Star Tribune assistant editor Christy DeSmith likes to buy Minnesota-made and -designed products as often as possible. Her first passion is craftsman-made wares, so her home is accordingly stuffed with tables, blankets and rugs by local artists. Because Minnesota is such a hotbed of fragrance and hair-care companies (with the accompanying population of chemists and product developers) she also enjoys buying all-natural soaps, cleaners and candles from area start-ups and legacy manufacturers. With the headquarters of Blu Dot, Target and Room & Board situated locally, the state is also a hub of furniture and interiors design. Here DeSmith picks the 10 most iconic Minnesota products for the home.
1. Lemon verbena liquid dish soap by Mrs. Meyers
It’s true that Mrs. Meyers makes nice-smelling cleaning products, inspired by its namesake’s flower gardens. Thing is, this lemon verbena variety is good for those craving a little familiarity from their all-natural dish soaps. The lemon is vaguely reminiscent of the harsher soaps of yesteryear, only it’s much milder and easier on the skin.
2. Area rug by Kelly Marshall
In my home, a Kelly Marshall hand-woven rug bridges the considerable gap between a 1920s condo and my husband’s taste for contemporary furnishings. Perfect for Minnesota’s many arts and crafts-style homes, these rugs are geometric without being busy, modern without being chilly, and colorful without being overbearing. Kelly Marshall also makes more accessible place mats (prices vary). www.kellymarshall.com.
3. Rapson rocker (in apple, please) by Loll Designs
The estate of Ralph Rapson, the iconic Minnesota-based architect, has teamed up with Loll Designs, an innovative, young Duluth-based company specializing in modern furniture for porches, decks and patios. The result is the most stylish, not to mention the sturdiest, outdoor rocking chair around. www.loll designs.com.
4. Blanket by Faribault Woolen Mills Co.
Whether you favor traditional plaids or the company’s contemporary creations (I covet the blankets with contemporary renderings of bison, deer and birds), Faribault Woolen Mills manufactures blankets that are beautiful, soft — and toasty, perfect for cold Minnesota nights. www.faribaultmill.com.
5. Palm coat rack by Squared Furniture
Tired of tattered, teetering — leaning — coat racks? Squared Furniture, a tiny local start-up, creates the most brilliant rack around. It’s comprised of three simple aluminum prongs, which buyers must mount to the wall, plus a single wooden “palm” for your always-disappearing car keys. Bonus: I’ve also found that, unlike the rest of my modern furniture collection, the palm coat rack is baby-friendly! www.squaredfurniture.net.
6. Pillar candles by Sunleaf Naturals
Founded by a disgruntled chemist (she used to work for the some of the big companies in town) Sunleaf Naturals makes super natural, super safe, plant-based candles and soaps for toxin-phobic homeowners like me. Here’s another thing to love about Sunleaf Naturals: It’s readily available all over town from retailers like Whole Foods, Bibelot and Moss Envy.
7. Elko credenza (with green base) by Eastvold Furniture
Proprietor Matt Eastvold is busy shipping these fashionable credenzas to modern furniture lovers on the coasts. They’re handmade in our own back yard (Eastvold is based in tiny Dennison, Minn.) but the company has yet to find a following at home. Be the first on your block to own a piece of Eastvold. www. eastvoldfurniture.com.
8. Vintage crock by Red Wing Stoneware
Find this Minnesota classic (a handy receptacle for toys and potpourri) at most local antiques stores, especially the ones dotting downtown Red Wing (though prices are higher there). Or buy it new from the company’s flagship on Highway 61, where you can also shop contemporary mugs, bowls and plates. www.redwingstoneware.com.
9. Lavender pine hand soap by Caldrea
The perfect gift for wedding showers: A bottle of this luxurious hand soap paired with one of Caldrea’s decorative glass dispensers. This fragrance definitely has the whiff of luxury, which explains why I only buy it for special occasions.
10. Real Good Chair (in Aqua) by Blu Dot
Keep the Allen wrench handy — I’ve dubbed this the Real Wobbly Chair, since mine has the curse of ever-loosening screws. Yet it gave my kitchen an affordable dash of modern design (I bought mine for just $150 from Roam, an amazing interiors store in Uptown). To be clear: The Real Good chair was designed here, but it isn’t made locally. Minneapolis-based Blu Dot does most of its manufacturing overseas.