shelf life.
by victoria comment



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. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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:-)

  5. 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!

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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!

  12. 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!

  13. 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.

  14. 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!

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

  16. 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!

  17. Hello.
    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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