- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Sandy Mayer’s house is full of guests. As owner of the Georgian House Bed and Breakfast in Annapolis, Mrs. Mayer cooks a full sit-down meal each morning for her visitors.

On any given morning, she might serve Amish and pineapple breads, strawberry crepes, bacon and quiche. She tries to prepare some of the food the previous night and complete the finishing touches around 7:30 a.m.

“You are inviting people into your home,” she says. “That’s part of the charm.”

Bed-and-breakfasts have become homes away from home for many travelers. Innkeepers and owners of the houses invite guests into their residences, which have been transformed to accommodate paying visitors.

The bed-and-breakfast business — with about 19,500 inns in the United States — was a $3.1 billion industry in 2002, according to the Professional Association of Innkeepers International in Haddonfield, N.J.

Despite the downturn suffered by the entire travel industry in 2002, a year of declines in the hotel sector, the bed-and-breakfast portion experienced a 2.8 percent growth in total revenues. However, because of significant increases in the costs of insurance, marketing and wages, profits in the bed-and-breakfasts declined 17.5 percent.

Before opening the Georgian House in a 250-year-old house where signers of the Declaration of Independence met, Mrs. Mayer stayed in homes across the country. She wanted to learn how other owners ran their houses.

After acquiring the proper state and county licenses for running a bed-and-breakfast, she learned that owners not only need to provide guests with breakfast and a good bed, but also must be able to inform them about restaurants, activities and events in the area.

She also noticed that most guests expect to have a separate bathroom. Therefore, most private residences would need renovations to add a bathroom for every guest room. Many business travelers also expect to have high-speed Internet access and telephones in their rooms.

As preparation for opening her home in January 2001, she packed a bag and stayed in each room of her bed-and-breakfast. She checked last-minute details such as the function of the shower heads in the bathrooms. She also noticed where tissues and extra toilet paper were placed.

“If you experience each room as a guest, then you know exactly what you are offering to someone else,” she says. “Are the beds comfortable? Do they have enough towels?”

Those people who don’t want to commit 100 percent of their energy to the home probably are not meant to be bed-and-breakfast proprietors, says Ines De Azcarate, manager of the Dupont at the Circle — A Bed & Breakfast Inn in Northwest. Ms. De Azcarate runs the home owned by Alan and Anexora Skvirsky, which they opened in 1995 to help pay their mortgage.

“Think long and hard about turning your home into public space,” Ms. De Azcarate says. “There are a lot of sacrifices you need to be willing to make. You lose a lot of your privacy unless you are able to close off a part of the house. You need to be ready to be at guests’ beck and call. There is no halfway about it.”

Although the Dupont started in the owners’ Victorian town house, when the neighbors moved, the Skvirskys bought the home next door and expanded. The second town house underwent extensive renovations, and now the bed-and-breakfast has nine rooms.

Today, six guest rooms have private bathrooms with either Victorian claw-foot tubs or whirlpool tubs, a two-room suite has an adjacent marble bathroom with a whirlpool tub and separate shower, and two apartment rooms have kitchenettes for longer stays.

“It’s a completely different experience than staying in an impersonal hotel,” Ms. De Azcarate says. “A bed-and-breakfast is small and extremely personal. It’s quaint. It’s original. It’s unique. … You make new acquaintances. Guests become friends.”

Many screenplays could have been written after breakfast at the Bull Moose Bed & Breakfast on Capitol Hill, says Elizabeth Weber, the innkeeper of the property.

“You never know who you will meet at breakfast,” she says. “We joke we could write a sitcom. Over the course of a few years, I’ve met many interesting people. It’s like six degrees of separation.”

The brick home was restored in 2000 and features 10 guest rooms. The cornerstone of the Victorian house is from 1890, when Theodore Roosevelt served as a U.S. Civil Service commissioner.

Silvana Muscella and Paolo Lombardi of Pisa, Italy, recently visited the Bull Moose Bed & Breakfast while traveling down the East Coast. She read about the guesthouse in a DK’s Eyewitness guidebook.

“We travel a lot for our jobs,” Ms. Muscella says. “We spend a lot of time in hotels. But when you read something has [just a few] rooms, it sounds inviting.”

Sometimes, even local people just want a place to get away, says Linda Mowry, part-time innkeeper of Stafford House in Fairfax. When owners Rod and Donna Stafford bought the house, they decided the large master suite would be perfect for a one-room bed-and-breakfast.

Usually, businesspeople stay in the home during the week, vacationers on the weekends, Ms. Mowry says. The roughly 800-square-foot guest room has a king-size bed, a private entrance and space for a blow-up air mattress for additional guests. It has a kitchenette table with a living area, TV and VCR. Breakfast can include French toast, chocolate waffles, spinach-and-goat-cheese frittatas, bacon or sausage, orange juice, coffee, and tea.

“People are looking for a personal experience,” Ms. Mowry says. “They aren’t looking for a cookie-cutter hotel room. They are looking for a little more attention.”

Although many bed-and-breakfasts are renovated from private homes, former commercial spaces can be used for the purpose, says Ashley Scarborough, owner of Scarborough Fair B&B; in Baltimore. His house was built in 1801 by a bricklayer named Weaver.

In the late 1950s, the home was converted into commercial offices. In 1996, Mr. Scarborough gutted the space, and he opened his six-room bed-and-breakfast in February 1997. His living space is in a separate section of the property. He added such necessities as a sprinkler system, a heating and ventilation system and an upgraded electrical system.

“We refer to our property as country comfort with city convenience,” he says. “The food is spectacular. We have a graduate of the Baltimore International [College] who makes breakfast. She doesn’t just cook ham and eggs.”

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