A designer's favorite shops in San Francisco

Shopping for handmade and vintage housewares with Bay Area author and designer Meg Mateo Ilasco.

meg mateo ilasco

Meg Mateo Ilasco picks up a hand-built ceramic bowl at Rare Device.

Jen Siska

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rose and radish store
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blah blah cushion at eden & eden
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eden and eden shop
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Bargain alert

  • handmade pillow sold at eden and eden

    Twice a year, Meg Mateo Ilasco hosts the Modern Economy sale, offloading―at steep discounts―samples and overstocked housewares from artisans and independent designers across the country. Line up early for the best picks.
     INFO Next sale: 10:30–3 May 2 (Fort Mason Center, Bldg. A; modeconomy.com).

THINK ABOUT IT: Do you really want another candlestick or throw pillow from the same place where your neighbors bought theirs? “We’re so overrun with mass-produced goods. I think we’re searching for items that are more human,” says Meg Mateo Ilasco, a Bay Area designer (mateoilasco.com) and author of Craft, Inc. (Chronicle Books, 2007; $17).

In other words, maybe what we’re craving isn’t more stuff but, instead, stuff that’s more real.

If that conjures images of ’70s-style wind chimes, never fear. “Handmade items are becoming much more refined,” Ilasco says. And shops selling them have been popping up all over the city. She lets us in on her favorites.

For luscious rugs

The techniques used to create Peace Industry’s deliciously soft, thick wool rugs―hand-felted in Iran―were perfected by nomadic tribes-people thousands of years ago. But thanks to owner Melina Raissnia’s simple, graphic designs, the results are thoroughly modern. “I love how the rugs merge Old World craftsmanship with a contemporary aesthetic,” Ilasco says. Check out the Hayes Valley space as well for small saddle-blanket rugs, brightly colored felt baskets, and felt Ottoman chairs.
 535 Octavia Blvd.; 415/255-9940.

For unusual gifts

Rare Device is the ultimate hipster design store,” Ilasco says of the bright, airy space on Upper Market. “It’s a great place to find unique gifts.” On display in Rena Tom and Lisa Congdon’s shop are Oaklander Natalie Davis’s wooden apple trinket boxes, hand-built ceramic candy and tea bowls from Lithuania’s Aida Dirse, and San Franciscan Jo Boyer’s tactile barnacle tiles. An adjoining gallery space hosts monthly exhibits; in May, it’s “textile taxidermy” by Portland’s Rachel Denny. Closed Mon; 1845 Market St.; 415/863-3969.

For eye-popping accessories

“It’s almost like a museum,” Ilasco says of Rose and Radish, which shuts down for a few days every three months, reopening with a new concept. Look for earthy ceramic dinnerware from Mud Australia, Dutch designer Jorine Oosterhoff’s endearing tea service, and fabric animal sculptures from Clive + Sunshine. Rose and Radish is moving; check roseandradish.com for info on its new location.

For European treasures

Much of what you see in Eden & Eden, a wonderfully eclectic Financial District boutique, is sourced by owner Rachel Eden from buzzworthy designers and traditional craftspeople in Eden’s native England. Check out the teapots with wool cozies hand-knit locally; a porcelain menagerie cast in Poland from the original midcentury molds; sweet, Scottish-made wool “rain cloud” pillows; and dramatic jewelry with lacy wings and voluminous Elizabethan ruffs among the motifs.
 560 Jackson St.; 415/983-0490.

For witty housewares

Brimming with delightful oddities, “the Curiosity Shoppe is so expressive of owners Derek Fagerstrom and Lauren Smith’s personalities―unusual, quirky, and humorous, but not kitschy,” says Ilasco. Utilitarian divided plates and ceramic doorstops by a San Francisco artist and a clever “reminder” chalkboard immediately draw Ilasco’s eye. Regular art shows (sfgirlbybay.com’s Victoria Smith is featured through May 25) and occasional crafting workshops are also offered at the Mission District store.
 Closed Mon; 855 Valencia St.; 415/671-5384.

For functional objects

Propeller owner Lorn Dittfeld focuses on small manufacturers who are moving design forward (hence the store’s name, also a nod to the form-meets-function design of the classic airplane part). “It’s high-end design at reasonable prices,” Ilasco says of the Hayes Valley shop. “There’s always something new and clever.” She heads straight for needlepoint “graffiti” pillows, sleek cement-and-volcanic-ash planters from Oakland’s Obleeek, and vintage industrial lightbulbs on reclaimed timber bases.
 555 Hayes St.; 415/701-7767.

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