Happy Homeowners: The Zeis Family

This month’s “Happy Homeowner Interview” brings us to Lauren Zeis, who bought her new home in Cincinnati with her husband, Mike, in March of 2012.  Lauren shared with us some of her favorite memories of choosing and living in her home.


M/I Homes:  Is this your first M/I Home and what convinced you to choose M/I over another builder?

Lauren: This is our first M/I Home. We bought a house that was already built. We liked the house, the neighborhood and the location.

M/I Homes: Overall, how was your experience with M/I Homes.  Did you pick your lot and floorplan to build the home, or was the home already started for you?

Lauren: Overall, the experience with M/I was great! We choose a home that was already built. As first time home buyers, it was a great initial experience.

M/I Homes: Was there something about your home that made you immediately know you wanted to move in?

Lauren: We loved the set up of the house, the neighborhood, and the location.

M/I Homes: What do you like about your neighborhood / community?

Lauren: I like the quiet neighborhood, sidewalks, and neighborhood parks.

M/I Homes: What is your favorite memory so far in your M/I Home?

Lauren: We have had so many great memories in our new home already!  We loved bringing home our first Christmas tree, enjoying summer cookouts with friends and family, and bringing home our baby girl!

M/I Homes: Would you purchase another M/I Home if you had the opportunity?

Lauren: Absolutely. We would love to build our next home and would choose M/I Homes if it was in the right location.

M/I Homes: What were some of your “must haves” when you were looking for a new home?

Lauren: We were looking for a good neighborhood and a home with a large yard for a dog.  We needed extra bedrooms, plenty of space for entertaining and a garage.

M/I Homes: Is there anything you would recommend to someone looking for a new home?

Lauren: Enjoy the experience of looking for a new home and take it all in!  Make sure to choose something that will work for you and your family on a day to day basis!

M/I Homes: What features of your home do you especially love?

Lauren: We love the bonus room upstairs and the upstairs laundry!  It’s really convenient for us with a one year old!

**Lauren Zeis and her family live in the Cincinnati area. She is a kindergarten teacher and her husband Mike is a print service specialist. They have lived in their home since March of 2012 and have a beautiful baby girl, Peyton, and a fun and energetic dog named Marino.  We love having them as a part of the M/I Homes Family!


Creative Halloween Inspired Decorating Ideas

Halloween is a yearly celebration which occurs all over the world, and since the scariest night of the year is approaching, you should definitely consider making your house the spookiest in the street. There are many ways in which this can be achieved by masking your house, yard and porch with many Halloween-themed ornaments. If you want it to look perfect and really scary, consider improving your Halloween with the tips listed below.

Spooky ideas for your décor

There is nothing better than frightening your neighborhood with easily crafted decorations made to deliver the ultimate fear. Focus on your porch, and decorate it in the scariest way. You can create bats from a black colored paper and glue them all over the place; that way, it will look like bats are stuck all over your wall. Also, you can place black colored paper on the windows to make it look like it is broken. Another great thing is getting skulls from the nearest store and hanging them above your doors. If that doesn’t scare everyone I don’t know what will.

Halloween Front Porch Decor

Haunted house

Nothing chills one’s bones as well as the feeling of a ghost presence. One of the things you can do is buy draperies which are cut and have holes all over them. When left hanging on the porch, they will resemble ghost-like shapes. You can also create a ghost-shaped doll and cover it with white sheets and by simply letting it hover on your porch, you will discourage people from coming close to it. Black crows are a resemblance of fear and something haunted, so if you manage to get these (or create a few), you will definitely get the desired effect. Last but not least are the candles: place them all over the place, and surround them with a lot of black color so that their light resembles that mystic shadow. If you can manage to find a black chandelier (there are a lot of paper ones which are sold at around $5-15), you will complete your haunted house.

Haunted House Decoration

Decorating the walls

Once inside your home, a person has to feel additionally scared. This can be achieved by decorating the walls in a way so that they look realistically scary. One of the ways of achieving that is by throwing red washable paint at them to resemble blood. You can make the walls additionally spooky, by adding the spider web made out of yarn. It is very easy to make; pick a color of the yarn, choose a location in the house where you want to place it, and then you just start spinning the web by creating the skeleton and arms of the web and end up making the web rings, which is a process that needs to be repeated several times. Once you are done creating the web, add a few spiders to make it more realistic and voila.

Halloween Decor for Your Walls

Get the best out of your available budget

The most important things concerning Halloween are to have fun while decorating the house, to stay within your available budget, and the most importantly – to further bond with your family members. There are many ways in which you can achieve this by simply being creative and open-minded. To save a lot of money on already manufactured products which are sold worldwide and which can be seen at almost every doorstep, consider making your own Halloween decorations. Put your imagination to the test, take your tools and paper, and start crafting, painting and gluing. This is probably the most interesting way of decorating a fully themed Halloween house.

By applying the above listed tips, you will definitely have a spooktacular experience!

Author’s Bio: Lana Hawkins is a student of architecture from Sydney, and a regular contributor to Smooth Decorator. Being a crafty girl, Lana loves knitting and smaller DIY home projects.  In her free time, she loves creating new recipes and cycling.

What Is Whole Home?


As the world has become increasingly more concerned with energy efficiency, so has M/I Homes. We’ve developed our own program, called Whole Home, dedicated to maximizing energy efficiency in the homes we build. Whole Home accomplishes this goal by exceeding basic Energy Star® requirements. Energy Star® is a voluntary program that aims to help businesses and individuals save money and prevent climate change through energy efficiency. Whole Home goes above and beyond that. While Whole Home consists of many features that vary from state to state, it focuses specifically on four major areas:

  1. Energy Efficiency: Using less energy to heat and cool your home
  2. Air: Radically reducing particulates and airborne allergens
  3. Water: Reducing amount of impurity build-up
  4. Sustainability: Reducing your environmental footprint

Overall, the individual features help to save you an average of 30% on your energy bill.

We looked into some of the features that Whole Home has to offer, and these are some of our favorites.

  1. Third Party Home Inspectors: In order to gain an unbiased opinion on the state of our homes, we hire third party RESNET inspectors to test the energy efficiency of our homes not just once, but twice. The first inspection is the Thermal Barrier Checklist and a Duct Blast Test. The second inspection is the Blower Door Test, in which your home is tightly sealed and a fan is strapped to your front door. The fan then blows air out of your home, effectively creating the force of a 20 mph wind against the exterior. The amount of air that is still able to enter your home determines your home’s HERS index rating. Through both of these inspections, the RESNET inspectors are able to verify your home’s energy efficiency, insulation, air tightness, and duct sealing details.
  2. High Efficiency Heating and Cooling Systems: The older systems in traditional homes can score a SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) of 6 or lower. The current minimum for SEER HVAC is 13– our systems score up to a 16 on the scale. For those that don’t know, SEER measures the efficiency of your heat pump and air conditioning systems. We make sure that you get the perfectly sized unit for your home to ensure that you get the best air quality in the most energy-efficient way, which also means that it properly maintains your home’s temperature and level of humidity.

So why does this matter to you? Whole Home’s standards ensure that you get the best for your money.

  • Our PEX Hot & Cold Water Tubing, used in most divisions, has 25% fewer connections than traditional water piping, meaning that you get hot water faster and cleaner water.
  • Most M/I Homes divisions use a minimum of 12 inches of insulation, which is more than standard code, and means extra comfort and lower utility bills.
  • Most homes come with the standard 1” furnace filter. M/I Homes goes above and beyond that, including a furnace filter with a MERV rating of 10 in most divisions. This means no ozone emissions, removes up to 85% of impurities, and even lowers your operating costs.hers_anim

Speaking of lowering your operating costs, remember that HERS Index we talked about earlier? That number tells you how energy efficient your home is, and lower numbers mean higher energy efficiency. A current home built to standard code will have a HERS rating of 100. The average M/I Home has a HERS index of 62. This means even greater energy savings on your home.  For example, when compared to an average home built in 2000 with a monthly utility bill of $250 and a HERS index of 105, you would save you roughly $1,142 per year!

To calculate your savings and find out more about the many features of Whole Home, visit our Whole Home website today.

The Top 9 Dos and Don’ts of Outdoor Lighting

Image Provided by The Home Depot

Image Provided by The Home Depot

Most interior designers agree that lighting can really make or break a room, and the same can be said for outdoor lighting and the exterior of your home. Having a well-lit exterior not only increases safety and security, but also does wonders for your curb appeal. When your home’s façade has attractive and complementary outdoor light fixtures, you are sending a friendly and welcoming message to your guests and neighbors.

Backyard living spaces like decks and patios are no exception either. Before you buy your first lantern or sconce, read these essential do’s and don’t’s of outdoor lighting:


  • DO opt for LED fixtures. They use much less energy than incandescent bulbs, last longer and come in a variety of color temperatures. You no longer have to stick with the cool, bluish light of the original LEDs—they now come in warmer temperatures that give off a more yellow light, if you desire that look. LEDs also come in clear finishes rather than just frosted, so you can still achieve the elegant, sparkly look of exposed bulbs while remaining energy efficient.
  • DO choose fixtures with finishes that complement your home’s exterior color scheme. Bronzes go best with earth tones and brown trim and accents. Black is appropriate with most color schemes and white fixtures work well on houses that have darker bodies and white trim.
  • DO space out the light sources on your deck or patio. Several small fixtures with low wattage will always look better and create a more welcoming ambience than one fixture with a bright bulb.
  • DO stick with a mounting height that is slightly above eye level. A general rule of thumb is 66 in. above the threshold for the front of your house.
  • DO use post lanterns near your driveway. If light from the front door or garage fixtures does not extend the length of your driveway, post lanterns offer another source to warmly greet visitors.
  • DO your homework and research to find a consistent, quality line of lighting fixtures.

If you’re looking to reinvent your home’s exterior by upgrading your outdoor fixtures, consider a line of options like Progress Lighting’s wide selection of high-quality, energy-efficient exterior solutions. Their selection includes variety of fixture styles and finishes to meet design and budget goals of any scope.


  • DON’T choose fixtures that are too small. This is the most common mistake that homeowners make. Your front door should be the focal point of your home’s façade, so it should have the largest and most ornate fixture. If you use only one light fixture by the door, aim for one that is roughly 1/3 the height of the door, and if you use two, aim for 1/4 the door’s height.
  • DON’T use light bulbs with wattage that is too high. Using bulbs with 40-75 watts or the equivalent thereof is best for outdoor fixtures. Choose the wattage based on the fixture, but never use more wattage than you need because it could create glare and daunt your guests rather than welcome them.
  • DON’T skimp on light fixtures at the back door. They should be less important than the front door’s fixtures, but they should match the rest of your home’s lighting and not be too small.

*Sarah Kellner is a writer for The Home Depot. With a background in art and design, she writes on a wide variety of home improvement and decorating topics. To shop outdoor lighting options, visit the homedepot.com selection online.

Awesome Landscaping Improvements for Summer

Is there anything better than a long summer day? Make the most of the sunshine and warm weather by upgrading your landscaping to make your home your favorite spot to hang out this summer. Fire up the grill, cut up some watermelon, and cool off with a frozen drink in your own personal outdoor oasis. Whether you decide to invite some friends over or curl up with a good book, just don’t forget your sunscreen! Here are some simple suggestions on how to upgrade your landscaping to make the most out of this summer.

Choose Plants that Thrive in Your Area to Create Lush Greenery

Your lawn may be in great shape, but how can you add to it this summer to really maximize your green space? If you are interested in a vegetable garden, Urban Farmer has a calendar that offers helpful suggestions for what to plant throughout the summer. Beans, beets, carrots, corn, herbs, melons, and peas all thrive in direct sunlight and warm weather. Summer is also a great time to plant perennials. They are on sale at most nurseries and with little attention (regularly prune dead leaves and flowers) will bloom well into the Fall. If your aim is to keep fresh flowers in your home try blanketflower, coreopsis, salvia, or bee balm (attracts hummingbirds). I also like to plant lavender, citronella, basil, and lemongrass as they are great at repelling pesky mosquitoes and no-see-ums.

Add a Natural Element to Your Walkways

Abandon the concrete slab for a more natural look. Consider creating a simple walking path through your garden or yard using mulch or gravel. Build a walkway with natural stone or small stepping stones that allow grass to come through adding a burst of color and a fun design. You may also want to build a charming garden arbor using repurposed wood–a great way to grow climbing plants that will also add some much needed shade on especially hot days. To make your own garden arbor, follow the instructions in this tutorial.

Outdoor Lighting

Make Game-Night Big!

Lawn games have come a long way from croquet and badminton. Giant DIY versions of Jenga, Twister, and Scrabble allow you to enjoy your favorite classic games with a larger group outdoors. Buzzfeed has a list of 27 DIY backyard games that will keep you and your family entertained all summer.

Incorporate a Water Feature

Whether or not you have a pool, you still may want to think about incorporating a water feature. Fountains and pondless waterfalls can add value to your home, while also drowning out the noise of street traffic and neighbors. The sound of a water feature can also help you unwind, while providing a welcoming space for bird, butterflies, and frogs to visit.

Install Lighting that Highlights Your Landscaping

Quality outdoor lighting is important to your home’s security. It makes your home look occupied and lived-in, even when you are on vacation or out for the evening, and it eliminates dark spaces that are attractive to would-be burglars looking for easy access to your home. Beyond that, outdoor lighting highlights your landscaping and means that backyard barbeques can continue well into the night. Tiki torches or mason jar lanterns can also add a festive element while repelling bugs.

Create Space to Linger

With all of the great plants, lighting, and games that you’re adding to your outdoor space, don’t forget to create a spot where you can relax and soak it all in. All you need is a comfortable chair and a flat surface for the newspaper, a book, and your morning cup of coffee. Simple pleasures have never felt so guilty!

Outdoor Relaxation Space


**Guest Blogger: Bryn Huntpalmer is a mother of two young children living in Austin, Texas where she currently works as an Editor for Modernize.


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