Like a lot of cities, San Francisco has its neighborhoods, each one reflecting its own unique personality. There's quite a lot of diversity from one neighborhood to the next here, and just after traveling a few blocks, it sometimes feels as though you're visiting another town, which I just love. Some days you just ask yourself what you're in the mood for and go.
If it's a lazy Saturday and you're not quite not up to the whole wash, blow dry, and getting all gussied up bit, you might head south, over to The Mission, where things are a bit grittier, and it's probably somewhat cool to look like you just rolled out of bed. It's got wonderful old, colorful and vibrant Victorians, funky shops, corner fruits and vegetable grocers and it's full of Latino culture. It's one of my favorite neighborhoods for its food, nightlife and especially thrift shops.
In the Mission I have three favorite stops (four, if you count Taqueria San Francisco for the most excellent and cheap burrito ever). I always hit The Apartment, X21 Modern and Thriftown. Yes, Thriftown.
The Apartment, run by partners Lann Ballard and Lino Beles, is a funky second-hand furniture shop featuring lots of vintage-modern, mid-century pieces at really reasonable prices. The partners are super nice and they just might bargain a bit if you're nice, too. I scored this great end table I found there for a steal. There's lots of wonderful old portrait paintings, vintage postcards, accessories and kitschy finds.
X21 Modern is just as funky, but a bit pricier, mostly because they carry some really, beautiful collectible vintage-modern furniture. But I head on down to the basement, where piled high amongst a ton of furniture, lamps, dressers and who knows what else, are some real gems. On my last visit to X21, they were playing the theme music from Disneyland's Haunted Mansion and I was in Heaven. Talk about a flashback - my parents furniture everywhere and then that music! You can also tour their inventory online by category.
Ah, and then there's Thriftown. What a gem. Pretty much a down and dirty thrift shop, but hey, you've gotta work for your treasures sometimes. This neighborhood, the corner of Mission and 17th Street, is a tad edgy, unless of course you like hookers and drug dealers with your bargains. But, it is a fun adventure and has two giant floors of everything from vintage clothing, to turntables, to some pretty great furniture finds and home accessories. I saw this vintage modern lounge chair for ten dollars (granted it needed cushions, but for ten dollars, no problem) and got six of these fun chartreuse dishes for a dollar! I'm not going to lie, it kind of smells like moth balls in Thriftown, and you're going to need to dig, but trust me, there are some good finds here.
And over on Valencia Street, one block west of Mission, it's just a cornucopia of vintage, thrift and modern furniture stores (not to mention the clothes and shoe shops). There's Architectural Elements for new furnishings and accessories; Paxton Gate which carries really cool garden and architectural elements and fragments, like moldings, fretwork pieces, urns and columns; the ultra-hip Monument, which stocks extremely hard to find pieces of vintage furniture in pristine condition (like these below) and Therapy with both clothing and cool furniture finds and modern kitsch.
I hope I've shared the flavor and feeling of The Mission. It's not on most tour guides, but it's not to be missed if you like getting the real feel of a city and its culture.