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This Is Your New Favorite S.F. Design Destination

Field Theory is a West Coast must.

Photographed by Ana Kamin for Field Theory.

Field theory, technically speaking, is the psychological theory that one's behavior and emotional state is directly affected by his or her physical environment. Another use for this term, is the name of a Bay Area design studio with an "aesthetic influenced by travel, architecture, handcrafted furniture and flea market finds." Inspired by interaction between individuals and their physical surroundings, designer and founder Leah Harmatz named her business Field Theory.

Harmatz has a unique eye for vintage pieces and modern touches, and a knack for achieving spacial balance. She founded Field Theory with an appreciation for preserving architectural integrity and historic details, and maintaining context, or storytelling, within that space. The design studio strives to bring individuals a peaceful place to call home, and now, the Field Theory is opening its very own San Francisco home. 

We tapped the founder's mind to find out about the inspiration behind the store, her absolute favorite pieces, and what she hopes to achieve through the new space. Field Theory opens Saturday March 3, at 3600 Lawton Street in the Outer Sunset.

What was your original vision for the store? 

LH: I wanted the store to be a reflection of the aesthetic of my interior design projects — light, bright, and cozy. So, I designed it to feel more like a home than a traditional retail store.

How did you want the new space to look and feel?  

LH: My goal was to create a space where people feel comfortable hanging out and lounging for awhile, and having a drink or two.  

I love sourcing vintage pieces - the story behind their past lives adds depth and character to a room. I never want anything to feel precious, or over-designed. So, a lot of things in the store are one-of-a-kind vintage items, but there are some modern, handcrafted and custom designed pieces mixed in, to balance it out. Everything in the shop is for sale, except the dog!

This Is Your New Favorite S.F. Design Destination
Photographed by Ana Kamin for Field Theory.

How will the store function, will there be uses outside of being a retail space? 

LH: I'll be using the space as my interior design studio as well, so clients can come in and visit or look at samples. And, I'm excited to host events, workshops, and classes that will bring people together, especially female designers and entrepreneurs.

From where did you draw inspiration for the design of the store? 

LH: A lot of it was in my head, and some of it was dictated by the architecture of the space and proximity to the beach. I knew there would be a lot going on with the furniture, rugs, plants, art, etc, so I wanted to keep the bones of the space pretty minimalist and modern. I decided to paint the walls and the floor white - like a blank canvas or art gallery.

What was the process behind designing and building the store like? 

LH: Months ago, when the space was in full-on disaster renovation mode, I ordered some custom black linear light fixtures from Park Studio LA, one of my favorite lighting makers. During the darkest days, I would keep thinking about how cool those lights were going to look in the finished space with its 12' ceilings, and it got me through it!

For the exterior, I was going to replace vinyl siding with wood cladding, and when my contractor pulled off the siding, we found original redwood shiplap. Of course, I had to keep that. I did some crafty staining and patching at the bottom, but it has sort of a vintage marine feel to it that just works. 

How did you decide upon the store's location? 

LH: My husband and I have been living in the outer sunset for a few years now, and we really love it out here. I'd been looking for a space in the neighborhood for about a year, but there aren't that many commercial spaces available.

My contractor actually told me about the space - it had been a dark storage unit for 40 years, complete with asbestos vinyl tile, a tiny front window with bars, and it didn't even exist in city planning's records. I was daunted by the amount of renovation work and city planning hurdles I'd have to overcome, but it was in my dream location four blocks from my house, so I went for it. 

This Is Your New Favorite S.F. Design Destination
Photographed by Ana Kamin for Field Theory.

If you had to choose, what are your three favorite pieces in the store now, and why? 

LH: Oh gosh, that's hard. I've collected these things over time and during my travels, so many of them have meaning. But, I'm trying to start practicing detachment, and it makes me happy thinking about all the good homes they'll go to!

A few favorites include a 9' tall banana leaf plant, who is like a member of the family but outgrew its old home, in a terra cotta pot that's my favorite shade of peach. A lot of the art really speaks to me, too. There's a large black and white Robert Motherwell 1965 exhibition print that makes me super happy. Another favorite is a camel leather Westnofa Siesta chair. It's the most comfortable piece of furniture I've ever sat in. 

Check out more shots of the new shop here.