March 3, 2024

B&B Home Sweet Home

Get that getaway feeling without leaving the house
By Rachel Pasche | Jan. 14, 2023

A vacation is so much more than a pin in the map: It’s a step out of your normal routine into new experiences, with time to enjoy your surroundings and moments to relax and unwind.

Can a staycation replicate that feeling? We talked to the owners of several bed and breakfasts across the North to find out how the special touches that bring guests flocking to B&Bs can transform our own abodes into getaway-worthy destinations.

Dempsey Manor

B&B Tips: Lean In with Décor and Delicacies
Built in 1894 by lumber baron James Dempsey, the Dempsey Manor once housed its namesake, his wife, and 12 children. This regal structure now stands tall in the Historic Homes District in Manistee, with a rustic red brick exterior and stately turrets.

The current owners, James Colburn and Janice Peterson, have devoted years to the masterful and careful restoration of this historic property. Colburn first scouted the site in 2014 after a three-year search for the perfect home to convert into a B&B. Both an Emmy-nominated set decorator and avid antiques collector, Colburn played a key role in the timelessness of the manor, helping furnish and restore the home to its 19th century glory. Peterson was one of the first guests when the B&B opened, and, upon falling in love with it, became Colburn’s partner.

Part of what makes the Dempsey Manor so special is how it feels like a step back in time. The exterior, interior, and furnishings all pay a loving tribute to the house’s original grandeur, making it one of the most spectacular pieces of restored architecture from the 1800s in West Michigan. Each room is uniquely designed with period furniture and all the trappings of comfort that allow guests to experience what a stay might have felt like over a hundred years ago. To follow their lead, give your guest room a theme and decorate it accordingly—then use it as your own escape for a night or two.

If you can’t spring for furniture updates or interior design touches, try another leaf out of the Dempsey Manor playbook: great food. They enhance guest experiences with additions like champagne and chocolate, beach picnics, and a complimentary wine bar in the evenings. Breakfast is a multi-course affair in the mornings, complete with a buffet, craft coffees, and a sweet treat to finish it off. Capture that vacation feel by treating yourself to specialty beverages, snacks, or meals—preferably ones that require minimal prep and clean-up—that you don’t get to enjoy every day.

Secrets on Main

B&B Tips: Build an Experience
Originally built in 1892, the Victorian home that is now Secrets on Main Bed & Breakfast in Cheboygan was ready for a refresh, and that’s exactly what the new owners, Laurie and Terry Musclow, provided. The pair had long dreamed of owning a northern Michigan B&B, and when the home (previously known as The Gables) went up for sale in 2017, they leapt at the opportunity. With help from a team of volunteers and contractors, they have beautifully restored the home to its former splendor and offer five unique rooms for guests to enjoy.

Secrets on Main evokes a desire to slow down, breathe deeply, and enjoy some of the finer things life has to offer. Breakfast is family-style, served at a large table each morning at 9am sharp, starring an ever-changing assortment of fresh and often local foods. An art gallery features pieces done by owner Terry Muscow himself, while the tea room serves up steaming cups of assorted teas accompanied by scones and sandwiches in the afternoons.

The grounds themselves have plenty to offer, including a gazebo, hot tub, fire pit, lush lilac trees, and even kayaks, bikes, and a vintage buggy. A wraparound porch and Little Free Library out front promote afternoons spent leisurely reading in a rocking chair. Guests are encouraged to immerse themselves in the Victorian-era feel that permeates the entire property.

On a staycation, prepare your home or yard for activities you normally enjoy doing on vacation. Maybe that means making your own fancy afternoon tea with finger sandwiches and scones or creating a reading area in a window nook or in a sunny spot on the porch (complete with space heater). To include the whole gang, set up a fire pit area—check your local regulations first—for you and your family to sit around and enjoy with s’mores and cocoa.

Torch Lake B&B

B&B Tips: Pay Attention to Detail
Deb Cannon started the Torch Lake B&B in 2003 with her husband, wanting to bring her experience as an inspector for the Michigan Bed and Breakfast Association and her passion for meeting new people together. Initially, the Cannons offered only a single room in their lakeside home; today there are four rooms available.

The Cannons think of themselves as a ministry of sorts, catering to the different needs of each visitor. Some arrive seeking the serenity of a quiet weekend on the water, while others want to experience a go-go-go vacation. Cannon loves entertaining, and the opportunity to share the beauty of Torch Lake with visitors from all around the globe has “opened up a whole new world” for her. Torch Lake was featured in a National Geographic article several years ago as the third most beautiful lake in the world, and Cannon credits that article for the large number of international travelers she receives.

Visiting the B&B feels like entering a lakeside cottage, with nautically-themed rooms adding to the home’s charm. Cannon makes sure all needs are anticipated, from snacks, drinks, and soaps, to access to a grill, boats, kayaks, and dock. Breakfast is brought to the room each morning, and coffee is provided.

Those are the kinds of small details that matter on vacation. Replicate room service with a breakfast dish that does most of the work on its own, like overnight French toast or oatmeal, or buy stocking up on treats from your favorite bakery. Place some freshly-washed towels on the counter and add high-end soaps and toiletries in the bathroom. Or add fresh-cut flowers to the popular spots in your home—you’ll be transported to your happy place in no time.

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