My office exemplifies the choices I’ve had to make buying American while also coming to terms with things that weren’t manufactured in the US.
I purchased the desk and other furniture before I began paying attention to where things were made. They came from Crate & Barrel . . . and were made in Taiwan.
After reading the book, Deskbound: Standing Up to a Sitting World by Dr. Kelly Starrett, however, I added the Herman Miller electronic standing desk (USA) to my wish list to replace my existing desk.
The MacBook and LG monitor — definitely not US made.
Buying US-made while on a budget
The Herman Miller chair (USA) I purchased from a local used office furniture store. The owner of the shop said, “During the Recession, companies were throwing these away when they went out of business. I have 300 of them in stock.” Awesome! Got the chair for a song.
The rug is a great example of the tricks I’ve learned to have American-made products that often cost more — without breaking my budget.
After searching online for months for Made-in-US mid-century modern (MCM) rugs, I finally found Gordon Rug Company a few towns over and paid a visit. When I asked, “Do you have anything USA made?” the owner showed me a room of remnants. He binds the raw edges and then sells them as area rugs — 8′ x 10′, 5′ x 7′, etc.
The rug in the photo is machine-made in America from a synthetic material and is a remnant from an office installation the owner did for a company in Boston. Perfect!
I was instantly drawn to the colors and pattern — both of which said “MCM” in a very contemporary way to me — most especially the color orange, which signifies “fire” or “energy” from a feng shui perspective.
I wanted my office to exude lots of “yang” — bright, focused energy.
Because it’s designed for heavy traffic, the rug has held up really well.
When the owner of the shop came to my house a couple of years later to measure my bedroom, I showed him the office. He took one look at the rug and said, “Oh, I remember that job” — in a tone of voice that made me think the job had been big and maybe not so easy.
I like that I have a part of some unknown company’s history in my office. Who knows what stories the rug could tell?
Everything I learned about marketing I learned from VW ads
Hanging behind my desk are three vintage VW ads. My first car, while in college, was a beat up 1969 red VW Bug. I loved that car!
I have the book, Is the Bug Dead: The Great Beetle Ad Campaign, purchased ca. 1985, and now out of print. I bought it at this little hole-in-wall shop that sold nothing but vehicle repair manuals!
That book is where I discovered the foundation for my approach to working with small manufacturers. The ad team, comprised of art director Helmut Krone and copywriter Julian Koenig, from the ad agency Doyle, Dane, Bernbach, did something no other agency did . . . they spent weeks at the Wolfsburg factory learning how the Bug was manufactured before creating the ads.
No scantly clad women draped over vehicles for them!
I learned so much from reading the book and the copy for the ads that I knew I needed them in my office.
I found the three vintage ads on Etsy (seller: Print Ad Studios). I had them professionally framed by a local framer here in town.
I love that they fit the theme and age of my house. But what I really love is that they constantly remind me where I get my creativity, passion, and skill. (For those you into feng shui, they hang in the Creativity section.)
A word about my floors . . .
When I bought the house, almost nothing had been upgraded. (In fact, I still have the original plywood, made-by-hand kitchen cabinets — which any reader of the blog Retro Renovation would die for – ha!)
For a long time, my house renovation funds went to what my friend called “the non-sexy bullshit”: new burner, new oil tank (came home one day to find heating oil leaking all over the cellar floor); all new plumbing, new roof, new well pump, the list seemed endless.
Plus add in my son’s school tuition, paying the mortgage, etc., and things such as refinishing the floors took a backseat.
The floors in the house are a mess. I was a little embarrassed to post photos of the rug, but a client I adore — who also loves mid-century and is an artist — told me to show the nitty-gritty so that you can follow along as the house goes from ugly to beautiful.
The floors, I’m happy to say, are being refinished in November (as in five weeks!). I’ll be posting a ton of photos for sure as this is a huge milestone for me — and for the house.
The result: An office with wonderful energy
Creating a work space that reflects my values and priorities, while also being functional and efficient, has been a real joy.
I come to work each day excited and ready to start my day.
I’m very happy knowing I’m giving back, both in terms of keeping jobs here in the US while also supporting local businesses.
The more I learn about how things are made, and the people who make them, the more determined I am to buy US.
It’s a wonderful feeling.
More stories to come
The same artist friend said I needed to provide more info and photos about the lamp. Yep — on it. My next post will detail the lamp and the guy who restored it. He does all my lamps, actually.
And, all the windows in the house were manufactured in Haverhill, MA, at Coastal Industries, Inc. It’s a family-owned company that’s been in business since 1973.
I really love purchasing items manufactured locally. Doing so keeps people employed and keeps the dollars in the community. My goal is do an actual story about the window family and learn more about their process and history.
Thank you for reading! Please do leave a comment or suggestion. I’m not an Insta person (don’t even have an account), so this type of personal blog is new for me. Also, in case you haven’t noticed, I’m not the best photographer. \_(ツ)_/¯
And please, share your Made in USA story in the comments — or let me know about a product you love and I’ll see if I can get an interview with the company.