Photo courtesy of Mandi Johnson of Making Nice in the Midwest
Mandi Johnson makes it look easy. The 32-year-old Stark County native runs Making Nice in the Midwest, a blog where she chronicles home remodels, DIY projects and travels with her family. Sheâs also a frequent contributor to A Beautiful Mess, a popular lifestyle company founded by sisters Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman.
Johnsonâs latest project is remodeling the Jackson Township home she and husband, Phil, purchased, and then gutted, last summer.
âWe have two more rooms to finish before fall. Then we can take an extended break and enjoy the fruits of our labor,â she said, chatting to About on the phone while her daughtersâLucy and Juniperâplayed at the Plain Township splash park.
âThe remodel is a ton of work, but I get to do that for my job and blog about it, so not only is it affording me the time to work on it and get materials, I have deadlines so I have to do it (on schedule),â she said.
âItâs like a perfect storm. Itâs exhausting, but itâs also what I want to do, and it gives me the home Iâd like to have.â
Johnson began blogging about eight years ago. She started by documenting her scrapbooking hobbyâitâs how she began her friendship with Larsonâmixed with writings about her life, including her fight with cancer, and other interests such as classic films, vintage fashion and various creative endeavors.
âAt the time, I had a really small budget,â she said. âI was living paycheck to paycheck, trying to make it as a blogger.â
Then, A Beautiful Mess took off almost overnight. Larson turned to Johnson for help and hired her to create posts on a regular basisâmainly things such as making jewelry or building a footstool, Johnson said.
âBack in the day, I used to share a lot about life around Canton, things I did with my friends. That was a lot of fun,â she said.
About three or four years ago, Johnson approached Larson about doing a kitchen remodel and blogging the process. Larson agreed.
It was a success. The posts were popular and shared widely, including by Country Living Magazine and other outlets. It was a launchpad to Johnson taking on bigger projects, such as home renovations.
Because she documents the remodel online, Johnson has snagged sponsors for the project. She often receives items and materials, such as a couch or window treatments or paint, for free in exchange for reviewing the products in her posts.
Johnson relies on her background in interior designâshe has a degree from the University of Akronâto map out her projects and shares those visuals with her audience.
âPeople say, âYou have vision.â No, I have Photoshop,â she laughed.
Johnson also uses social media, including Pinterest and Instagram, to gather inspiration and document her life. The family loves to travel, especially around Ohio, and are big fans of local ice cream joints.
âOne of my goals with social media is to make people aware that Ohio is cool,â she said.
Itâs that love for Ohio, combined with a low cost of living, that have kept the Johnsons here in Stark County when bigger cities and states beckon.
âItâs always home for me. I like to travel, but in the end, it just feels (like home),â she said. âYou know when you travel, you look around and wonder what people think? Iâll never be able to look at it like that. Itâs always been home for me.â
1. When deciding how to allocate your home makeover funds, put the bulk of it toward timeless fixtures such as hardwood flooring or quality molding. Things such as lighting and paint colors are less permanent and can be relatively easily changed as trends come and go.
2. Donât be afraid of mixing wood tones. Choosing the same type and tone of wood for doors, floors, trim and even countertops wonât give your home the kind of dynamic style that youâd get by using variety of wood tones.
3. If you love mixing different decor styles but want to keep your home feeling cohesive and balanced, itâs a good idea to keep your colors on the neutral side, bringing in a punch of color in limited applications. I have some daring elements in my home, such as a pink sink and a yellow sofa, but the other elements in those spaces are more subdued so it doesnât feel like a funhouse. Just a fun house!
4. When deciding what room to renovate first, I always sayâgo big! Renovations tend to go over budget, so if youâre planning on renovating your kitchen eventually but decide to do another smaller room first, your kitchen renovation most likely will suffer. Previous projects will eat away at your budget as well as your energy and motivation. Instead, I say funnel that gumption and cash toward the project that will make the most impact in your home, and take your time getting around to the other smaller ones.
5. If you have a big renovation budget, it can be tempting to do everything at once. I personally have never done this because I like to take my time planning each space and changing my mind a few times before beginning work. If I had renovated most of our house before moving in, I know I wouldâve regretted a lot of what I wouldâve done. Living in the house for a while gave me the opportunity to figure out each roomâs functionality and also the general style of our home. When you take your time renovating, youâre able to plan more thoughtfully and do more yourself without feeling up against a time frame that requires cutting corners or hiring help.
6. Donât be afraid to do the work yourself. So many people tell me they wish they could do what I do, and I tell them they can. I started learning woodworking with some very simple projects and worked up my confidence to build massive shelving fixtures and cabinetry after only a couple of years. Sure, youâll end up making mistakes, but youâll learn a lot in the process and definitely save a lot of money. In our modern age of blogging and YouTube, thereâs a tutorial for everything. Youâre really only limited by what your body can physically do and what your mind sets forth to achieve. (Oh, and I suppose money. That too!)
7. You can save a lot of money by repurposing existing elements in your home as well as by purchasing used fixtures and building supplies. Kitchen cabinets can be reconfigured and refaced for a brand new feel, almost new appliances can be found on buy, sell, trade sites for a steal, and even materials such as drywall and lumber can be found at building auctions or through classifieds such as Craigslist. For some DIYers, half the fun is sourcing salvaged materials for a project.
8. If youâre not sure what kind of style you want for your home, websites and apps such as Pinterest and Instagram are full of inspiration. You can easily organize and catalog pictures of interiors that appeal to you, so that later when you browse through your findings, itâs easier to pinpoint elements and trends that you like enough to frequently save.