shelf life.


the one thing about my little cottage that kind of drove me crazy was this sad little window in the living area that just looked kind of lonesome. i felt like it needed to be grounded somehow, and the best way i could think of was to build a custom wall unit around it to shelve all my many books and collectibles. fortunately for me, i know an extremely talented local craftsman and woodworker, michael woo, who also built-out the beautiful makeshift society space for us.


michael has a shop here in san francisco and is a master with woodworking, custom cabinetry and design. the shelves he made for me are made from ash wood, which he whitewashed with his own secret concoction. michael made me sliding metal doors that have just a hint of decay and give the long low credenza a slightly industrial, but very finished look (and help me hide all sorts of unsightly stuff i previously had no where to stash). i am psyched beyond words. i had such a wonderful time stacking all my books and adding small pieces of art and my collections. and another cool thing? it’s all portable, so where ever i go (hopefully no time soon!) the wall unit comes apart and comes with me, too. here’s the finished look. for more information from michael, get in touch here.




i asked michael if he might stagger the shelving so i could add artwork between the bookshelves. some of my favorite artwork is displayed from danielle krysa, rikkianne van kirk and lisa congdon.


above, san francisco print by hilda grahnat and artwork by allison long hardy. below, i stash papergoods, and art supplies in vintage metal boxes to keep things tidy.


michael used distressed metal sliding cabinet doors and added a die-cut hole to easily side the doors open.




once the shelving was in, i swapped a few chairs around to help balance things out, and added my mid-century modern bench to the room. i also added this new pillow from oshka design to the mix for color.



• all photos © victoria smith, sfgirlbybay.

80 Responses to “shelf life.”
  1. That is one pretty perfect shelving unit. I love that the light wood keeps the space open while providing much-needed storage and display space. Love it!

  2. CT says:

    Those are gorgeous. Custom shelves win the day any day!

  3. Amy says:

    Totally genius idea and lovely design & execution.

  4. Emily says:

    Brilliant idea to make the best with what you have! And, it’s so well done. I love how you hung the art on the wall, and how you arranged the shelves…such lovely asymmetry. And, the black doors at the bottom really ground the shelves.

  5. Alex says:

    Victoria, I’ve noticed your lovely cloche/bell jar in posts before. Where did you find them? Are they vintage? If so, do you have any recommendations for sources? I would just love to have a glass dome or two on my bookshelf!

  6. vv says:

    soooo beautiful, V!

    i love how the heights vary to allow space for art + book stacks. that natural light is killer, too.

  7. Jen says:

    This is simply beautiful.

  8. Shelves (and everything else) look fantastic!

  9. brenda says:

    wow…that’s just gorgeous. custom is always the way to go especially if you know someone as talented as that ! I love how its so light around the window and keeps the space really bright and airy.

  10. honeydonthink says:

    Love the use of ash wood and the design as well as the craftsmanship! What a wonderful way to show art and have access to favorite books. The lower space where you can hide things but access them easily is genius too. Great use of the available space – why am I not surprised:-)

  11. susie says:

    Wow! Just gorgeous! Love everything about it.

  12. Anna @ D16 says:

    SO BEAUTIFUL!!! I wish Michael Woo weren’t all the way on the other side of the country.

  13. Leslie says:

    This looks fantastic! I love the simplicity and how it highlights the artwork. I am always looking for ways to decorate with books because our bookshelves are bursting at the seams!

    And Then The Doorbell Rang

  14. victoria says:

    thank you so much everyone. i’m so happy and excited about them!

  15. Zuley says:

    What a wonderful way to showcase a window!

  16. Cori Magee says:

    Oh wow, that is beautiful custom shelving and the way you styled them… perfect.

  17. Lily says:

    These are gorgeous in every way! The perfect storage solution :)

  18. gorgeous! {and thanks for, well, you know! xo}

  19. It looks beautiful! I’m always impressed when tall/busy shelving can look clean and lightweight. LOVE IT!

  20. kim says:

    love it all, and I sheepishly retract previous comment on oshka pillow, it’s PERFECT.

  21. sue says:

    perfection! seriously… i’m already hugely jealous of your polaroid artwork & now this… you have such a good eye & a lightness of touch… this must be such a lovely place to live!

  22. Yvonne C. says:

    STOP!!!!!!! You are killin’ me. You had me at the first renovation, and now, well….. no words to describe how fast I’m moving in with you. Bravo SF Girl!

  23. megan says:

    i used to want to do everything myself…but the older i get, the more i love and value collaborating…well done!

  24. susan black says:

    stunning ! you have the most exquisite taste ever.
    I love your mix – mostly modern, but not too – perfection.

  25. Erin says:

    Darling, mind if I bite your style with that amazing SF photo print because I am DYING over it!

  26. Dang, girl! That looks fantastic. What a truly genius use of space. Can’t get over the fact that it’s portable too.

  27. Katie says:

    These look amazing! Such a great idea to incorporate the cupboards to hide the ‘ugly stuff’ too.

  28. Tina says:

    Gorgeous! He did such a beautiful job!!!

  29. Cathy says:

    Really nice.
    (I brought home today the exact kind of blossoms!) They are huge.
    The cabinet is made really well.

  30. Beautiful! How wonderful that you can take them with you wherever you go.

  31. M.K. says:

    Michael has a wonderful way with wood. His work has an organic fluid feel to it. These shelves are beautiful, Victoria. They are a treasure.

  32. deneise says:

    Simply lovely…great job! I love your little cottage!

  33. Jessica says:

    This shelving is beautiful! I am a little jealous, actually. :D

  34. Lisa L. says:

    Holy wow, this is beautiful!!!

    Mostly Lisa

  35. Stéphanie says:

    I just love this mix of light wood and metal ! Bravo.

  36. Sarolta says:

    I love the styling of those beautiful shelves. And your photography is so full of light. It makes me want to be in those rooms and relax with a book.

  37. Libbynan says:

    I bet you just sit on the sofa and stare at them and gloat in total satisfaction. It’s what I would do. They are so totally, totally perfect.

  38. Ilenia says:

    wow! so pretty, it goes beyond words!

  39. I am thinking of where in my house can I have gorgeous book shelves like these? Great use of the space and I love how you arranged the books, art, and objects.

  40. leslie says:

    really stunning, v.

  41. audrey says:

    Your place is looking better and better! Awesome!

  42. Studio8940 says:

    I love how it makes the window the center of attention of the shelf

  43. Sammy says:

    Where is the 36 print from?? That’s my lucky number!

  44. SALLY says:

    such a good idea, and it looks absolutley fab. you have the LOVELIEST things, your cottage just seems so gorgeous!

  45. victoria says:

    thank you everyone for all the lovely comments! michael did an amazing job!!

  46. jen says:

    what a gorgeous way to frame a window and add storage + art/books display. genius.

  47. Mikey F. says:

    Totally love the way the shelves frame the window.


  48. Jade Sheldon says:

    Well, that window is certainly not sad anymore…

  49. This is awesome…just…awesome. I love built-ins – the more shelves the merrier. I love having a lot of surfaces to decorate and store things. This looks really great. Love the artwork.

  50. Kristian says:

    I love the shelving, but also really love your black leather couch! Where did you get it?

  51. Eliza Jane says:

    This is absolutely beautiful!

  52. Christine says:

    Yay! I love the San Francisco print. Hilda is a good friend of mine and I love whenever I see her recognized (she’s been on your site before, right?) Last June I flew her to Wisconsin to be my wedding photographer and the photos came out amazing. I highly recommend her!

  53. Kate says:

    any way you could tell what those glasses are?

  54. SUSAN says:

    totally inspired! love it all!!

  55. Lynsay says:

    Beautiful! Can you tell me where you found your rug? I’ve been searching for the right moroccan shag rug, and yours is pretty great!

  56. Jali says:

    A brilliant post. Those shelves are beautiful, they really do look wonderful around the window. It’s amazing what a difference custom made furniture can make.

  57. Alanna says:

    I have been day dreaming about these shelves since you posted and am so in awe of your style and organization! I was wondering if you mind sharing what paint you used on your living room walls that makes the space feel so cozy and simple? Thank you for creating and sharing such beautiful spaces and design ideas!

  58. Angie says:

    Love all of it! Where did you get the light wood picture frames?

  59. Christina says:

    I love the shelves as well, and I am dieing to know where you found that chair??? It would go perfectly in my place!

  60. Love the custom bare wood shelving! It is such a great way to display your treasures and give a sense of your personality. Way to go!

  61. Emma says:

    I love the frames around the both of these Rikkianne Van Kirk pieces! Where are they from??

  62. Sarah says:

    I am loving this whole room!! It is dreamy. Especially the ash wood/metal custom shelves + and the gorgeous leather sofa. It just got added to my wish list.

    I clicked through to the Makeshift Society website and also fell in love with the black and white pillow I see on their homepage. Any chance you might know where that comes from? Thank you either way in advance!

  63. Those shelves are beautiful! Swoon❤️

  64. Joe says:

    Technical question…
    How do the carpenter secured the shelves?
    They look like able to support much weight but I don’t see any hook or braces…

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