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


joybird yellow welles sectional

Our living room is soooo close to being completed, I can almost taste it! And it tastes like drywall dust and mortar. (It’ll taste much better once the dust has settled.) While there’s still work to be done in this room, I wanted to show you guys what it looks like so far. Because, so far so good, right?!

The style I’m gravitating towards in our new home is what I like to call Seventies Transitional. A bit of traditional mixed in with 70s modern, with a light and airy vibe. In general, I’m keeping spaces neutral and accenting with a pop of color where it counts. (Remember my pink sink? Still loving it!) My plan for the living room was to make a statement with a gorgeous yellow Joybird sectional. I’m in love with the style and tufting of this sofa, but we may actually spring for a larger complete corner sectional, thanks to Joybird’s excellent customer service. Stay tuned for more on that front! But you can bet we’ll be keeping it yellow.

Mandi Makes a New Home

Boral Cultured Stone fireplace

A friendly reminder of what this space used to be, courtesy of my cell phone when we first visited this home. Where there once was a drop off into this room, we built a step and changed the flooring to signify a change of levels, and also because I wanted an area with light floor, but maybe not the whole first floor of the house.

We installed Lumber Liquidators Island Pearl engineered bamboo flooring in here and the sunroom, and covered high traffic areas with traditional style area rugs (linked at end of post). It was super easy to lay, as the floor boards are all once length, and you can cut each row’s starting board to vary the differences. We purchased a nail gun specifically for the type of nails the flooring needed (which of course was different from the other two kids of nail guns we had!), which cost us around $100 at Lumber Liquidators— much cheaper than paying for installation. So worth it!

The flooring on the top of the step is also from Lumber Liquidators— Natural Maple engineered wood.

70s transitional style

(The blue tape you can see on the floor in some of my pictures is where we have to use a sawzall to cut out register openings.)

fireplace before

Boral Cultured Stone fireplace

The absolute most dramatic change we have done to this space is to the walls! Specifically, the fireplace wall. We painted all of the walls in this room Benjamin Moore’s Super White, and hired a mason friend to lay Boral Cultured Stone veneer over the old brick and atop the drywall to create a dramatic stone fireplace wall.

Boral Cultured Stone is a manufactured stone, which comes in a lot of different styles, and is lighter weight than natural stone, so you can lay it in spaces which might not be able to withstand the weight of real stone. Also, it’s much more affordable. We got our stone from Mason Steel in Walton Hills, Ohio, where they have a showroom so you can check out the material before purchasing. I chose the Old Country Fieldstone in Summit Peak color way to achieve a vintage 60s looking fieldstone wall.

As I shared before, we were unable to remove the platform underneath the old TV cabinet, so I decided to build it out to match up with the hearth, taking the hearth all the way across the room. We’re covering the plywood with Wonderboard, then smoothing it over with a few sim coats of Ardex Feather Finish in white. In the nook to the left of the fireplace, I’m building floating shelves and mounting a tv in the middle.

70s transitional style

Slowly but surely I’ve been moving plants over from my parents house, where they had been living with me during the first month we owned this home and the space was uninhabitable.

Boral Cultured Stone fireplace

Basically, all I have to finish in the room is the hearth and drywall beside the fireplace (which includes the shelving), and then it will be finished! So exciting! I seriously can’t wait to host my first movie night in here!

Boral Cultured Stone fireplace

So, that’s all for now, folks. Timelines are tricky, because everything takes longer than you expect, and somethings schedules get crazy with social events. I guess it would be easy for me to hide away in the house until projects are finished, but life is going on around me, and I don’t want to miss out on everything!

Next up I’ll share a progress update on the kitchen which is so, so, sooo close to being finished. Much excitement around here!

70s transitional style