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Interior Inspiration

People may say that clothes make the man, but there's nothing more indicative of someone's personality than the manner in which he or she chooses to furnish a home. Tasteful drapes and puffy cushions might serve as markers for classic sensuality; ergonomic Panton chairs and monochromes might indicate a get-to-the-point simplicity. Most likely, there's a little bit of everything in our personal chic. Whether it's French country, American classic, or an altogether unique universe of textiles and upholstery, there's a place in the city that reflects each decorator's special je ne sais quoi.

The New Deal may well be the best all-purpose custom furniture and accessory store in San Francisco, boasting gorgeous creations from local and international designers. Contemporary, retro and classic influences are fused together effortlessly in this tiny corner store with big pieces that know how to work a room. At New Deal, you can flip through a catalog and come up with over 150 stylish sofa designs and a thousand fabrics to select from. You'll find cube-shaped, silk-covered ottomans; delicate hanging glass lamps with kaleidoscopic shades and names like "Mosque," "Odalisque," and "Fiamma"; and four-poster teak claw-foot beds that are as imposing as thrones. Charming objets d'art are strewn all over the place as well, ranging from vintage bowls and vases made from recycled materials to vibrant fused glass plates. Complemented by Sergio Galli's photo-pop oil paintings of the Bay Area, the New Deal oozes with a liberal array of items that range from quirky to downright regal.

Next on the list is Limn, a two-decade old store in the SoMa sprawling with high-end designs and original artwork (there's a gallery adjacent to the shop) from over 500 designers. Limn, which means to draw or illuminate in old English, carries the kind of audacious masterpieces you might think are only possible in the movies-the furniture portion of the place is like a gallery on its own. Initially envisioned as a drafting studio for architects and artists in San Francisco, Limn expanded to incorporate fine art and quickly became popular for its adventurous forays into modern furniture, lighting, and accessories. From Cappellini's pointillist-splattered loveseat to Marcel Wanders' plaited carbon armchair (entitled the Fishnet) to Gaetano Pesce's humanoid sofas dressed in stretch fabric, Limn's retro-future products are primarily European in origin and often sold for the first time outside of Europe.

Lastly, the intersection between Nob Hill and the Tenderloin flaunts a flashy array of modern accoutrements at Sugar, which is filled with exclusively white items, with hues ranging from milk to stone to blindingly bright. Opened in 2000, it's a favorite among designers and students alike. Owner Michael Page's mission with Sugar was to get across the calming effect of white-on-white and to display its versatility. Designer Jonathan Adler's couture pieces are all about; other wares include Ceci's rustic aluminum and ceramic pottery, David Brunicardi's Lucite and wood fixtures, Randy Castellon's frosted plastic slabs, Kartel's clever drawer units, and minimalist curiosities that look like they were pinched from classic sci-fi films.

Forget the feng shui truisms or your landlord's 1970's curtains - your home is your sanctuary, a veritable palace of your dreams, hopes, and distinct style. For the more frugal-minded in the crowd, custom furniture shops can serve as springboards for inspirationů or even aesthetic treats for everyone who needs to see, smell, touch and breathe art in order to appreciate it.