Just in time for the gift-giving season, we've discovered a gorgeous new online store to blow the festive budget. Launched in fall this year, Over the Ocean is a showcase of stylish European design for kids, parents, and the home. We caught up with San Francisco–based founder and Munich expat, Birgit Sfat, to talk Euro style, life in SF, and where to vacation in the east Algarve.
What was the inspiration behind Over the Ocean?
Over The Ocean is for sure influenced by my past in Europe and my recent experiences here in California. While working for European lingerie and swimwear brands, I traveled across the continent for research, and became fascinated by the trends and atmosphere of each city I visited. I only had to fly an hour in either direction from my hometown of Munich and I encountered very different styles: London’s edgy, rock-influenced look, Paris’ refined chic, Barcelona’s creative and alternative style.
In 2013 I moved from Munich to San Francisco with my husband Raul and our daughter Milla and immediately fell in love with the open and warm attitude of the people here. Chatting with other parents on the playground, I was repeatedly asked about Milla’s outfits. I noticed that people were very curious and interested when I said they were mostly from Europe. Similarly, many of our friends commented that our home, a Victorian cottage typical of San Francisco, looked “so European.”
All of these experiences got me thinking about creating a platform to share European family style. I thought about my friends in Germany and across Europe, all with their own look, and an aesthetic that reflects their local environment. I felt that those friends from home, all of whom creatively influenced my own life, might also be inspiring to American mothers. And so Over the Ocean was born.
What can shoppers expect from the site?
We're one part concept store for European design for families, and one part a place for inspiration. Pieces available in the shop are contemporary yet timeless, and meant to stand the test of time and play. A mix of styles — some classic, some basic, some playful — makes Over the Ocean intriguing, as does a range of brands, from small local gems to traditional brands that have been part of European family life for generations. Complementing the shop, real mothers across Europe are profiled as muses. Each muse portrait offers a glimpse into the life of different European families — a chance to see what items they love to have in their homes, what toys their children play with, and get insider tips for a family trip to their hometown.
Clothing by Wolf & Rita, Bobo Choses and As We Grow on Over the Ocean
Can you share some of your favorite brands on the site?
There are two small brands I discovered in France: Le Petit Germain and Poudre Organic. I love their clean lines, comfortable fit and beautiful palette. They are in the US exclusively on Over The Ocean. For my daughter, who is six years old now, I like april showers by polder for their laid-back Parisian chic look. Marie Morenz is from my hometown Munich and our whole family wears her Merino wool sweater — a timeless classic. And I’m also a big fan of Bobo Choses, which is all about fun. Can I mention one more? FUB Denmark, I love their classic yet contemporary knitted styles.
And your favorite pieces for winter?
I organize my favorite looks into a curated collection, and this season favorites include the rose leggings by Le Petit Germain, everything by Wolf & Rita, and Gray Label's baggy pants. Milla loves anything that's comfortable and gives her freedom to move and spin around, like the pocket dress from as we grow. And if I had a boy, he would definitely wear the striped knitted sweater from FUB Denmark.
We love the “Toys for Little Hearts” collection. Can you tell us about the program it supports?
Twenty percent of all sales from our Toys for Little Hearts collection go towards toys, therapeutic equipment and other needs for the playroom of the Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. Here, children with heart conditions, and their siblings, are given a place to heal, receive therapy, and simply be kids. I know from personal experience how important these special common spaces are as our daughter has a very complex congenital heart defect and spent many months of her first years in hospital. It was in those play areas that we found moments that felt like childhood and it was where she learned to walk and laugh again after her surgeries.
What do you miss about Munich and where would you send visitors in your hometown?
Especially now the holiday season is approaching, I miss the snow-covered English Garden, where we went nearly daily with our sleigh to see the Christmas markets. We lived in Altschwabing, very close to the English Garden, which is actually one of the largest urban publics parks in the world (larger than Central Park). There’s a lake, several playgrounds, great Biergartens, lots of green space and even a stream of the River Isar with a standing wave to surf. With Milla, we often went to the Kinderkunsthaus, an open art workshop in Schwabing, where children can experiment with traditional and modern techniques of art and creativity in a self-determined way. Another great neighborhood is the Glockenbachviertel, with lots of nice cafes, restaurants and bars. A very family-friendly eatery is Kaiser Otto, their menu is delicious and parents can relax while kids play in the designated children's lounge.
First-time visitors to Munich should definitely visit the Viktualienmarkt, an old market square surrounded by historic buildings, which is home to Munich’s daily food market with over hundred market stalls, delicious food stands, and, of course, a great Biergarten!
What are your family’s go-to spots in San Francisco?
We love Ocean Beach. My husband surfs and Milla, our dog Charlie, and I walk along the long beach, not matter the weather. After the beach, we always try to get a table at Outerlands, a cozy place with weathered wood walls inside and some outdoor tables. The food is simple and delicious and you have to try their homemade bread. Unfortunately, the wait is often crazy, but you can easily kill time in the General Store and its beautiful collection of home items, books, stationery, new and vintage clothing, and many other carefully curated items. Don’t forget to step into their amazing backyard. Next door is another pretty little store: Case for Making offering creative supply basics. For a date-night, my husband and I go to the Mission and love to spoil ourselves with the friends-and-family menu at Bar Tartine.
Where’s your favorite place in the world to travel as a family?
For years, we’ve spent part of our summer in Portugal's East Algarve, near Tavira. The nature reserve offers beautiful and often remote beaches and the charm of the little towns is still real and honest. You can read about our most recent trip on my blog. From San Francisco, we love to make road trips south and often end up at the ACE Hotel in Palm Springs. It is a cool place and Milla always finds some other children to play with in the pool, and we can even take our dog.