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December/January 2006

Our Members Speak Out

The Blue Belle Inn Bed and Breakfast, Saint Ansgar, IA

Question for February: Do you remember your “first time?” We'd love to hear stories about your very first guests. What was most memorable about the first time you hosted people at your inn?

Email your responses to If we publish your comments, we’ll thank you with a $25 credit in our Featured Properties Auction program!

We were asked: "Potential guests often ask me, 'Is it a quiet room?' I find that most difficult to answer since everyone's idea of quiet can be different. How do other innkeepers answer this question, and how do they deal with sound-proofing issues?" Raynell Dunham, Garden District B&B, New Orleans, LA

“Arthur Morgan House is in a quiet village, on a side street, so it is fairly quiet to start with. However, my personal definition of “B&B quiet” is that no one is over my head. So if someone asks, ‘Is it a quiet room?’ I suggest a third-floor room in my three-story house. This is perfect especially for people here on a working stay (writers and students, for example).” – Susanne, Arthur Morgan House Bed & Breakfast, Yellow Springs, OH

I answer the question by first stating that we all know there is no such thing as a soundproof room in any hotel or B&B! If a guest is truly looking for a quiet room, I suggest coming mid week when no one else is likely to be here. Telling them that the back of the house rooms are quieter from street noise than the ones in front of the house usually sells them on staying here. Our B&B was built to be a B&B, so the floors and walls are double insulated…another point I am able to assure them of quietness.” – Richard, Starlight Pines Bed & Breakfast, Flagstaff, AZ

“Our two cottages are on our property, behind our home. We are in a quiet residential neighborhood but take extra steps to make sure our guests have a peaceful and serene atmosphere.

“We let our guests know ahead of time our policies, both in their confirmation and welcome letter. We phrase our wording in a way that they feel we are looking out for them. Warm and friendly, but firm.

“We do not allow group gatherings or parties. We have screened porches at each cottage, with private hot tubs, and there are CD player/radios both in the cottages and on the porches. We tell our guests in their welcome information to play them softly, keeping the other cottages and our neighbors in mind.

“If couples come on motorcycles, we have very firm policies on ‘excess rev ups’ and ask them to please keep the start up as low as possible. We even furnish our guests with disposable earplugs, just in case our bird population awakens them before they are ready to start the day. Or, perhaps one of the guests wishes to watch television or a movie and then their partner can just put on the earplugs and have the option of noise control!

“Because we are in a residential neighborhood, you certainly cannot control the sound elements of your neighbors in moderate cases. However, if there is excessive noise due to boom boxes or any other violation of the city's noise ordinances, a quick call to the police department should be made.

“The key to keeping your guests happy and well-informed is taking the time to give them all the information you can before they arrive. And also to keep your own ears open to anything out of the ordinary.” – Kate and Skip Wentworth, 2 Wee Cottages Bed & Breakfast, Fredericksburg, TX

“The answer is generally a joke either- ‘It depends if the furniture has been drinking,’ or ‘We haven't had any complaints. The furniture is generally quiet in this room.’ After the person stops laughing we advise them whether the room is near an ice machine, housekeeping or any other potentially noisy source.” – Emily, The Palms Hotel, Key West, FL

“We feel all our rooms are fairly quiet, although one has some plumbing sound transmission I'd like to eliminate (see Fine Homebuilding, Jan. 2007 for a great article on the topic). We tell guests that we’ve put blown-in insulation into the walls and ceiling. We have two rooms that do not touch other rooms. We have one room in which the AC is so silent people have accused us of having a broken system. We ask how sensitive they think they are. We can offer an air clean (HEPA filter) machine, which produces nice white noise. We have ceiling fans, which also offer a bit of white noise. And we could certainly buy and supply ear plugs if they are super sensitive.

“On a whole, as in the answer to ‘How comfortable are your beds?’ we answer: ‘Most guests say they sleep very well...and we have done these items to make that possible.’” – Judy & Robert Hotchkiss, Prospect Hill Bed & Breakfast, Mountain City, TN

“I tell guests that I am in a quiet neighborhood, surrounded by trees and gardens, but that the ghost has been known to rattle a pipe or make the stairs creak. She doesn't hurt anyone but can make a little noise at times.” – Joan, Riverside Gardens, Bradenton, FL

“Most of our guests come from big cities, where noise from traffic and neighbors is constant, so when I worry about the occasional large truck, tractor, or souped-up car driving by, I remind myself that I have a built-in advantage when it comes to the ‘relative quiet.’

“I admit to being embarrassed recently, though, when I was being interviewed by a Rochester, MN television station on the front porch of the Blue Belle. Just as I was talking about the fact that people come to our quaint, peaceful little town to escape the hustle/bustle, noise and traffic of the big city, a grain truck with a full load of corn roared by, blocking out my words entirely. Thankfully, the cameraman did not air that portion of the segment, and we all had a good laugh.

“I do everything within my power to ensure my guests are happy. Extra insulation between adjoining walls, and between ceiling and floor is great when you can do it. All of my bedrooms are separated by the buffer of a closet; there are no headboard-to-headboard walls. I've added weather stripping to the bottoms of doors that didn't quite fit tightly enough to be soundproof. Our third floor attic hideaway is the quietest, most tucked away place in the house, and I definitely let people know that if they are looking for peace and quiet. My Mom and Dad even came down to do a sound-test before I opened. I will forever be able to hear my Mom's voice calling out loudly, "Oh, Everett!" while I walked the halls and went in rooms and closed the doors to see what I could hear.

“But despite our best efforts, there is no way to make our houses, towns, or neighbors perfectly quiet. Thankfully, just as we're drawn to flawed people rather than perfect ones, there is something endearing and lovable about an old house with creaky stairs, pipes that rattle, and radiators that sing. We just have to make sure that the finer points outweigh the lesser ones so the tide doesn't swing in the wrong direction as far as overall impressions. There are dozens of ways to endear yourself and your inn to your customers; my advice is to focus on those things, which are in your control, and forget about apologizing for the things that are not.

“Something else I've noticed is that some of the things I find most irritating about living in a small town are the very things people visiting the inn find quaint and endearing – pokey tractors on the highway, local teenagers cruising main a la Happy Days, noisy grain trucks, the hum of augers at harvest time, the smells of roasting corn, burning leaves, and even the occasional waft of hogs when the wind is in the right direction. Just as there are comfort foods that trigger warm fuzzies in many of us, these are comforting sounds and sensations to many people.

“We cannot control a baby who decides to cry all night, an exuberant honeymoon couple, or the old man who snores loud enough to shake the foundation. All we can do is try our best to avoid undue unpleasantness, and to hope our guests have a good attitude about life and people, and accept that these things just happen. As my husband, the eternal optimist, always says, ‘If given the choice between hearing noises and not hearing, I'd much rather hear.’” – Sherrie C. Hansen, The Blue Belle Inn Bed and Breakfast, Saint Ansgar, IA

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