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Ah, the trip to the design center. A test of your marriage, an immense feeling of being overwhelmed and hoping that what you decide on that long day will suit you for the rest of your time in your new home. 
Don’t get me wrong, it was also very exciting, but the choices. There were SO many.
MI_DESIGN_CENTERWell, we also had this going on. The first time we went just to take a look at the options one weekend before our official appointment. We made the mistake of bringing Myles. I get it, to a five year-old, this stuff can be kind of boring. Besides, if it were up to him, we’d have a rainbow-colored house. That could be cool, too.

Anyway, since we went out once to the design center before actually selecting our options, it helped us see what we were up against. And it’s true when they say you’ll be picking EVERYTHING. We chose our brick, floors, overall wall colors, knobs on cabinets, granite, siding, trim, doors … to even deciding the shelving in the master bath shower. It was intense. But with a little preparation beforehand and having John model the home out in his 3-D software, we were able to make the selections appointment a little less stressful.

Another thing that helped us immensely was browsing Pinterest to look at new home selections, model homes and color schemes. Because it’s one thing when you’re deciding paint colors — those can always be changed —  but you can’t just up and change an entire hardwood floor or large slab of granite.

But as said, with some careful planning and preparation, we made all of our selections in about five hours.


For the kitchen, we chose to go with multi-colored granite. We had light-colored countertops in our old home, which stained easily. We’ve also experienced black granite at our last home downtown and it felt like the dark-colored countertops would show every little piece of dust or handprint. With that being said, we wanted something in the middle.

We chose to go with dark cabinets, only because we had white ones in our old home and they seemed to show every handprint or mark, which is never easy to clean when you have a kid opening cabinets just for the sake of opening cabinets. So, dark it was.

The hardwood selection was tricky, but we opted for something in the middle. Floors that are too light show everything, but so do floors that are too dark. Because again, we’ve had both. Picking a hardwood that would help disguise dust and compliment our other selections helped narrow down our options; leaving us choosing a medium colored flooring.

It sounds like I’m so worried about dirt showing, but seriously, no matter how much I cleaned light floors, dark countertops or vise-versa, it just never worked out. Maybe I was cleaning them the wrong way? Regardless, I am happy to say now that we love what we chose and it’s three months after we’ve moved in now.

I feel like we really focused on getting the colors and selecting the materials for the kitchen took priority, then it became easier to more or less ‘follow the theme’ and choose the rest of the house colors, brick, wall color, and everything else based on our initial kitchen selections.

As you can see from the image below, we stuck with a modern color palette, with various shades of browns, greys, and beige colors. Going with neutrals to start felt like a good idea until we can really start designing out the inside of the home.

Now that we’ve lived in the home for almost three months (where does time go?!), I can say we’re very happy with what we chose!



**Megan Fenno is a Cincinnati blogger, an accessory designer and owner of, a freelance writer, a Savannah College of Art & Design Alumni with a degree in fashion & accessory design, a wife to my high-school sweetheart,a girl that absolutely loves the city of Cincinnati, and a mother to a 5 year-old stud!  To read her full blog, visit her page today!

7 Ways to Help Your Family Adjust to a New City [Guest Blogger]

Uprooting yourself from a familiar place you call home can prove to be a tough task. It takes careful planning, the support of your friends and family, and a period of adjustment to your new locale — in this case, Houston. However, if you do intend on making the leap of faith, following a few simple guidelines can help make your family’s transition easier and more comfortable.

6 Ways to Help Your Family Adjust to a New City

Keep Family Communication Open

As with any other big decision, it’s vital that you keep the avenues of communication open between your family and yourself. Allow them to express all the concerns they have with the impending move. This allows them to air out everything that’s bothering them, giving you the opportunity to help with the transition. Children often take the news the hardest; they must leave behind friends and familiar surroundings. Make sure you take extra time to help them get settled and have them discuss their feelings once you get to your new home.

Move to the Perfect Area of Town

Because moving to a new area can seem overwhelming, especially a thriving one such as Houston, make sure you have everything planned ahead of time. Check out different homes in Houston, see what the community has to offer, and try visiting the area before the move. Finding a home in the perfect area of town to suit your family’s needs can often be the difference between happiness and loneliness. Remember to always ask your family what they think about the new area and house. Make sure your new home feels like home and not just a new house, this may take a little while, especially with children, but making it as comfortable and as beautiful as possible for everyone in the family is key to adjusting to a new city.

Get Involved

Even if you begin to work an insane amount of hours, use your free time to get your family involved in the local community. The sooner you get your spouse or children involved in activities, the faster they’ll acclimate to the move. Many bigger cities like Houston offer an array of free or cheap activities such as youth sports programs, museums, and fun runs to keep your family occupied and get their mind off the move.

Deal With Goodbyes

Perhaps the most difficult part of a move is saying your goodbyes. Everyone has something that they’ll miss. Understanding that everyone copes with this in a different way is important. Make sure you allow everyone to air out their grievances before the move and afterward. That way, you can pay special attention to your family members that are having trouble with the transition.

Schedule Family Days

Once again, the mental health of your family tends to be the most integral aspect of the move. Even if you’re working non-stop, take a day to schedule a family day. While this tends to be a bit more difficult with teenagers, they won’t regret it. Make sure that you don’t make the outing too long. If you have younger children, it’s a perfect way to get your mind off work and entertain the kids by going to the zoo or an Astros, a Texans, or a Rockets game.

Make Your New Home Feel Like Home

Making your new abode feel like home means making it as comfortable and as aesthetically pleasing to everyone in your family. It’s a good idea to have the whole family help out and have some input in the decorating and painting process of the new home. Check out these apps to help spur some creative design ideas. Letting them pick out the new paint colors, theme and decorations for their own rooms, will give them a sense of customization, ownership and pride in their new home, which will in turn expedite the adjustment process.

Help Your Spouse

Much like your children, your spouse has doubts and questions about the new move. To help with the transition, make sure your finances are in order. This allows your spouse to search for a rewarding job as opposed to taking the first one that comes their way. Also, lend ideas to how they spend their free time. Sitting idly at home is a horrible way to transition to a new city, so finding clubs, trivia nights, and open mics is a great way to meet new people and have fun at the same time. No matter where you choose to move and at what time in your life, the transition is harder than you think. However, you can help smooth things over by making sure your family is in good spirits. This will enable you to keep your focus on your job and not stressing out over things at home. A healthy family life should be the focal point, and once everyone is adjusted, you’ll find yourself loving life in a new place and enjoying new adventures for years to come.


JT Ripton is a freelance writer out of Tampa, who loves to write about a myriad of things, home improvements, moving and interior decorating being a few of them, you can follow JT on twitter @JTRipton

4 Ways to Style Your Home Entertainment System


We all want to have the best movie and television viewing experience from the comfort of our homes, so every time a new gadget comes out, we run out and grab it. From the biggest, flattest screens, to surround speakers, to every device imaginable. With so many things piling up, though, its tough trying to keep it all organized.


Here are some simple steps to help you decorate away that disaster of wires.

Find Furniture That Fits

The quickest way to make your entertainment center look tidier is to find furniture that fits the size of your room. If you have a very large flat screen television, make sure you have an adequate base for it to sit on. If you have it in a shelving unit that has a spot cut out that is either too big or too small for your screen, you might want to find yourself another unit. Trying to cram such a big screen into a little space will make the set up look and feel awkward, and it’ll stand out in the room for all the wrong reasons

You also want to make sure the furniture you choose to go around your entertainment system does what you need it to do. If you have a big family or plan on having people over often for movie nights, make sure your seating arrangements are conducive to that. You can use scrap pallets to create movie theater seating or find big floor pillows if you don’t have the space for big furniture.

Hide Consoles and Cable Boxes

If you have kids, or if you’re just a big kid at heart, you probably have many game consoles like a Wii, Xbox, and PlayStation. If you’re a movie and TV buff, you probably have your Direct TV box, Blu-Ray player, and surround sound system all piled on top of each other. There are probably wires all tangled and shoved behind your TV stand, and remotes are scattered around the room and jammed in between cushions — it’s a mess.

Luckily, there are a lot of simple and cheap fixes you can do to remedy that. For unruly wires, use zip ties to bundle them together and keep them from tangling. There are also plenty of handy little cord management do-dads you can buy to help you label and sort your cords.

Power strips and cable boxes can also be placed in inconspicuous decorative boxes that match your decor or placed into drawers with holes drilled into the back for the cords to come out. You can strategically position rugs to cover floor plugs and arrange furniture to block outlets.

Wall Mount Your Flat Screen

One of the coolest features about having such a sleek television is that you can easily mount it on the wall and decorate around it, instead of trying to find a big enough piece of furniture to support it. You don’t need to be a handy man to figure it out, either. You can buy complete mounting kits that have all the hardware you need to get the job done. If you’re a renter, be sure to check with your landlord first, as you’ll have to drill into the wall.

If you use a swivel mount to attach your TV to the wall, you can move it to face any direction in the room, so you’ll have more freedom when rearranging furniture. It’s also a much safer feature if you have kids running around; they won’t be able to bump into it and knock it over.

Make it Interesting

A lot of times, people just put together their TV stand, fill the shelves with stuff, and call it a day. Just like any other part of your home, it should reflect your personality. You can paint the furniture or decoupage it with interesting paper or fabrics. If you do wall mount your TV, you can put an interesting frame around it so it feels more like wall art and blends in with your decor.

If you’re handy with a hammer and nails, you can also custom build some shelves to house all of your goodies and gadgets. Make special space for DVDs and video games and shelves for books and knick-knacks. Anything that can make your entertainment area warm and inviting is a great addition, even if it seems out-of-place.

Whether you need to completely remodel or just tidy up your home entertainment center, these simple tips will help you get started. So make it comfortable or make it funky. Either way, just makes it yours. What cool design tips do you like to incorporate?

GUEST BLOGGER: Jessica Johnson, Extra Space Storage

5 Tips for Falling In Love with Your Tiny Kitchen

For some, having a small kitchen can seem like a curse. It turns out that having a petite kitchenette can be more of a blessing when it comes to cooking and cleaning. Small areas must be kept organized and clean, in order for you to make the most of them. Turning your tiny kitchen into a chef-worthy gallery is as easy as following these five steps:

1. Downsize: How many times have you used that bread machine your mother-in-law bought you for Christmas 3 years ago? It is taking up space you may need for something you actually use.

Large kitchen appliances can shrink your storage space, so consider getting rid of (or shrinking the size) of the appliance. If you are single and rarely entertain, a one-cup coffee maker will do the trick. A two-slot toaster is easier to store than a four-slot toaster. If orange juice is the only thing you are making with that juicer, you can ditch the big appliance and opt for a little hand juicer that can fit in a drawer. Your kitchen will look more spacious with the least amount of large appliances you can manage.

2. De-clutter: An overcrowded kitchen is bound to look even tinier than it is. To open up the look of the room you must remove the things that you don’t absolutely need. Using your kitchen for the purpose of preparing food will really cut down on the things you need in there. So take your paperwork and mail and stash it away from the kitchen. Keep the door on the fridge free of clutter — simple clean objects will make the room look bigger. Donate or throw away all those old mugs, dinnerware, and pots and pans you know longer use.

3. Clever Storage: You are going to have to tap into your creative side when it comes to making the most of your space. Storage space is limited in a small kitchen, so keep that in mind when considering where to put things. Utilize the space right above cabinets. Hide brooms, mops or TV trays on the side of the refrigerator that is hidden from view. If you’re short on counter space, you can make a chopping board that measures the same size as your sink so you can place it over the sink when preparing food. Remember you can always use your walls for hanging wine racks, pots and pans. You can get rid of the knife block on the counter and hang a magnet strip for your kitchen knives to stick to.

4. Lighting: Having proper lighting can make all the difference in the world. Let light in through a kitchen window by hanging sheer curtains that will brighten and expand the look of the room. If there is very little or no natural light coming in, simply purchase brighter bulbs. This will not only make the room look larger but will also allow you a clearer look at what you are preparing or cleaning. Keep a cinnamon, coconut or vanilla candle burning in the kitchen — all scents that complement the smell of most foods. Candles bring in calming natural light while also making the room more inviting through engaging your sense of smell.

5. Organize: When space is limited, it is best to keep the things you use often readily accessible so that you are not driving yourself crazy looking for things in a small area. Keep knives near the cutting board. Dry foods you use often should be stored on counter tops or cabinets in canisters. Make sure everything has a home and is always return to its exact spot. This will keep things tucked away and easy to get to. A tidy and organized kitchen will feel more spacious and efficient.

Large kitchens are ideal for those who favor cooking and entertaining, but by no means is size a necessary component. Take from the wise words of the Rolling Stones, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you find you get what you need.” Make the most of what you have and turn your tiny kitchen into a lovable, efficient one where you can create beautiful memories with family and food.

Jessica Johnson works for and contributes to the Extra Space Storage blog, exploring various aspects of organizing and storing possessions.

How a New Home Can Reduce Your Insurance Risk

Guest Blogger: Samantha Alexander

When considering whether or not to buy a new home, buyers should consider all of the potential benefits. One benefit many people overlook, is the reduced risk of safety hazards that come along with buying new. People who buy newly built homes also are buying insurance-friendly homes.

Home insurance companies make a living evaluating risk. They want to insure low risk homes and they reward homeowners who demonstrate it with better rates than those who don’t. For many reasons, new construction usually translates into lower risks.

M/I Home Raleigh Model

Start at the top

One of the first things a home insurance agent will ask you is the age of your roof. Why? Because providers know what severe thunderstorms can do. In 2012, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III), they caused nearly $15 billion in insured losses – much of that to roofs. The average weather-related insurance claim costs $6,000.

Since older roofs can be particularly vulnerable to storm damage, you can see why newly constructed houses – with newly constructed roofs – are desirable from an insurance standpoint.

The saving power

When you’re considering buying a house, you might not dwell too much on the electrical system. You should. Outdated electrical systems are a major cause of house fires.

It can make $30,000 worth of difference. That’s the average loss from a residential fire. Structure fires are much more common than you think: The National Fire Protection Association says there about 500,000 every year.

Part of the “character” or “history” of those older homes could include fuse boxes (as opposed to circuit breakers) and ungrounded electrical outlets, which carry a major risk of fire. New homes feature up-to-date electrical systems, with circuit breakers and modern wiring, which greatly enhance safety.

Running hot or cold

You want your home to be comfortable, and you depend on your heating, ventilation and air conditioning system to keep you cool in summer and warm in winter. That older house could be comfortable when you tour it in spring or fall, but how will it feel during the other seasons?

The NFPA weighs in here, too. Air conditioning system failures contribute to about 2,500 house fires a year. New systems are much less likely to fail than old ones, cutting the chance of fire substantially.

As for the heating side of the equation, the III says frozen and burst pipes are the third-largest cause of property losses by homeowners. The resulting water damage accounts for about $5 billion annually in claims.

Homeowners reduce the likelihood of frozen pipes with newer heating systems. New plumbing also helps – modern pipes aren’t as likely to burst when they freeze.

Another hot issue

Of course, fires can still break out even if your home has the most modern electrical and HVAC systems. But, again, newer homes can help you escape major damage. Newer construction methods include fire retardant carpet and other materials, and modern firewalls work to keep fire from spreading as rapidly.

That means you’re giving the local fire department a better opportunity to douse the blaze before there’s major damage.  Newly built homes also are required to have hard-wired smoke detectors.

How it affects your wallet

The bottom line? Many home insurance providers offer discounts of as much as 20% for newer homes. But you benefit in other ways, too.

The lower likelihood of filing claims means you’ll also avoid paying a deductible. Remember, that’s the amount you’re responsible for in a covered claim. This is where you can play the risk-assessment game, too. If you believe there’s a lower chance of having to come up with the amount, you can set your deductible higher – which translates into lower premiums. But take this step with great caution – you should never set the amount at a level that you’d have trouble coming up with should there be a claim.

Filing fewer claims also can help you to maintain better rates.

This article was contributed by Carrie Van Brunt-Wiley and Samantha Alexander, contributors to the Blog. The Blog has served as a resource for home buying consumers since 2007.


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