In the emerging Inner Mission, Valencia is shaking off its seedy image. Sprouting up in place of auto shops and taquerías are hot restaurants and offbeat boutiques owned by young entrepreneurs. But watch out: parking is close to impossible.
Highlights 105 Valencia St.; 415/575-1230. Ever lusted after those teardrop-shaped lamps that you see in the nightclub on Ally McBeal?This high-end European lighting store is the source for the Pablo Pardo creations ($110) that light up McBeal's night.
Trump 153155 Valencia St.; 415/551-1540. Naysayers to political correctness who yearn for the days of British colonial rule will fancy Trump's sumptuous Anglo-Indian imports, from handloomed cashmere throws in shades of sand and charcoal ($1,200) to reclaimed Burmese teak plantation chairs with arms that swing out to hold your gin and tonic ($2,700).
Therapy 545 Valencia St.; 415/861-6213. This shop's mid-century modern home furnishings have become so popular with the young, monied Silicon Valley set that a year ago owner Wayne Wehlan opened Therapy Too (1051 Valencia St.; 415/648-7565). Both carry goods ranging from dressers that beg for repainting ($75) to indulgent curvilinear 1950's couches ($500$1,500).
Rayon Vert 3187 16th St.; 415/861-3516. Kelly Kornegay has made a name for herself designing loosely styled bouquets of peonies and lilies. Her pastel shop has a curious juxtaposition of floral arrangements ($40$200) and stainless-steel medical furniture ($200$750).
Schauplatz 791 Valencia St.; 415/864-5665. Who knew a vintage flowerpot hat done with feathers and silk netting ($65) could be flattering?Bernhard Wetsch and Alan Freedman, who stock their shop with used clothing and furniture, had a hunch. Dig the men's nylon shirts in eye-popping prints.
City Art 828 Valencia St.; 415/970-9900. Rene Amini's painting of a woman with bossy red lipstick balancing a red Mustang on the tip of her tongue ($500) must be an articulation of something. At his new consignment gallery, Jehfree Waterbury can help to augment your madness.
Retro Fit Vintage 855 Valencia St.; 415/550-1530. Alison Hoekstra and Audrey Wackerly scour garage sales and auctions for clothing from the 1940's through the 70's, with a few items from the 80's—"if they're hokey enough," says Hoekstra, a 28-year-old blonde given to wearing frightfully short skirts.
Ruby Artists Cooperative Gallery 3602 20th St.; 415/550-8052. Pros: Debbie Sciales's Ultrasuede bags ($35); crystal-bead necklaces by Alumbre ($36). Con: the resident pug, Ruby, who insists on licking visitors' legs. Wear pants and survey the work of local artists, who work in the store.
Currents 911 Valencia St.; 415/648-2015. A natural-products emporium that acknowledges the importance of getting clean, with muslin-swathed Lavender Relief bath teas ($1.25) and Contessa soap ($1.50$6). Sold by the slice, Contessa looks like a watercolor scented with mimosa, honey, sweet orange, and gardenia.
Dema 1038 Valencia St.; 415/206-0500. Dema Grim's raison d'être is to reinvent mod. Summer saw fetching floral shifts ($130); autumn inspiration tends toward unforgiving knee-length satin skirts ($90).
Aquarius Records 1055 Valencia St.; 415/647-2272. Specializing in independent labels and imports, Aquarius satiates electronic fiends, metalheads, and aficionados of hard-to-find Latin psychedelia from the 1960's.
Laku 1069 Valencia St.; 415/695-1462. All manner of hats in velvet, silk, and linen ($48$150) make their way to the window from Yaeko Yamashita's sewing table in the back of her store. She also crafts swank silk slippers ($25$68).
Scarlet Sage Herb Co. 1173 Valencia St.; 415/821-0997. A homeopathic haven. Choose from flower essences for emotional healing, Betony Herb Extract (a hard-to-find muscle relaxant), and the alluring Dragon's Blood incense.
Formerly a hub of rowdy clubs and tatty used-clothing stores, Upper Polk Street—the five-block stretch between Pacific and Filbert Streets—is rapidly emerging as a design mecca.
La Belle Antiques III 2035 Polk St.; 415/673-1181. Joan Blair, the gracious proprietor of small, jumbled La Belle, travels to Britain once a year to pick up all things English. Noteworthy finds include Queen Elizabeth II silver jubilee plates ($34$38) and enameled tin mugs commemorating the 1870 coronation of Edward and Alexandra ($110). But don't overlook the collection of porcelain hair receivers ($35$60), used until World War I to store strands collected after 100 daily brush strokes.
Zonal 2139 Polk St.; 415/563-2220. Anyone drawn to "junqueman" Russell Pritchard's first Zonal store on Hayes Street (where he popularized the rusted, chipped-paint look) will delight in his second location. Movie-set and interior designers flock to the loftlike space, which houses a similarly eclectic assortment of rustic country furniture and vintage Americana, but this time there's more, including a collection of leather club-style furniture ($1,450$2,995) that Pritchard designed with partner Scott Kalmbach.
Interior Visions 2206 Polk St.; 415/771-0656. The kind of estate-sale coups worth fantasizing about. Carol Coleman and Richard Sepulveda regularly uncover late-18th- and early-19th-century French, English, and American furniture: oak armoires ($1,500-$6,000), mahogany bedroom sets ($2,000-$3,000), and vintage trunks ($600-$1,200).
Swallowtail 2217 Polk St.; 415/567-1555. In this delightful store, perpetually sunny thanks to a ceiling full of skylights, are vintage home furnishings such as a pair of etched Deco mirrors ($950) and a turn-of-the-century dress form ($425).
Green World Mercantile 2340 Polk St.; 415/771-5717. What dinner-party guest wouldn't be charmed by Liz Ross's wry plates depicting monkeys dining À table ($22)?The eco-friendly general store supports local artists who work largely with reclaimed materials. Blend your own skin-care products at the aromatherapy bar.
Brown Dirt Cowboy's 2406 Polk St.; 415/922-9065. Named for an Elton John song, Brown Dirt Cowboy's is housed in a jam-packed old Victorian apartment building with terra-cotta floors and overflowing flower boxes. Former accessories buyer Sylvia Ortiz and Robert Shipman (who used to restore Victorian houses) carry children's furniture hand-painted with cherubs and creatures of whimsy ($325$800), pine sleigh beds ($925$1,100), wrought-iron spice racks ($24$52), and planters ($16$64).
Although Jack Kerouac and his fellow Beat writers made the neighborhood a happening scene in the 1950's and 60's, later years saw Upper Grant's decline. Lately this funky stretch between Green and Filbert Streets has stepped up as a strip of specialty shops selling everything from rusted junk to framed butterflies.
Fife 1415 Grant Ave.; 415/677-9744. Scot Andrew Linton's fashions take center stage at what he calls the House of Stretch. His straight slit skirt ($90) does well for trendy Wendies who know that long is back.
Insolent 1418 Grant Ave.; 415/788-3334. Shoe fetishists will think they've reached nirvana when they see Parisian Lyselène Frigara's plush circular purple velvet settee, perfect for trying on perishingly chic shoe styles from Nathalie R. and Sigerson Morrison ($150$250).
Ristarose 1422 Grant Ave.; 415/781-8559. Ivana Ristic and Lynn Rosenzweig cater to brides looking for more (or less) than the traditional billowing gown. Push the goddess envelope with "Athena," body-hugging silk charmeuse and silk chiffon, cut on the bias ($1,800).
Grand 1435 Grant Ave.; 415/951-0131. Beware of this clubgoers' pit stop: most of the clothes qualify as waif wear. The brave should check out Penelope Starr's slim knit tube tops.
AB Fits 1519 Grant Ave.; 415/982-5726. Darling poem-engraved sterling bracelets mesh with groovy blue jeans in this outrageous space of fire-engine red pillars and bordello-like dressing rooms.
Aria 1522 Grant Ave.; 415/433-0219. Bill Haskell was such a Marin County flea market fixture that when it closed down, his fans followed him to dusty, musty Aria. Wander through a mad mix of George Nelson lamps ($150$450) and ceramic letters once used for signage and film titles ($1$10).
Lilith 1528 Grant Ave.; 415/781-6171. A line of clothes for the round, the thin, the tall, and the short hang happily within mustard walls and earth-red ceilings. Husbands and boyfriends lounge on blood-red leather couches sipping tea while their better halves shop with fury.
Slips 1534 Grant Ave.; 415/362-5652. Perched on a cranberry couch amid madras cushions, Susan Umhauer takes orders for custom-made bedding, curtains, table linens, and slipcovers sewn from English and French fabrics. Design gurus also trek here for 1940's leather Moroccan footstools ($125).
Columbine Design 1541 Grant Ave.; 415/434-3016. Kathleen Dooley does a big trade in mounted butterflies, stuffed alligator heads (a Pacific Heights matron bought eight to use as table settings), and Gothic crosses for clients such as Kirk Hammett, Metallica's lead guitarist, and Cher.
Mac 1543 Grant Ave.; 415/837-1604. Jeri, Ben, and Chris Ospital have filled their Paris-inspired salon with edgy women's clothes by Helmut Lang and Vivienne Westwood. The Ospitals won over one local. When they first opened, Allen Ginsberg walked in, surveyed the scene, and said, "Nice."
MANDY BEHBEHANI, former fashion editor of the San Francisco Examiner, writes for Town & Country and Health.