When I made the decision to purchase Made in USA items as much as possible, I had also begun renovating my living room.
Back story: I own a 1960 mid-century ranch and have spent the last 15 years replacing infrastructure such as the plumbing, roof, and windows, gutting and redoing the bathroom, removing a rotted three-season room, etc. etc. etc. It’s been a huge project.
By the time my son left for college, I was finally ready to begin tackling the living room, which was in a very sorry state. The drywall was cracked and in need of repair. The floors were scarred and needed refinishing. I had this huge picture window that I absolutely hated and that a turkey once crashed through (glass everywhere — OMG.)
On top of that, the room’s proportions were difficult: A long rectangle with no foyer / entry way and a fireplace located within a foot of the front door.
For years, all I could think was, “Who puts a fireplace next to the front door?!”
Anyway, both my commitments — to buy Made in USA and to finally do something with the room — coincided in 2015.
Fix the dry wall, paint
I did a lot of the initial work myself, including repairing the drywall and replacing missing baseboard. During my treks to Home Depot, I’d carefully read labels and purchased tools and supplies that were made here.
I was actually surprised at what I did find, once I started reading the labels. The electrical and light switch plates are made by a company in New Jersey; I have them in place throughout my house.
By chatting with the owner of my local Benjamin Moore paint store, I learned the paint is made in the US. The store owner, also a Made in USA advocate, stocks paint brushes, rollers, paint pans, and other items made here. I stopped buying stuff at the big box store and started giving him all my business.
I learned Frog Tape is made in the US as well. LOVE Frog Tape!
I read books on decorating and discovered my living room, far from being “difficult,” actually had the proportions of a golden rectangle — which seemed to me incredibly auspicious. I learned I had set up the room incorrectly given its proportions, so I changed furniture placement in order to make the fireplace the focal point. The room’s energy instantly shifted.
New windows, baseboard heater, and my first piece of vintage furniture
I spent a lot of time looking at magazines, books, and houses online. Slowly, my vision for the room (and my house in general) began to take shape. The more I learned about how to buy made in the US, and mid-century homes and furnishings in general, the more I took my time with the renovation.
My vision with the house overall is to give it the feel of a 1960 starter home with contemporary vibes versus creating a mid-century museum piece. So, when it came time to replace the picture window and baseboard heater, I stuck with the original styles already in use.
As I gained confidence, I learned to ask the important question: “Will it be made in the US?” Thankfully, the contractors I work with also believe in using Made in US materials as much as possible, so I ended up with new windows manufactured by Coastal Windows in Haverhill, MA (all links below) and Haydon baseboard heaters.
For a long time, the room’s furniture consisted of my beloved leather sofa and a left-over beat-up coffee table. I purposely kept the room empty because I had a vision in my head of a mid-century credenza. I spent hours searching eBay and vintage furniture sites, but couldn’t find what I saw in my head.
Then one day, on a chance stop at a mid-century shop on the drive back from a charity bike ride, I found it!
Manufactured by United Furniture (no longer in business), the piece features three drawers, a wonderfully warm honey color, and a piano hinge on the side door. And because it was Made in the US (and had some minor wear), it wasn’t as desirable to collectors as the mid-century pieces made in Denmark, so I got it for a song. Sweet!
Floors refinished; fireplace insert installed
After putting off the project for years, I finally had the floors refinished in 2020. When I saw the results, I cried. The floors made the entire house feel like new again. Getting them redone was like removing a huge obstacle — suddenly, things that seemed impossible began to change very fast, such as the fireplace insert.
I spent a long time looking at inserts and struggling with indecision. I wanted to stay with Made in USA, which meant Vermont Castings, but their very fine fireplaces didn’t match my mid-century house.
I finally purchased a Regency wood-burning insert, which was made in Canada. As with the floors, the change to the room was amazing once it was installed. The fireplace, which had been a huge dark hole, now looked clean and finished. I use it quite a bit and am very glad I made the investment in it.
Fast-forward to today
While getting all this work done, I’ve been slowly filling in the furnishings. Everything I purchase is done with intent: Is it made in the US? Does it suit the room, space, and energy? Buying with intent means that sometimes it takes a while for me to find what I want. So, I wait until the right piece or item appears.
The room’s anchor is my brown leather sofa. I decided to keep it because I still love it. Plus, it was made in the USA by Thomasville Furniture — back in the days before furniture manufacturing was shipped overseas.
Although a little worse for the wear due to life in general, my son, and two Sheltie dogs long since departed, the sofa was and still is a great place to work and take a nap. My new pup Rocky agrees.
Pink floor lamp
The pink floor lamp came from Barn Light Electric. I purchased a porch lamp and lamp post from them in the past and cannot say enough good things about this company. One reason I love their products is because you can customize them.
My floor lamp, as you can see, matches my curtains! Yes, I did this on purpose because it felt fun; the color adds some humor to my room and the lamp’s vintage style, while not strictly mid-century, fits right in. Plus, I can now sit on the couch and read books because I finally have a great reading light.
The lace panels are made in USA by Heritage Lace, Inc. and feature a vintage bee pattern, which I love.
The valances I made myself using fabric manufactured and printed in the US by Spoonflower. I actually spent some time researching vintage curtain patterns and finally developed my own that incorporate box pleats. I had fun making them!
The ladder bookshelf I purchased from my favorite furniture store, LaChance Interiors in Gardner, MA. The owner carries only made in US furniture lines, including mid-century inspired. (That store is my happy place.)
The bookshelf is made of reclaimed barn wood. (Manufacturer not known.) I was able to customize the finish, which I matched to the credenza. Again, not strictly mid-century, but it works, and it fills a corner that’s been empty for years.
The blue vintage table lamp (sitting on the credenza) was an antique-store find; it had been spray painted and needed some help but the teak neck was still perfect. I sent it off to Modilumi in St. Paul, MN for restoration — the shop owner made the custom mid-century lamp shade as well.
The round coffee table (purchased at LaChance) is manufactured by the craftsmen and women of Saloom Furniture in Winchendon, MA. (This is my third piece from Saloom: I have a custom coffee table in my TV room and a beautiful maple dining table and chairs in the kitchen.)
I had the coffee table made to match the credenza, and choose distressed wood so that it didn’t scream “New!” My pup Rocky, with an eye toward being helpful, added some teeth marks to one of the legs, so now the table and credenza legs match, ha!
(But seriously, that was the day I bought that bitter stuff and coated everything in it; it seems to have deterred him.)
Also from LaChance, and made in the USA by Sherrill Furniture Co. in Hickory, North Carolina, are the blue poofs. Because my house is so small, I don’t have the space for side chairs. The saleswoman helped me pick out the material as I wanted to match the blue in the lamp and the curtains. I like the poofs because they’re sturdy and very well made. They can also be moved around as needed when guests visit.
Various art pieces
I like handcrafted, locally made art. The birds on the fireplace mantel were made by a local artist of reclaimed materials, and then decoupaged. The square tray was hand-made of cut glass by Shelley Dane, of Mosaique Designs (see link below).
The painting on the left wall is my Jewish house blessing, made by a local Boston artist and purchased many years ago. The blue ceramic bowl on the credenza I found at Savers — it’s hand-painted and made in Italy. The menorah at the top of the bookcase features inlaid cut stone and was made in the US. The yellow pitcher was hand-painted and made in the US as well.
The only thing in the room that wasn’t made here, other than the fireplace and ceramic bowl, is the radio. It’s a Made in China replica of a vintage piece made by Trivoli Audio (a gift; I didn’t buy it). I do like the mid-century style, so I’ve been keeping an eye on the real thing, that used to be made in the US, as they come up for sale on eBay and hope to score a working one soon!
What I learned through this whole process
The result is a very cozy living room. In fact, I’ve had several people say, when they step in, “Oh! What a happy house!” My neighbor said, “My parents had a house like this. I love what you’ve done here. It feels so comfortable and happy.”
I still need to purchase a full-length rug for the floor, but for the most part, the room is finally where I want it.
When I set out on this adventure, first with beginning renovations in 2010 and then making the commitment to buy Made in USA in 2015, I had no clue it would lead me to where I am today.
Meeting the people behind the products I’ve purchased has been inspiring, and the more I talk to people who have made a commitment to manufacture in the United States, the more I become committed to sharing my story and theirs.
I feel like I’m part of an important movement and a member of a close-knit and vital community.
Meeting people who share my passion for buying American-made has been a thrill — as is having people leave comments on my blog and LinkedIn posts.
My customer and colleague Kodi Carter, founder of Pathmark Innovation, said, “Dianna, please keep posting your Made in USA adventures. It inspires people. It makes me want to be able to make those posts!”
(Kodi and her husband created and manufacture contemporary Made in USA path lights — be sure to check them out — link below!)
During my interview with Candy O’Terry, I found myself saying, “I come from working class. I know how important manufacturing jobs are — because they keep people like us employed.”
These jobs provide good wages and help keep families strong and intact. Manufacturing keeps our local communities strong and vibrant. And, manufacturing provides a way for young people to learn a valuable skill or trade. It’s so vitally important that we do whatever we can to support it.
But most of all, renovating my house with Made in USA as my priority gives me a feeling of pride and a sense of accomplishment. I had a vision, I’ve remained true to it — and the result is a beautiful house filled with things made by people I know or to whom I feel a real connection.
I feel really, really good. (To be honest, I’ve cried more than once this week as I realize just how far I — and the house — have come.)
So what’s next? A break. While the kitchen needs renovating (it still has the original 1960 made-by-hand plywood cabinets), I’m taking some time to enjoy how much I’ve accomplished. But, now that I know what I’m doing, I’m hoping it won’t take eight years to complete the way the living room did!
Coastal Industries windows, Haverhill, MA — ciiwindowsanddoors.com
Haydon baseboard heating — www.haydoncorp.com/catalog/category/baseboard-heating
Regency Fireplace Products, Vancouver, Canada — www.regency-fire.com
Barn Light Electric, Titusville, FL — www.barnlight.com
Heritage Lace, Inc., Pella, Iowa — https://www.heritagelace.com/
Spoonflower, Durham, NC — https://www.spoonflower.com/en/about
LaChance Interiors, Gardner, MA — lachancefurniture.com
Modilumi, St. Paul, MN — modilumi.com
Saloom Furniture, Winchendon, MA — www.saloom.com
Sherrill Furniture Co., Hickory, NC — https://www.sherrillfurniture.com/history-craftsmanship
Mosaique Designs, Maryland — mosaiquedesigns.com
Pathmark Innovation, Henderson, NV — www.pathmarkinnovation.com
I’m not paid nor asked to write about Made in the USA products or the companies that make them. All links in this piece are “free.”
My mission is to keep manufacturing jobs stateside and this blog is my way of giving back. We like to think a “small” choice, such as purchasing something made in the US by American workers, won’t make a difference. It does.