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Revving up design from the scrap heap

By Debbie Arrington
The Sacramento Bee

Shasta Smith is not your typical grease monkey. She’s an interior designer who also happens to have a thing for vintage motorcycles.

She rides them, collects them and mines them for inspiration.

In fact, anything with wheels kicks her mental motor into high gear. She sees the beauty inside cast-off metal and finds a home indoors for what once was scrapyard junk.

“I have two types of clientele,” she said. “I’ve been a full-time interior designer in Sacramento (Calif.) for 15 years, but I also have another type of customer – people who want motorcycle design. That has international appeal.”

With her distinctive red mane, Smith has attracted a worldwide audience for her design firm, The Vintage Monkey.

She parks her street-legal 1972 Honda racing bike next to her desk, where she’s worked on designs for popular home-improvement TV shows such as “House Crashers.”

In February, her work also was showcased during a New York launch party for a new cable channel, FYI, devoted to creative design. Yet Smith, 36, remains mostly anonymous in her hometown of Sacramento.

“People are always surprised to find our studio,” she said. “They say, ‘We had no idea.’

“When they come through (the studio), their first impression is it’s a motorcycle shop,” she added. “But then they realize, no, it’s something else, something pretty cool.”

The walls, floor and ceiling are lined with projects, several in progress. Almost everything started out as something else.

“I’m always on the hunt for vintage salvage,” Smith said. “Then, we create architectural elements based on those findings. We hate throwing anything away.”

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