We're so tired of IKEA, we could scream. Entertaining faux-Swedish names aside, its furniture doesn't inspire us, doesn't make us want to invite our friends over just to admire our new chairs. For real inspiration at prices that don't require you to sell your plasma, check out these favorite haunts:
The Drug Store
3149 Mission (at Precita), 282-0544
It looks like a drug store — complete with retro “Drug Store” sign out front and “Rx” tiles on the outside wall — but in fact it's a collective of vintage furniture restorers and sellers (and fine junk purveyors) housed under one roof. A different vendor rents each section of the shop, and every area has a specific (and ever-changing) look, from antique bar equipment to groovy '60s bookcases and artwork to handsome green-painted chests of drawers and tables.
1415 16th St. (at De Haro), 703-6172, www.imghome.com
We were a little confused when we first entered IMG Home's furniture gallery, housed in a huge warehouse in Potrero Hill. Every piece in the whole place — from mosaic-covered tables to blue suede chairs to medieval-looking armoires — had a price tag, but every tag was misleading. Then we realized that the place is a wholesaler: Its real prices are at least 50 percent lower than what you read. The stuff is a steal, and it's all gorgeous.
Stark Home Collection
572 Hayes (between Octavia and Laguna), 626-6290
Mmmm, wood. We love the smell of Stark, where the wooden bookcases, benches, chairs, and tables gleam with polish. Wander all the way back and down the precarious stairs to a sale room underneath, or stay upstairs and run your hands along the smooth, extraordinary pieces from Java, Thailand, and America.