By Noma Faingold
The first thing you need to know about Common Space, a gift shop and art gallery that opened in the Outer Richmond last November, is that owner Anna Beurskens names every plant for sale.
Beurskens, 31, a successful interior architect/designer for 12 years, quit her job at a San Francisco architectural firm a little over a year ago with no plan, a move contrary to the way she approached her career.
“It was super scary,” she said. “I’ve had a job since I was 15 and always had another job lined up before I left.”
The Academy of Art graduate put herself through school upon arriving in San Francisco from Leavenworth, Kansas. Her family moved a lot because her father was in the Army. Beurskens grew up in a creative household. Her mother sewed much of her clothing and her father made furniture.
When she made the decision to leave the firm, it was because she was “kind of burnt out of the business of design and architecture,” she said. “It’s a lot of project management and managing client expectations.”
She spent most days in front of a computer screen. As an artist, she missed working with her hands.
Once she made a blind-faith leap, she went on runs and rediscovered her creativity.
“My art was flourishing. I was making so much stuff and exploring so many different mediums,” she said. “My expectation was I would get bored but I never really got bored.”
On a bike ride one summer day last year in the Outer Richmond, she noticed a storefront for lease. For 25 years, it had been an alterations shop, but was vacant for 18 months. With encouragement from her fiancé, Chris Wilson, and friends, she signed the lease in July and got to work on the buildout. She did practically everything herself, including constructing a wall and making a long table and benches. She and Wilson painted the concrete floor, Jackson Pollock splatter style.
The walls are white to showcase the art and plants. The space has a spare feel but is anything but sterile. “My original vision was that you would be coming into someone’s home where you could shop,” said Beurskens. “The big table in the front would feel like a dining room and the lounge toward the back is about inviting you to sit down and have a cup of tea.”
Even the bookshelf carrying candles and other merchandise looks more residential than retail.
Some of Beurskens’ art is featured at Common Space, as are other local artists, including Oakland-based abstract painter Fernanda Martinez, jewelry by Outer Sunset’s Cody Ferris and Outer Richmond woodworker and collagist Tom Proulx.
“One day Tom just brought some pieces he had in the back of his truck,” said Beurskens. “He’s become a friend and some of his pieces have sold.”
Beurskens plans to bring in the work of new artists quarterly, if not monthly. Sometimes she seeks out artists. Other times, they approach her. She is looking for what works best in the shop.
“I have a very strong personal aesthetic,” she said.
On the evening of Feb. 18, Common Space held its first event, an artist reception for Martinez’s work, along with a party featuring DJ Peter Reiseman and refreshments. About 50 people attended.
Beurskens, who moved to the Outer Richmond around the time she opened Common Space, has more community-oriented activities in the planning stages, including workshops in figure drawing and quilting.
“I want to provide a service where people can get off of their laptops and into a space where they can just play,” she said. “I want people to be able to experience what I have in working with my hands.”
While starting a small business can be challenging (Beurskens admitted January was slow), she is bolstered by her savings and part-time interior design work, which she does from her shop. “I am able to fund this awesome place and I’m building something through word of mouth and by gaining people’s trust and respect,” she said. “Community can build around a retail store.”
Common Space, a retail shop and artist gallery, is located at 3832 Balboa St., Hours: Thursday through Saturday, 12-6 p.m. For more information, visit commonspacesf.com.
Categories: Small Businesses
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