard time liberating books after I’ve read them, so they accumulate quite quickly. I have a lot of design books I collect as well and I stack them in various spots around the house. Artwork is the same. I might take something down for a while, but I keep it stashed away for the future. And I always have my collection of vintage portrait paintings displayed in the house. I’ve acquired quite a ‘family’ of vintage portraits over time at various flea markets and yard sales, and I like to make up stories about them. Most of my treasures come from travels, the flea market, yard sales, craigslist and Etsy and eBay.
Be sure to check out Victoria’s inspiring blog sfgirlbybay.com.