Plans for the Study

Hey guys! We’re still working on finishing up a few details in the kitchen and living rooms, but I wanted to share some plans I have for another room we’ll begin working on this month! We’re calling this room the study, though it will function primarily as Phil’s office and a library for our book collection.

This space is somewhat remote from the rest of the house, tucked away by the front door, and a hallway away from the kitchen and other main living space. It used to be open to the adjacent former dining room, and the dining area used to have an opening to the kitchen. But the passageway between the front living room and the dining room has now been sealed off with drywall, and the dining space now has a doorway between it and the kitchen and is being transformed into the playroom. (More on that later!)

Now that the opening between the rooms has been closed up (see floor plan below), we have a private room at the front of the house that Phil can use as he mentors other men and has small group Bible studies. This room was a major selling feature for us as a couple, as it was important for us to have a home that was equipped with an office/workroom for me, and a separate, private area for Phil and his mentoring work. In the past it was difficult for him to have private conversations, because our old home was small and had no doorways between rooms. So now he has a study to call his own (mostly his own!) that will also be a nice quiet place for the kiddos to study one day, or just for reading a book away from the noise of the kitchen and living room. Also, the newly closed up wall gives us a nice place to put a sofa in a small room which otherwise would be awkward to furnish.

floor plan

I don’t have any actual before pictures of this room, because we set to work ripping out the carpets the moment we moved into the house. (Literally— the first day we owned her!) But imagine a medium brown shag carpet. We replaced it with the same engineered maple flooring that we are using in the kitchen, dining, and playroom areas. Now we need to do some painting, and add moulding details! (Oh, and remove that electrical cord on the wall. UGH. WHY.) But here is our plan!

study mockup

We’re working on an IKEA Billy bookcase hack on the wall across from the desk, which will surround the window with what looks like built-in shelving, in one of the room’s accent colors. This will make the biggest statement in the space, and in order to help the other walls match up to the bold elegance of a wall of bookshelves, I’ll be adding some easy moulding details and color accents on them. Pretty excited about this! I know color and moulding can really elevate a space, but what good is that when you don’t have any furniture?

So, we’ll be getting rid of our old sofa (this was the first one Phil and I bought together before we were married 11 years ago!), and replacing it with a smaller scale Article sofa, and outfitting the space as seen above. The art is literally the only thing in this room that I already owned before beginning this project. And the desk is a great vintage find I got at a local favorite of mine, Main Street Modern.

Conant Ball vintage desk

In general, I feel really good about the direction this project is taking! But I’m a little up in the air about window treatments. Should I do curtain panels? Keep in mind, there will be about a half inch between the window and the edge of the bookshelves on the one wall. Or perhaps a roman shade? I’ve also tossed around the idea of incorporating a cornice board into the bookshelf design and having sheers hang down from it, so the light won’t be obstructed by something heavier. Any thoughts on that?

Here are all of the links to everything I’ve included in the plans for the space:

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