B&B owners know how to enhance romance

The romance of Valentine’s Day is history, for this year, unless you want to fuel the passion, in your own home or that of another.

How? Some of the softest hearts around are operating Wisconsin’s bed and breakfast inns, and they are quick to offer advice. We got more than 50 responses after asking: What do you do to make your room (or property) appear or feel romantic?

For more about members of the Wisconsin Bed and Breakfast Association, go to www.wbba.org or call (715) 539-9222. To get a free copy of the group’s 2003 directory – which includes descriptions, addresses, phone numbers and Internet sites – call (800) 432-TRIP.


Romance 101 is all about the setting, tone and mood. Let’s take the last one first. Consider this observation from Todd and Kimberly Seidl at the Victorian Treasure Inn, Lodi, the state’s only four-diamond B&B:

“It is true that romance is kindled in the right environment – whirlpool fireplace suites, canopy beds, spa robes, gourmet room service breakfast – but even more, by creating a sense of retreat and rest where relationships are re-centered and love and affection can again be rekindled.”

So the right mood requires pampering, peacefulness and paying attention to detail. Here are ideas to stash for the next Valentine’s Day, or to run with now:

“Romance is in the details that embrace all of the senses. We design an environment that delights in terms of sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. Since we are located in the Chocolate City, bedside chocolates and a chocolate dessert for breakfast are definite delights.”
– Mike and Gayle Hohner, The Hillcrest Inn, Burlington

“We usually decorate for the seasons.  For Valentine’s Day that means old-style valentines on end tables, in guest rooms, in the garland that winds up the stairway. There are heart ornaments and roses. There are books about love and romance. The breakfasts will feature items that use the heart shape, chocolate or the color pink.”
– Barb and Avery Dahl, Grapevine Inn B&B, Hudson

“We have a Valentine’s tree, a lovely and decorated 15-foot silver birch tree, in our foyer. It is decorated with glowing white lights, lace and flowered
red hearts.”
– Tom Fabjance, Old Rittenhouse Inn, Bayfield

“I have flowers and candy in the room, and the breakfast table is laid with a red tablecloth and flowers. I try to serve foods with the color red.“
– Susanne Soltvedt, Sunnyfield Farm B&B, Camp Douglas

“The romance of the room begins with the initial sight upon entering it. There is the blending of period wallpaper, puffy comforters and pillows, and mood lighting. Soft music plays in the background.”
– Don and Peggy Donaldson, Arbor Rose B&B, Mount Horeb

“Our rooms are romantic because they have fireplaces, hot tubs, soft colors and gorgeous views.”
– Suzanne Crager, The New Yardley Inn, Baileys Harbor

“We welcome our guests with wine, truffles, and a red rose arranged on a beautiful silver tray.”
– Karen Eno, The Baker Brewster, Hudson

“I serve breakfast by candlelight, with romantic music setting the mood.”
– Robin Vallow, Garden Gate B&B, Sturgeon Bay

“The best part about a romantic getaway with us is our on-premises restaurant. Guests check-in and never have to leave the inn until check-out. For Valentine’s Day, a 6-foot, artificial white pine is decorated with Valentine lights, red hearts, red roses, and Valentine cards dating back to the 1900s.”
– Mike & Marie Cimino, Westby House Restaurant & Victorian Inn, Westby

“We strive to create soft surroundings.  We provide soft music, soft lighting, and soft textured surroundings. Breakfast is served in the dining room beneath a real candle-lit candelabra; the table is set with fine china, silver, crystal, linens and fresh flowers.”
– Patricia Fischbeck, The Speckled Hen Inn B&B, Madison

It was not unusual for B&B operators to describe plush surroundings, in-room whirlpools and fireplaces, homemade chocolate treats, thick towels and robes, handmade soaps. But it’s one thing to get the goods and quite another to deliver them. For example:

“It isn’t what’s in the room that counts most, it’s the fact that we assure any folks looking for romance that their needs are our most compelling agenda.  For example, if guests hint that they might like to ‘sleep in,’ we just smile and say coffee and tea are available anytime, and we will provide breakfast when and IF they wish to eat.”
– Julie Metcalf Cull and Mary Huser, Parson’s Inn B&B Retreat, Glen Haven

“Privacy is of the utmost importance. We deliver a full breakfast directly to the suites, so the guests do not have to come to a sit-down breakfast. There’s nothing worse than an innkeeper who is always around, butting in.”
– Joseph and Debra Hertel, Colonial Gardens B&B, Sturgeon Bay

“It is our business to create environments that people feel will be romantic. I think there are three main requirements: a different or unexpected experience, creature comforts and privacy.  Our main inn is a three-story limestone warehouse built in 1854, and we have a restaurant and brewery in it.  It is a striking environment.”
– Deborah Donaghue, Brewery Creek, Mineral Point

“I offer romantic getaway packages, which include many things for one price. I do the work, and guests just sit back and enjoy.”
– Jennifer Dunn, The Franklin Victorian B&B, Sparta

“Most of the people who choose to eat in their room do so because it’s more romantic. We bring breakfast to them in a big wicker basket with cloth napkins, china and crystal.”
– Mary Ellen and Rich Cox, Phipps Inn B&B, Hudson

“We provide crisp white cotton linens on Stearns and Foster pillow-top mattresses, fresh flowers in bathrooms, aromatic oils for steam spas, dining tables for two, and warm chocolate chip cookies and milk delivered to each room at bed time – all in a beautiful, comfortable Prairie Style mansion.”
 – Jane Welter, Stewart Inn, Wausau

“If we know it’s a special day, such as a birthday or anniversary, there will be a complimentary single rose and a balloon, sometimes with a small cake.”
– Karen Partridge, Breese Waye B&B, Portage

This exercise also was a good reminder of the wide range of B&Bs that exist. Among the most striking commentaries:

Our B&B “is a lovely, 100-year-old home on 3 acres overlooking Lauderdale Lakes, just north of Elkhorn and Lake Geneva.”
– Carolyn and Stuart Markson, Ye Olde Manor House B&B, Elkhorn

“We pop Scottish music in the CD player that is the guests’ room, and turn it on low. We invite them to throw open the curtains on their 6 1/2 foot windows, which face right on Beasley Lake on Waupaca’s Chain O’ Lakes.”
– Bob Marcom, Beasley Lake B&B, Waupaca

“Our warm and welcoming property is surrounded by towering white pines that whisper in the wind. We provide the opportunity to take a day of adventure together (dog sledding or exploring Lake Superior ice caves), only to return to our sauna and a lovely dinner.”
– Nancy Sandstrom, Pinehurst Inn, Bayfield

“We have incomparable views of Eagle Harbor at sunset, and the enchanting village of Ephraim.”  
– Clare Webb, Hillside Inn of Ephraim, Ephraim

“Cuddle by a fireplace or on the porch swing, take a hand-in-hand stroll on 120 peaceful acres along miles of private trails, lounge on the hammock or relax in the gazebo and pergola gardens. Let the immense peace and quiet soothe and refresh you.”
– Dawn and Gary Bahr, Cameo Rose Victorian Country Inn, Belleville

“A private guest cottage includes bath and full kitchen, plus a wood-burning fireplace in the living room. There is privacy and a view of woods, fields and the Amish farming community.”
– Rosanne Boyett, Trillium, La Farge

“The Millie Suite has a heart-shaped double whirlpool, a fainting couch in the bay window. We also have a very romantic restaurant, Emily’s, in the lower level of the main house, with a very private little nook for two which is a favorite for special getaways.”
– Heidi Hutchison, Jamieson House Inn, Madison

“Couples seeking a romantic winter getaway will travel a winding country road through the woods to our cottage, where a roaring fire in the wood-burning stone fireplace will greet them, along with a chilled bottle of champagne in a silver ice bucket, two champagne flutes and a red rose. Summer romantics enjoy the private in-ground pool and pool house amongst the trees, along with a leisurely row on our peaceful lake.”
– Mary Butler, Pine Ridge B&B, East Troy

“Our one-bedroom honeymoon cabins have a double whirlpool set in a bay window, overlooking the woods. They have a wood burning fireplace and kitchen facilities, are very popular and book well in advance.”
– Joan Jesse, Jesse’s Historic Wolf River Lodge, White Lake

“I describe myself as refreshingly un-Victorian. I’m not decorated along the lines of a woman’s ruffled fantasy. I’m decorated country casual, which appeals to women and men find comfortable (to the relief of many). My objective is to make the couple feel relaxed, comfortable and give them permission to be themselves.”
– Barb Anderson, Cedar Trail Guest House, Menomonie

“We have a quiet, country farmhouse.  When couples say they are coming to get away and spend time to reconnect with each other, I try to keep things simple, providing quiet, allowing them to enjoy the casual spaces of the house, offering an afghan in which to cuddle, or a cup of hot tea when they return from dinner. I surprise them with small little amenities, a rose in the room, a note of congratulations, a birthday candle in the muffin at breakfast, complimentary champagne to celebrate a special day.”
– Maggie Foote, Oaklawn B&B, Menomonie

“We create a romantic environment year round, on the 200 acres with 10 miles of trails for guests to walk hand in hand. There are millions of stars to view without light pollution. Guests can walk our two white Siberian huskies, or stroll through our gardens and enjoy the quiet. We are off the road with a house about a mile away. Otherwise we are surrounded by forested hills.”
– Donna Justin, Justin Trails Resort, Sparta


Last, here is an option to pamper just yourself.

“Now through April, we offer a Woman’s Midweek Getaway’— a woman can pick two consecutive nights (Sunday to Thursday only) for $125 total, plus tax. She will have a private room with bath and will be served breakfast in bed if she chooses (98 percent take that option).”
– Donna Rothe, Oak Hill Manor B&B, Albany