Kitchen Renovation Tips for Entertaining

Did you host the holidays this year and find your space less than ideal? Or did you not host because you didn’t feel that your kitchen layout was adequate? Make 2019 the year to fix that! While a large, open kitchen is great for entertaining, kitchens of all sizes can be maximized to accomodate a crowd. No matter the size of your kitchen, see below for tips to consider when renovating for entertaining with ease….

A Large Island
This is an ideal space for food prep, cocktail creation and lingering guests during the final dinner preparations. You can avoid being locked away in the kitchen if there is space in the kitchen for your guests to join you! Additionally, the island can be cleared off and used to create a serving bar for guests should your holiday dinner be buffet-style. If your kitchen space does not accomodate an island, consider a breakfast bar, hutch or other long counterspace that could serve a similar function to an island.

Plenty of Seating
Do you feel that you kitchen never has enough seats for everyone during holidays? Create a small eat-in space within your kitchen for guests to sit at while they nibble on hors d’oeuvres. This space can be either a breakfast booth, bar stools, pub table or window seat depending on your space available. It can also double as a kids table during formal dining if your party warrants it!

Point of Service Refrigeration
Self-serve beverages can be a godsend as guests begin to arrive. Stock a small beverage fridge with water, non-alcoholic beverages, wine, beer and whatever other options you feel your guests would appreciate. If space permits, arrange glasses, an ice bucket and cocktail ingredients on the countertop above or next to to the beverage fridge. This will allow guests to make their own beverage upon arrival rather than waiting for you to serve them individually. Bonus – this frees up your time to visit with guests and put any finishing touches on the food!

Flat Screen TV
Do you find yourself often entertaining during sporting games or other televised events? Including a flat screen TV in the kitchen layout in an asthetically pleasing way will allow guests to keep up with the latest action and spend time with you in the kitchen. From an everyday perspective, this ‘appliance’ is also handy for watching the news during morning coffee or entertaining oneself during dinner prep.

Counterspace and Walkways
Two important things to consider in all kitchen designs, particularly those that will often be used for entertaining are counterspace and walkways. Be sure to include significantly more counterspace and walkway clearance than you think you need, as these two features are always at a premium when the kitchen gets crowded! Additionally, be ensure to account for your kitchen triangle (sink, fridge, range) to be easily accessible when the kitchen is full of people – you don’t want to be squeezing between Great Aunt Helen and her new beau to take the turkey out of the oven!

Visit my portfolio for additional kitchen renovation images.

Why December may be the BEST Time to Buy Real Estate

While it is true that there is less real estate inventory on the market in December, it is also true that this may be the BEST time to buy!  Not only will you likely wind up paying less for the property, but you will save on your buying costs as well.  In the following post, I give you 6 reasons why.


1. Less Competition

There may be less sellers on the market in Decmber, but there are also less buyers!  As holiday shopping, shorter daylight hours and poor weather cut into time available for house hunting, many people put off their property search until after the new year.  This means that if you make an offer on a property, you are less likely to be up against competing offers.  Due to lack of other options, sellers who want to move the property before year-end are more likely to accept an offer at a lower price, with less earnest money and/or with more contngencies during December than they would at other times of the year.  Of course, this translates into a financial savings for you as the buyer!

2. Motivated Sellers

Let’s talk sellers.  There is generally only one reason why sellers list property in November-December… they are highly motivated to sell and don’t want to wait for Spring!  Whether this be a job change for the new year, an unfortunate family event or the property did not sell during the past Spring-Summer season, property owners with real estate on the market during the slow season are highly motivated to sell.  Again, this translates to the buyer having more negotating power and being able to purchase the property for less than they would at other times of the year.  Before you feel bad for negotiating against a seller that may be forced to sell their property, remember that you are doing them a huge favor by purchasing in the slow season regardless!

3. View How the Property Holds up to Weather

Depending on which part of the country you are looking in, the winter months are typically not as nice as the summer months and thus homeowners are more likely to encounter major issues.  This weather change  may be anything from a few degrees less and a few raindrops more to the great blizzards of New England or the Rocky Mountains.  In either event, it is difficult to hide leaky roofs, drafty windows and other unsavory house qualities during inclement weather.  When you tour a house in the late fall – early winter, be sure to take particular notice to any temperature changes or signs of water as you walk through the property.  If you are curious about heating efficiencies, you should be able to obtain recent usage statistics from either your real estate agent or the local utility company.

4. Mortgage Rates

Mortgage rates are still at historical lows, but have been steadily climbing over the past several years.  While there is no guarantee they will go up in the new year, history tells us it is highly likely.  Securing your financing now will ensure that you are not subject to the increased market rates comes January. Be sure to consult with your mortgage broker to know what is best for your specific financial situation.

5. Availabiliity of Agent & other Vendors

Due to a lower volume of overall real estate transactions during December, you will likely have more attention and flexiblity from your real estate agent and other vendors.  This includes availability to view properties at your convenience, flexiliby in scheduling home inspections, year-end specials from moving companies, discounted contractor rates and more.  As most vendors are looking to increase Q4 business, be sure to ask about any current specials for the holidays.

7. Builder Incentives

A lesser known perk of buying in December is builder incentives.  If you are buying a new construction home, you may be able to negotiate upgrades at a reduced rate from your builder.  Similar to the above, many builders are looking to increase sales for the slow-moving month of December in order to end the year on a strong note.  As such, your builder may be willing to cut you a discount on that upgraded tile or custom cabinets you have had your eye on!

Please feel free to reach out to me should you have any questions on the above or if you’d like to a get a jump start on your home shopping this holiday season!

Carolyn Quelly, Licensed Realtor
Coldwell Banker Chesapake
2525 Augustine Herman Hwy.
Chesapeake City, MD 21915

Mobile: 267-374-6963
Office: 410-885-2200

Homemade Skinny Margarita

Happy Fri-yay!!  Who doesn’t love a good margarita?  Similarly, who doesn’t hate how high in sugar and processed syrups margarita mix is?  Well good news for you- Our Homemmade Skinny Margarita is made with 4 fresh ingredients u likely have on hand already and sure to be a crowd pleaser for your next cocktail party!


Skinny Margarita Ingredients

Margarita Salt (optional)
Juice 1 fresh orange
Juice 1 fresh lime
2oz. silver tequila (more or less as u like)
3oz. sparkling water (flavored if u want)

Skinny Margarita Recipe

  1. Pour all ingredients over ice in a cocktail shaker and shake until chilled.
  2. Salt margarita glass by rubbing the rim with a lime and then dipping into a small plate of margarita salt (pink Himalayan salt also works great).
  3. Fill glass halfway with rocks (ice!)
  4. Strain beverage over rocks
  5. Garnish with fresh fruit slices and serve – or enjoy yourself!

Follow our blog and social media for more entertaining and Fri-yay Cocktail Recipes, cheers!

10 Tips to Make your Overnight Guests Feel at Home!

One of my favorite things about moving out of the city is SPACE: space to cook, space for the puppies and space to host guests!  When it comes to hosting, there are a few things that you can do to ensure your overnight guests feel at home.

Only a few weeks after moving in, we hosted my family for Thanksgiving and all 3 of our spare bedrooms were put to use!  Since then, I’ve been able to offer friends visiting from out-of-town a comfortable room in which to spend the night on numerous occassions. While I miss being close enough to grab lunch, having the space to host and enjoy a longer visit certainly makes up for it!  Sometimes, as friends will do, we get chatting and time slips away from us… as such, my overnight guests are often spontaneous and unplanned.  In order to ensure im promptu guests have everything they might need, I’ve made a few additions.  Follow my tips below and your guests will feel right at home!

1. Confortable Bedding and Throw Pillows

The initial impression of how comfortable a room will be is often determined by the bedding and any accompanying pillows.  Make your guests feel relaxed and at home as soon as they walk into the space by providing a visually appealling and comfortable bedding options with 2-3 throw pillows.  If you’re feeling extra-hospitable, purchase my favorite 100% organic bamboo hypoallergenic sheets for the room as well!

2. Extra Blanket

Some guests may be chilly in the evening and prefer to put an additional blanket on the bed.  Other guests may run warm… by layering the bed with a blanket and a duvet, you provide guests the ability to regulate their own temperature without adjusting your thermostat.  If the room is particularly prone to drafts or tends to run warm in the summer, a supplemental space heater or portable air conditioning unit is also a nice touch.

3. Toiletries your Guests may have Forgotten

Keep showers stocked with soap, shampoo and conditioner.  Keep extra toothbrushes, toothpaste, makeup remover and feminine products in vanity drawers.  These essential items will allow im promptu guests the ability to feel like they can take care of themselves when they crash unexpectedly.

4. Plenty of Fresh Towels

When guests are able to wake up and shower without bothering you, they will naturually feel more at home.  If you’ve included the toiletries and the towels, then they have everything that they need!  Be sure to keep more than 1 in the bathroom for multiple guest or guests that prefer 2 towels – I am a 2 towel girl myself!  One for my hair and one for my body.  Check on Amazon for high-quality turkish cotten towels at much cheaper prices than home stores!

5.  Extra Paper Products

Place a box of tissues on the bathroom counter and stash an extra one under the sink.  Also ensure there is a roll of paper towels and extra toilet paper under the sink.  Pre-emptively including these items saves guests who are embarassed to ask you if something runs out.  How often have you been to a restaurant and no one bothered to tell the hostess there is no toilet paper?  Hopefully this will not happen at your home gathering!

6. A Bedside Table and Lamp

This provides the ability to not only turn the lights off from the bed, but also a place to put glasses, jewelry or other small items overnight.

7. Extra Phone Charger

If you have a spare charger, stash it in the room for guests to use!  It will save them from having to ask you if you have one for them to borrow.

8. Candle or Oil Diffuser

A small candle or oil difuser provides a clean, refreshing scent to the room.  I personally love this ultrasonic aroma cool mist difuser because it can be run at night without any light and lasts up to 9 hours!  If you regularly keep the windows and doors closed to the guest room, be sure to open the door in advance of bedtime to allow the stale air to ciruculate and let the temperature of the room balance with that of the house.

9. Comfortable Seat 

This could be a rocking chair, arm chair, bench, or any othe spare chair option you may have available.  Providing guests somewhere to sit besides on the bed provides a space for them to relax and take care of any other tasks they may need to do in the privacy of their room – tending to a baby, checking work emails, calling family, etc.

10. Place to Put Luggage

If you have a tight space, use a bench that will double as a place to sit or put luggage.  Conversely, you can also use as small table, dresser or folding suitcase stand.

Bonus Tip!

If your guest is a dog person, it never hurts to have the puppy waiting as well.

Low Maintenance House Plants – No Green Thumb Required!

In the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day, I wanted to share how much I enjoy having GREEN plants in my home!  Not only are house plants visually appealing, but they purify the air and can provide a selection of fresh, edible treats.  Given my minimal green thumb, I definitely go for low maintenance house plants!  Below are a few of my favorites:


Hydroponic Tulips & Other Bulbs

While hydroponic bulbs don’t live as long as potted plants, they certainly outlast cut flowers!  You can pick them up during spring in many grocery stores.  Bonus – you can save the bulbs and plant them in your outdoor garden!  The tall glass vases are also good for storing corks, seashells, Christmas balls or other small items at a later date.

Low Light Hanging House Plant (aka: Pothos)

This is one of my all time favorite house plants, because it thrives with low light and once weekly watering. Typically they can be found in the garden center in a hanging basket.  However, if you are looking to purchase more than one, you can buy more economically online.  If your plant comes in a hanging basket and you don’t wish to hang it, you can simply removie the ‘hangers’ or transplant into a pretty pot.  Placed on a stand, these plants make a great accent to the corner of any room!


Succulents are hearty plants, requiring very little water.  Some appear more cactus-like while others have smooth leaves, but all are easy to grow!  You can find them in many home improvement stores and garden centers, but the most economical way is to purchase small plants online and transplant to larger pots as they grow.  You can find them in varying quantity increments depending on how many you wish to purchase – the more you buy they cheaper they are!


You can easily create a terrarium at home with a few simple components!  I have included below a few links to recommended resources – otherwise, feel free to pick up from your local garden center.

First, decide if you would like a hanging or tabletop terrarium and select your glass container.  There are some really neat glass containers designed specifically for terrraniums or fee free to re-use a old piece of glassware you have at home.   Once you have selected your container, layer in…

1.  1 inch rocks for drainage
2.  1/2 inch of activated charcoal for soil cleaning
3.  1 inch of potting mix to provide a base layer under the plants
4.  A selection of 1-4 styles of succulents depending on the size of your container (be sure to wear gloves if you selected a cactus variety)
5.  Potting mix to fill your glass container to the base of the succulents

If you like, you can add a little moss or other garnishes to decorate the top of the soil as a finishing touch.  Water sparesely, (only when soil becomes fully dry) and wait for your succulents to grow!

Mint & Other Herbs!

Mint can be very invasive, which in a garden is bad, but in a self-contained house plant is an excellent property!  While some herbs can be difficult to grow indoors, Mint will re-generate it’s leaves on a regular basis.  Try this mint sampler pack, containing Mojito Mint, Spearmint & Peppermint to find your favorite!  If you are feeling ambitous, you could also try this herb sampler pack of Mint, Parsley & Oregano, but be know that the others take a bit more maintence and time to regenerate.

For more information on planting herbs, stay tuned for my upcoming blog on a building an indoor hanging herb garden!

Happy planting and enjoy your green beer this evening!

But first, coffee – where many good things start!

But first, coffee – where many good things start!  I was unsure where to begin this blog until I realized that many of my mornings start similarly.  In the same way that I turn to coffee to give me a jump start, so too will I turn to the coffee and beverage bar to be my first post!

For those of you who are not familiar, my boyfriend (Joe) and I recently bought our first house and have been renovating for a year a half.  In this context, I have found a passion for not only renovating, but making the house a home and tailoring it to fit our lifestyle.  An extrovert-at-heart, I have a passion for entertaining and have designed our space to not only suite our personal needs, but the need for large family holidays, ladies painting wine nights, summer barbeques and many similar fun events!

Where do all of these events generally start?  At the coffee and beverage bar of course!  We strategically designed this space to be outside of the working area of the kitchen in order to afford guests open access to a beverage upon arrival or a coffee upon waking up (and in the case of some, stumbling downstairs!).  We have incorporated 2 beverage coolers – one for wine (50 Bottle Magic Chef 24in wide Wine Cooler) and one for upright smaller bottles and cans (156 12oz Can Magic Chef 24in wide Beverage Cooler).  I highly recommend beverage fridges in the kitchen, dining room, bedroom – anywhere you can fit them!  They make your home feel luxurious at a relatively low cost – if you are putting them under a counter, they are often the same or less than the 24” kitchen cabinet!

My wonderful friend Kerry was over for the holidays and during our decorating shenanigans, we labeled one as ‘Adults Only’ and the other as ‘Kid Friendly’.  I’ve since removed the nutcracker and snowmen window clings, but kept these labels, as it makes things very simple when the kids are over:  “You can have anything from the cooler labeled ‘Kid Friendly.”

During the course of this blog, I will take you through the decisions, the joys and the struggles of home renovation.  My hope is that you will pick up some good tips, become inspired by my photos, learn several things NOT to do, and have fun during the process!  I will keep my blogs purposefully short and full of pictures, as my main goal is not to be a writer, but to share my journey through making a home.  Please always feel free to comment or email me with feedback or requests for more information.  Thank you for your support going forward! 😊

Quick Tips from this project:

  • Peel-and-stick tiles can often be used with grout for a more permanent installation.  These tiles are a great option – and they are MUCH less expensive than anything I found in tile showrooms that was designed for grout only.
  • Kumquats are cute and delicious – you can eat the rind and all!