The Study is Finished + New Custom Blinds!

home library makeover

I’m so excited to share our finished study with you all! The design of this space underwent a few changes before beginning the actual work, but I’m really happy with how it ended up. You can read about the planning of the study makeover here and here, and if you want to see the full reveal, check out this blog post at A Beautiful Mess.

I’ll be sharing more about our experience with the furniture we selected for the study, and a even few fun adjustments I have planned for later this summer. But first I wanted to talk about the window treatments I chose, plus how you can save 20% on your own window shade order!

Blinds.com reached out a few months ago about working with me on a space in our home, but I really couldn’t decide what kind of window treatments I wanted. It took me a while of considerations and back and forth decision making before I settled on using woven wood shades in the study. Phil and I were both so pleased with how the warm texture of the shades really finished up the study, that we just sat and stared at the windows for probably about a half hour after we installed the shades! We liked it so much that we decided to put up a similar shade in the kitchen too.

home library makeover

This before and after shot gives me so much life. Before the makeover, this room felt more like a box than anywhere to rest or study. Now it feels nice and cozy, but also more spacious, oddly enough! This post is sponsored by Blinds.com, but I really have to give a lot of heartfelt praise for the way these woven wood shades really completed the coziness of the room. They also really helped add a touch of boho to a space which could very easily feel pretty traditional, considering the rows of books and the crown moulding details. It was just the perfect touch of coastal casual that my heart desired.

When blinds.com had initially reached out to me months ago, I was really into the idea of using relaxed roman shades, or something like that, everywhere in our house. It really was a game-time decision that led me to try a warmer, more textural shade made of woven wood. As soon as the huge pile of woven wood samples arrived, I knew this was the look for me, but it was difficult to narrow them down to ones that worked the best for the study.

blinds.com custom blinds

Window Shade Style Selection in the Study

I ended up selecting from the blinds.com brand of woven wood shade in the Terra Oak color, because it was a bit darker than the shade of our wall color, and the warmth of the wood tones in the shade tied in nicely with the window frames. It also contrasts nicely with the lighter wood flooring in the study. The warmth of the shade adds a nice contrast to the cooler tones of grays, metals, and glass in the room, and it nicely filters the light from the windows.

When I ordered the shades, I spoke on the phone with Danielle at Blinds.com to make sure I was properly measuring my windows for a perfect inside-mount installation. She also explained functionality options for each of the shade styles I chose (in the study and kitchen), so I felt 100% confident making the choice that was best for each room.

how to instal blinds from blinds.com

Window Shade Installation

I was so excited when the shades were delivered, but then I remember that I had to instal them myself, and I was less than gleeful to have even more work ahead of me after all of the tedious work of the room renovation. I wish I would’ve known how easy the blinds would be to instal, though, because I could’ve been spared that mental stress! It was seriously easy.

For the installation of my inside-mount shades, all I had to do was screw the metal bracket to the inside of the window frame, then use nuts to secure the shade onto those brackets. I installed three shades within 15 minutes. Love it. More time to sit and stare at their beauty afterwards.

woven wood shades from Blinds.com

Enjoy my cheesy glee at how easy and beautiful my new shades are! This dorky grin is absolutely the real deal, folks. Sorry I’m not so good at playing it cool.

white kitchen makeover

After choosing a deeper, more dramatic color for the study, I was a bit worried the room would feel incongruous with the rest of our home. I was trying to think of a way to easily bring an element or two from the study into other rooms in our house, when it occurred to me that incorporating similar woven wood shades in the kitchen would be a great way to do that!

Our kitchen renovation was technically finished at the end of last year, but I had been wanting to put up some kind of window treatment long before the kitchen’s grand reveal. I just couldn’t settle on what kind of treatment to use, though. Relaxed roman shade? Traditional roman shade? Woven wood shade? Some kind of DIY curtain/blind situation? It definitely needed something, though, as the sun is known to blast through that window during the first half of the day.

I’m really glad to have this light-filtering shade in here finally, but I’m actually glad that I had waited to settle on exactly what felt right for the kitchen. These woven wood shade feel so perfect in this space. The woven wood adds a warm vibe to a generally stark white kitchen, and also gives more context to the wooden frame of the window. Plus, I’m really happy with how it brings in that textural element from the study. I think the choice of using the same woven wood shade in here really makes my home feel more cohesive.

kitchen renovation before and after

Here’s a before and after shot of the kitchen space from the grand reveal in January. It looks nice and finished, but still missing one little detail. The woven wood shade feels like the perfect finishing touch. And let me tell you, it’s nice to be able to stand at the sink without any annoying glare from the sun.

I chose an unlined shade to achieve a light-filtering effect, rather than blocking out some of the light in this room with a lined shade. The shade does have more of a presence in the room that is visible in photographs, because window light does blow out objects when photographing a window. But I tried my best to get the most accurate images of the window. You can see more of the texture of the blind in real life, but this picture does show how the shades don’t really block a lot of light, so our kitchen still feels pretty bright. (We also have a sliding glass door in the adjacent dining space which helps light up this room.)

woven wood shades from Blinds.com

Window Shade Style Selection in the Kitchen

For the kitchen, I did choose a slightly lighter woven wood tone than I had chosen for the study, considering the walls in here are stark white— much brighter than the study. I’m really happy with the color and the texture of the Kula Sandy Beach style that I chose for the kitchen window. I also chose a cordless style for in here because I didn’t want to worry about wrapping cords on cord cleats every time I put the shade up or down. The cordless style ended up being super convenient and easy to use.

woven wood shades from Blinds.com

Top/Down Shades vs Cordless Shades

For the woven wood shades I chose, there isn’t a cordless option for the top/down functionality. I decided it was worth the cords in the study in order to be able to get the top/down function. The study is at the front of our house, and sometimes we want to allow extra light in by putting the top of the shade down, while still maintaining the privacy of having the lower half of the window covered.

The shades do come with cord cleats, but I haven’t quite decided where to put them, so I haven’t installed them yet. It is a matter of safety for children, though, so I need to get on that!

woven wood shades from Blinds.com

20% Reader Discount to Blinds.com!

If you’ve been checking out blinds.com and see something you like, I have good news for you! You can save 20% on your order by using my special discount code: MANDIMAKES. You can save even more by choosing the blinds.com brand at their website, and I can attest that you will not be missing out on any quality by doing so. I chose all blinds.com brands and am very happy with the results.

Thanks to Blinds.com for sponsoring this post and for hooking me up with these awesome shades! If you guys have any questions about the shades of about ordering from blinds.com, let me know in the comments, and I’ll be happy to chat with you.

Study Makeover Update

study makeover

Whew! Is Spring really truly here? And Summer right around the corner? It’s about time I finish up some of these indoor projects so I can move on to our deck makeover. The past three weeks we’ve been hitting the study makeover hard. Quite a few things have changed since my original post about the plans for this space, so I wanted to share an update with you all. In fact, most of it has changed! Yikes!

I committed to a color for the room, and I’m really happy with how it’s looking so far! We’ve only began painting some trim, and I could resist swiping the wall with some of the color. (You can see it below inside the bookshelf and also around the window trim.) The color is a nice muted green/gray from Benjamin Moore called Oil Cloth. It’ll be nice to have another space in our home with color on the wall! So much of our home is white.

study makeover

So far I have the IKEA Billy Bookcase built-ins almost completed, and tomorrow I hope to add the batten paneling strips so I can paint the room over the weekend. I’ll be sharing all of the DIY details for this space on A Beautiful Mess when it’s complete. Right now I’m just chomping at the bit to have it done so I can style the space and finally use it! So many of our books are still boxed up, and it’s frustrating at times to not be able to find a book. It will also be nice to not have this be our guests first view when they enter our home! It’s the front room at our house, and our entryway has been a mess for over a year now.

study makeover

My furniture selections for this space have also evolved. My new friend Susie and I swapped some home items with each other recently, and I got this amazing set of nested tables out of the deal. They’re perfect for this small space! That led me to swapping out the rug for something that wouldn’t compete with the marble of the table, and then to get a more subtle and classic style of sofa from Article to bring a bit of a classic/timeless vibe back into the room.

Choosing a color for my dream chair (The Womb Chair from Rove Concepts) has been tricky, but I think that with a white linen slipcover over the sofa from Comfort Works, I might like a light gray color for the womb chair. It would keep things more neutral in a room where lots of color will be on the bookshelf wall. (There will be no turning book spines into the wall! ha!) Any thoughts?

study makeover

study makeover

I’m still figuring out some of the details on what will make it into the room and what won’t, but here are the big contenders! I’ve linked them up for you below. Hopefully I’ll be ready to share the room in a couple of weeks! A little more serenity in our home, and a lot more books, would be really nice right about now.

  1. Burrard Sofa from Article
  2. Cowhide Rug from Amazon
  3. Shag Pillow from Lulu & Georgia
  4. Pendula Lamp from Article
  5. Stoneware Vases from West Elm
  6. Womb Chair from Rove Concepts
  7. Moon Floor Lamp from Article
  8. Walnut Desk from Lulu & Georgia

My Favorite Easy-Care Houseplants

easy care houseplants

Some people fondly reminisce about firsts like their first concert or first car, but for me, the memories of my first houseplants are loaded with much more nostalgia than my first set of wheels. I was a 21-year-old newlywed, mourning the loss of my beloved grandmother, who had left behind a slew of wonderfully cared for houseplants. My freshly widowed grandpa said I may as well take any houseplants that I liked, because they would surely die in his care. So my cousin and I split up the plants, and while she researched the care for her plants at the library, I took on my new responsibility with the typical flare of an overwhelmed full-time student, nanny, and aspiring housewife would. Who needs to take the time to research, when surely a daily watering would suffice? I never could quite remember to water those plants daily— thank God— because they somehow managed to survive a whole year in my first basement apartment!

Of course, now I know that daily waterings are exactly not what any houseplants want, but when my grandmother’s plants eventually died of neglect when I forgot to bring them off my patio during a cold snap, I felt like a massive failure. First, my grandmother died. I couldn’t stop that. But then I killed her houseplants! It took a while for me to sort out those emotional feelings of failure— the feelings that told me these plants were somehow a part of my grandmother’s legacy, and I hadn’t deserved them. (Thankfully she had a much more impactful legacy than philodendrons and dracenas!) But now that I’ve handled my grief and separated that from my grandmother’s dead plants, I still credit that experience ten years ago to why I decided to really overcome my lackadaisical plant-mothering efforts and create a home full of thriving plant life, just like Grams.

Houseplants can add the perfect finishing touch to any room, quite literally bringing life into a space! I’m so glad I didn’t give up on the idea of filling my home with plants. I don’t have quite as many crammed into our current home as I did our former home, mostly because I just have more space here to spread them out, but I have a few that have been with me for many years now, happily growing, taking on pruning, and growing thicker and longer each year. Many of you have asked about my houseplants, so I thought it would be helpful to you for me to share which plants I’ve had success with, and how I take care of them in my home.

1. Pothos aka “Devil’s Ivy”

Whenever people say they can’t keep a plant alive in their home, I always suggest trying devil’s ivy. It’s not picky about soil, nutrients, watering, or light. You can keep it pruned to prevent it from trailing, but if you want a trailing plant, this is your guy. It will get long pretty quickly, especially if you fertilize it and give it plenty of filtered light.

I maintain my devil’s ivy by watering it a bit once a week or less frequently and giving it medium amounts of filtered light— meaning they are not right next to a window and they do not receive direct light.  It’s better to underwater Pothos/Devil’s Ivy than to overwater them. How to tell if it’s happy with its water amount? Well, if one of them begins to look wilty, give it water and it will perk up in about a day.  If you overwater, the leaves will turn yellow and fall off. But that’s also what can happen if it doesn’t get enough light, so it may be confusing until you learn the plant. If it doesn’t get adequate light, the plant will thin out, but it will not die— unless, of course, it gets absolutely no light. They will live happily in dimly lit spaces, as long as there is some natural light. Just don’t expect them to remain full and thick in that kind of lighting condition.

If you have long tendrils hanging from your Pothos plant, and it has dropped much of its leaves, trim it back in the Spring and it will bounce back, giving you length again relatively quickly— and even more fullness, if you give it enough light. But the sparse tendrils don’t bother me, personally. I love to see their length, and love that you can guide the tendrils up walls and around furniture and cabinets. Just use little nails or something for it to rest on and it will keep climbing!



2. Dracena

The plant seen in a pot next to a Pothos above is called a Dracena. There are a few varieties of Dracenas, but this kind is my favorite because of the pom-pom effect created by the skinny stem/trunk and the burst of stringy leaves at the top.

The care for Dracenas is pretty simply. They definitely don’t like soggy soil, so when I water them, I do it moderately, taking care not to completely drench the soil, but making sure the water is evenly spread across the soil. Choose a soil that will drain more easily than standard potting soil, but don’t just go right to the quickly-draining cactus blend that stores like Home Depot or Lowes sell. I recommend buying soil from a local nursery to get a blend that’s right for Dracenas, or you could try making your own mix after some quick research online.

This plant can do well in bright lighting environments, as long as that light is not direct for very long, or it will burn the leaves. The nice thing about Dracenas is that they also don’t mind somewhat lower light levels, though I wouldn’t put one in a super dark corner like I might try with a Pothos plant. They won’t grow as quickly in dimmer light, but they’ll live! Just don’t be surprised when you see some of the leaves drying out and falling off. That’s just the plant either thinning out to stay alive in lower light, or else it’s growing upward and dropping it lower leaves in the process.

3. Ficus Alii

Ficus trees come in many varieties, including fig trees and rubber trees, and can be notoriously difficult to take care of. I have killed a beautiful variegated rubber tree, and never attempted to care for a Ficus Benjamina or a Fiddle Leaf fig. But I did see this beautiful almost weepy looking ficus tree on Craigslist a couple of years ago and decided $30 was a steal— why not give it a try?

When I got this tree, it was very uneven, had a damaged trunk, and was dropping leaves like crazy. Ficus trees can go into shock when you move them to a new, less pleasing environment, and this ficus’s previous owner had it outside on his front porch to try to get some leaves back on it. He said it wasn’t getting much light in his home. Moving it from outside to inside my not-super-bright living room at our old house really freaked it out. So I tried everything I could to resuscitate my new ficus. I removed it from its old pot (it had never been repotted for several years with its previous owner) because it seemed pretty root bound, and chose a pot slightly larger than the old one. I had asked a local nursery about what kind of soil blend to use, and bought what they said they use for their ficus trees. So I repotted the plant with new soil, rinsing out the roots first, and carefully dispersing the soil around the long stringy roots of the tree.

After repotting, it was still dropping leaves, and I worried I had damaged it beyond repair. But it was also Fall, and these trees tend to thin out as daylight begins to wane. When Spring came around again, it began to grow lots of new leaves, and then when we moved to a new home with brighter light, it was even happier!

Now that I know it’s a happy tree, I decided to give it a pretty severe pruning this Spring to help it’s uneven shape fill in more evenly. I did research how to prune a tree to make the branches to grow in the desired direction, so I wasn’t blindly hacking away at the poor guy— don’t worry! The photo above is how it looks now. The photo at the beginning of this post is how it looks before I pruned it. Can’t wait to see how it looks in a year!

In conclusion, I think Ficus Alii’s are pretty simply to care for, as long as you meet these requirements: Use proper well-draining soil that also has lots of nutrients (not cactus potting soil), lots of bright indirect light, water only when the soil has completely dried out in the drop three inches or so, fertilize every other watering during growing season (Spring + Summer), and completely soak the plant when watering— but make sure the pot can drain completely. Don’t let the plant sit in drainage water. I use a grower’s pot elevated inside a larger pot, so the water drains out and sits in the larger pot without touching the grower’s pot. In our old home, I put the ficus in a pot with drainage holes, and elevated it on a wrought-iron stand, so when I watered, I could fit a shallow bowl under the wrought iron stand to collect the water that drained out.

4. Aloe Plant

A friend recently gifted me this aloe plant when I mentioned it would be handy to have one to treat “boo boos” and whatnot. (I’m always dealing with scrapes, cuts, and gashes on me as I’m renovating this house— not to mention the kids!) This plant has been pretty easy to take care of! I keep it in a moderately lit room, but in one of the lesser lit regions. Before watering, I let the soil dry out in the top two inches of the soil, and then give it a really thorough soak. I keep it in a grower’s pot that I set inside this larger pot, so when I water it, all of the excess water can drain out, then I dump out the excess water.

Aloe plants prefer to be watered less frequently than most houseplants, similarly to succulents. I know people go on and on about how succulents are easy to care for, but that has not been my experience! I think it’s because I just didn’t get good sunlight in our old home, partially due to Ohio’s cloudy weather, but also because of my general lack of windows and heavily wooded yard. So far the aloe plant has been happy here in our house, though, and I’ve already used it to treat wounds. Love a plant that loves me back!



5. Wandering Jew

I killed a Wandering Jew the last time I had one— and I hate how alarming and violent that seems when I type that out… But these are beautiful trailing plants that are easily split and shared with friends or other rooms in your house. The leaves are smaller than devil’s ivy, and have a beautiful rich purple color on their backsides, though you can’t really see that in this photo. I decided to try this plant again in our new home, and I’m so glad I did!

So far, I’ve learned that these plants aren’t as happy to be left dry as Devil’s Ivy is. It will begin to drop leaves fast! So I keep the soil more moist than most of my other plants, though still allowing the water to drain. I don’t want to soak the soil and cause it to drown. I have also read not to pour all of the water onto the stem of the plant or it could rot.

You can prune back a Wandering Jew plant to keep it from trailing about, but the trailing is just so beautiful! I think it would look lovely hanging in a pot, but for now I have it resting in this footed pot on my table.

"split leaf philodendron" monstera

6. Monstera Deliciosa aka “Split-Leaf Philodendron”

These plants used to be difficult to find in Ohio, but now I’m finding them more places, like IKEA and even at flea markets. I’m so glad I finally got my hands on some, because they are such beautiful, sculptural plants. They seem pretty easy to care for, too!

I have had these plants for three years now, and they’ve never gotten too mad at me. I have noticed them cuing me about watering, similarly to how my Pothos/Devil’s Ivy does. They will begin to get droopy, but when I water them, they perk back up. I have heard they do not do well with overwatering, so I tend to be more hands-off with these guys. I also read somewhere that they don’t do as well with regular fertilization than most houseplants, so I usually only fertilize them every third watering during growing season.

They will develop weird little aerial roots, that basically look like brown nubs growing out from the green stems, which is the plant’s way to reach out to stabilize itself on something. They will grow up and up if you stake the plant properly, but I currently have mine in front of a window that they are beginning to climb. I try to rotate mine semi-regularly to keep them from growing out to one side too much. They’ll reach for the sun, which is pretty inspiring, if you ask me. Heh!



devil's ivy

Those are all of the plants I currently have in my home right now, and I feel like it’s just the right amount. I check their water levels about once a week and water the buddies that need it, while making mental notes of ones I should check back on in a couple of days.

Lucy even spent her savings on a succulent last weekend and is learning how to become a good plant mama too! It’s been fun to transition from worrying about your kids destroying your plants to watching them learn to care for them. If you have some kids in your home— don’t give up on plants! They’ll learn, and there’ll be messes along the way, but having a home willed with life is worth it.

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