Polka Dotted Pumpkins

polka dot jack-o-lanterns

I’m always a little sad when daylight begins to dwindle every Fall, but then I remember how much I love the cozy, comforting glow of candlelight in the evenings! Lucy and I got a jump start on cozy-lit evenings with our jack-o-lantern project we did last week.

Lucy was relatively patient as I took pictures along the way, and surprisingly she was grossed out by the pumpkin guts, so I did all the scooping and scavenging for seeds. (This is the girl who loves digging for bugs and playing in the mud. Make it productive, and it’s not as fun, though!)

Making jack-o-lanterns

According to Lucy, pumpkins smell like watermelon. And her favorite was the medium-size tan pumpkin. I loved that one too, and it’s deep orange insides were a surprise.

Check out how we created these jack-o-lanterns over at A Beautiful Mess. I didn’t want to get too crazy this early in the season by making a whole batch of these cuties, only to have them rot before Halloween. So I think I’ll wait a bit and make a few more for our front stoop. Gotta up the trick-or-treat game this year— make a good impression in the new neighborhood and all that! :)

polka dot jack-o-lanterns

What’s On My Coffee Table

Much like enamel pins for your denim jacket, I believe coffee table books can be a great way to inject some of your specific personality to a basic, functional piece of furniture. Lately I’ve stocked up our new coffee table with some stacks of books and favorite magazine issues, making sure there’s still room for coffee, tv remotes, and other doodads that need a resting place during movie nights. The key to accessorizing the coffee table find that perfect balance— adding interest, but not creating clutter. Of course, everyone has his or her own opinion on what is clutter and what is not, so that’s up to you! For me, I’ve tried to be the kind of person who enjoys a minimal home, but recently I’ve come to the conclusion that I just like to be surrounded by stuff I love! Not lots of stuff, mind you, and the stuff that’s on display should be organized nicely and presented in a balanced way. But gosh I just love decorating little piles or arrangements of things that enrich our home and infuse it with our personality.

For coffee tables, I think it’s perfectly find to fill about half of the space with items such as books, vases, candles, and my personal favorite— a decorative box for hiding away TV remotes. I like to keep the items in a nice grid, to keep the clutter effect at bay. A tray is helpful for this, even if it’s a clear lucite one like this guy I found at HomeGoods. (I didn’t want to hide the beautiful veining of our stone coffee table!)

I’m always cycling books and magazines through from our bookshelves (or in our current case, moving boxes) to the coffee table, to other areas of the home. Gotta keep things feeling fresh for each season! I recently added a few new books to my collection, and wanted to share them with you, plus some old favorites.

If a book gets to chill on my coffee table, it needs to be something that I actually want to leaf through when I’m lounging by myself or with friends. When I’m entertaining or hosting, it’s nice to have a variety of subjects on the coffee table so guests can find something to enjoy as well. Here are my current favorite art and design books that serve as great decoration, conversation starters, and little clues as to what reigns supreme in the mind of Mandi.

  1. Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power
  2. Scandinavian Design
  3. Hitchcock Style
  4. Bauhaus
  5. David Hockney
  6. Film Noir

These days, it’s easy to hop on Pinterest at any time and be bombarded with loads of home decor inspiration. But there’s something so special about being able to hold a beautiful book in your hands, especially one as wonderfully styled and curated as these! I know you’ll love them as much as I do, and they’ll also give you a glimpse into the styles that have influenced our new home.

  1. Living with Pattern
  2. Modern Living, New Country
  3. Northern Delights, Scandinavian Homes
  4. Monochrome Home, Elegant Interiors in Black and White
  5. The New Chic, French Style from Today’s Leading Interior Designers
  6. Modern Rustic

KITCHEN PROGRESS: Adding The Final Details

kitchen renovation Making Nice in the Midwest

You guys! We are SO close to being finished with this kitchen progress. I still have to add some details, such as the shelving on either side of the window, a door knob to the playroom, caulking in some places, and a shade for the window. But look! It looks so close to my final vision!

I wanted to share some special details about the nitty gritty stuff today. Things like, how I hid a wall switch inside a 2×10 board of my shelving wall, what kind of switches and outlets I’ve used, and how I patched the texture of my ceiling where we installed two hanging pendants.

kitchen renovation Making Nice in the Midwest

Now, let’s play a little game. It’s called spot the outlets. I have four outlets and two switches on the kitchen window wall, and am so pleased with how they fade away without making a visual statement at all. I used Legrand’s Radiant line of switches and outlets, and their wall plates are actually screw-free, so they look very minimal— to the point where you really have to look for them in photos. A blogger’s dream.

Replacing my outlets and switches wasn’t even on my radar when I began this process, but when all of the newer elements began to replace the old, I realized how dingy and outdated all of the old electrical fixtures looked by comparison. I’m so glad we replaced everything— these are the little things that make a big difference!

Legrand nightlight outlets

We also utilized some specialty items in the Legrand Radiant line, like outlets that have 3-setting nightlights which you can set to automatically turn on in dim lighting, wall chargers, and synced master/remote dimmer switches.

hide a switch inside a shelf

When I planned the shelving wall in the kitchen, I realized that I would be building shelves around the switches for the kitchen lights, which meant we would’ve had to reach our hands inside the shelves to turn on the light! Not a great idea. My dad recommended I use a shallow electrical box (like this one) and router a space for it on the outside of the shelf. Genius! He drilled a hole through the back of the shelf for the wires to enter the routered section, and now it looks like there is some kind of magic electrical situation going on. We covered the old box with a blank cover plate.

hide a switch inside a shelf

legrand radiant GFCI outlets

kitchen accessories

As we’ve been finishing up the details of the kitchen, I realized I need to make up my mind about a few final details. I decided to upgrade my door knob selection, and possibly my island stools as well. What do you guys think? I ordered an Emtek knob set for the playroom door and one for the pantry (pantry not shown in these photos), and I think the crystal and tumbled white bronze tie in well with the sophisticated feeling of my appliances and lighting, but also mimic the shape and style of my simple, modern wooden knobs. I also decided to do a white linen relaxed roman shade over the window, and got a few great baskets to put on my shelving wall. Still haven’t made my mind up about the stools though. Decisions, decisions! 

  1. Emtek tumbled white bronze and crystal passage knob set
  2. Xinh and Co Caña Baskets
  3. Relaxed roman shade
  4. Wooden cabinet knobs
  5. 24″ wooden counter stools

open shelving unit

Just for fun, I had to share a before and after— well, before and during picture! It’s from a slightly different angle, but when you’re taking before pictures of a space you’ve never photographed before, it can be difficult to know what the sweet spots will be for taking after photos. Oh well!

Kitchen Before

kitchen renovation Making Nice in the Midwest

I’ll share more photos of the shelving wall and other details as I begin to share more posts on the kitchen project at A Beautiful Mess. But for now, check out my post on how I built the hood vent and also my post about painting wood cabinets with chalk paint vs. latex paint.

kitchen renovation Making Nice in the Midwest


Wall paint: Benjamin Moore’s Super White
Cabinet paint: Annie Sloan’s Pure White
Lighting: Hinkley Congress collection
Wall tile: Home Depot
Tile grout: TEC Silverado
Pink sink: Thermocast
Faucet: Kraus from Home Depot
Island butcher block: Lumber Liquidators sealed with Waterlox
Flooring: Lumber Liquidators maple engineered wood
Knobs: eBay
Stove: KitchenAid from Home Depot
Dishwasher: KitchenAid from Home Depot
Coffee maker: KitchenAid
Island stools: Urban Outfitters
Rug: vintage Turkish kilim from Etsy