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A Few of our Favorite Things … Part 2

May 27th, 2011

Washington DC is a city full of extraordinary art galleries where, as you may have noticed, most of the work on display was done years ago by artists who are “no longer with us”, as they say. Reading their stories, you find that many were impoverished most of their lives. Few lived in luxury. Few even had the chance to live comfortably.

Courtney and I feel that art is an indispensable part of life. What a miserable place this world would be without it! So, many years ago we came up with our “Support a Living Artist” campaign. It’s great to buy the works of dead guys (and gals), but it’s the living artists who need our support.

All of the artwork we display at Embassy Circle Guest House and Woodley Park Guest House was purchased from living artists … almost all of whom have been our guests. We know and love the artists whose paintings we display. It’s definitely been a very satisfying way to fill the walls.

Shoshanna Ahart
Eichstatt, Germany

We met Shoshanna when she still lived in Washington, D.C., before she got married and moved to Germany. Actually, Courtney and Joe met her first. They purchased a lovely pastel at a local gallery and, noticing that Shoshanna loves to paint “portraits” of buildings, commissioned her to do a “portrait” of the Woodley Park Guest House as a surprise for one of my more significant birthdays.

Shoshanna is an ‘en plein air’ painter, so she set up her easel across the street from the Guest House and went to work. Of course, I noticed. I was delighted that someone was painting our Guest House and ran out the door and across the street to see … and perhaps to buy … the painting.

Well, my sister Courtney is a crafty sibling, and she had already instructed Shoshanna what to say when I showed up to buy the painting.

Summer at the Trout Stream by Shoshanna Ahart is on the way to DC from Eichstatt Germany for installation at Woodley.

“Oh, I don’t know what I would sell it for”, she said. “We can talk about that when I finish it.”

For weeks I kept track of Shoshanna’s progress on the painting, loving it more and more every time I saw it. Then, to my great dismay, she … and the painting … disappeared. I complained bitterly to Courtney and everyone else who would listen about this “flakey” artist who had done a beautiful pastel of the Guest House … and disappeared without selling it to me.

On my birthday, there was one very large box, about the size of a CPU, waiting for me. I had absolutely no idea what it could be. I opened the box and there, beautifully framed, was

Shoshanna Ahart's Gathering Storm is currently residing at Embassy Circle Guest House in Room 122 ... Rose Tabriz

Shoshanna’s “portrait” of the Guest House. I was speechless … a very rare occurrence … and absolutely delighted with the painting and with Courtney and Shoshanna’s hilarious stories of the effort it took to hide the surprise from me. You guessed it! It turns out that EVERYONE on my staff had known about this … except, of course, me!

Since that first painting, we have purchased many more beautiful architectural paintings and still lifes from Shoshanna. Room 122 … Rose Tabriz, at Embassy Circle Guest House, is a Shoshanna Ahart gallery, and we’re in the process of turning at least one of the rooms at the Woodley Park Guest House into a gallery of her work as well. In fact, a group of beautiful new paintings is on its way to Washington, DC from Germany right now!

Louise Link Rath

Tryptich by Louise Link Rath is currently in Room 108 at Woodley Park Guest House

We met Louise and her husband Dan when their daughter was attending American University here in Washington DC. We loved her work at first sight … large, vibrant, realistic blossoms; multi-hued leaves and golden grasses. Louise’s preferred subjects were all found in her own backyard … tulips, irises (iri), sunflowers and grasses. She loved all of these growing things in every stage of their lives … from bud to blossom to dead foliage.

4 Iri by Louise Link Rath hangs over the mantel in Room 124 ... Pearl Gazvin at Embassy Circle Guest House

When we were getting ready to open Embassy Circle Guest House, we needed a pair of beautiful paintings for the living room. We selected two paintings of tulips … Rejoice and Shadow Dance. Louise loved Rejoice so much that she didn’t want to sell it to us. I have to say that I will be forever grateful that she did. It’s a beautiful painting. The tulips truly look like they are rejoicing.

We somehow couldn’t stop at just two paintings however. Louise had a gorgeous painting of four purple irises (4 Iri) that we just had to have. We hung it in Room 124 … Pearl Gazvin.

And then there was another beautiful painting of iri with huge drooping heads. I tried to keep that one at Embassy too, but Courtney insisted, rather forcefully as I remember, that Woodley needed one of Louise’s paintings also. It currently hangs there in Room 108.

Every few months I look at Louise’s website to see her new work. Recently, she has been doing beautiful portraits. I’ve never wanted a portrait of me … but if she could make me look really good ………

What Hospitality Means to Us

May 23rd, 2011

There are “accommodations” and there is “hospitality” … and there is a HUGE difference. We have a “hospitality industry” that doesn’t actually offer hospitality: it only offers accommodations.

Hospitality is NOT a financial transaction. Is is NOT a commodity to be sold. It’s an attitude of the heart. Hospitality is what you offer old friends in your own home. It’s welcoming. It’s generous. It’s PERSONAL. It’s fun. It leaves you wanting to return gains and again.

Laura & Raymond Saba welcome guests to the Embassy Circle Guest House.

How do you entertain guests in your home? We’re guessing you probably do it the same way we do.

1. First of all, we invite them to visit.

2. Then we go into high gear. We clean the house, plan the menu, purchase and prepare the food, and set the table.

3. When our guests arrive at the door, we greet them with real warmth, affection and excitement. After all, we’ve been looking forward to their visit.

4. Once we get them in the door, we feed them, talk with them, laugh with them, and introduce them to everyone else we have invited.

5. As good hosts, we do absolutely everything we can to ensure that they are having a good time … that they have enjoyed themselves, and that they have met and enjoyed the other guests.

We have always entertained guests as if we were entertaining old friends in our own home. It’s actually the only way we know how to do it. You are NOT merely an economic opportunity to us: we are NOT trying to maximize your tab. You are a guest … and by the time you leave … we hope you are a friend.

Here’s how we do things at the Embassy Circle Guest House and the Woodley Park Guest House.

Laura & Raymond Saba welcome guests to the Embassy Circle Guest House.

1. We INVITE you to stay with us. We WANT you to come.

2. We are looking forward to seeing you … whether it’s your first visit, or your twentieth. We are expecting you. We are excited that you are coming. We will greet you with real warmth. There are NO “corporate” smiles here!

3. We have cleaned the house, fluffed the pillows and filled the fridge. We have fresh flowers, delicious brownies, and great books to read. We are READY for your arrival.

4. When you arrive, we will learn your name … and we will remember your name. After all, you are NOT a transaction. YOU are a very special person. You are an invited guest.

5. We will feed you; provide a safe, elegant and comfortable place for you to relax and get a great night’s sleep; and we will offer insights and suggestions to ensure that you get maximum enjoyment from your visit to Washington DC.

6. We have a house full of interesting people for you to meet, and we will introduce you … BY NAME … to our other guests.

Courtney and Joe Lodico are the welcoming hosts at the Woodley Park Guest House.

7. We will sit around the breakfast table and talk with you and laugh with you. We will tell stories and listen to stories, we will swap travel tips and experiences … until everyone reluctantly agrees that they need to get out of the house and on with the day.

8. We will answer all of your questions. Need to know how to get around Washington DC? What to see? Where to eat? What to do in the evenings? We are more than happy to help!

9. We will help you solve any problem that arises. Yes, we sometimes have to help you find a lost credit card, buy some new clothes when your luggage doesn’t arrive, find a doctor in an emergency, or extend your stay when your flight is cancelled. Whatever you need, it’s no problem. We’re here to help.

Great hospitality is a rare commodity – and it’s an experience you never forget! It’s welcoming, generous, PERSONAL and fun. It’s what we offer. It’s what you expect from friends … and it leaves you wanting to come back again and again.

Notice a resemblance? Sisters Courtney Lodico (left) and Laura Saba (right) run our 2 family owned DC B&B's.

A Few of our Favorite Things

May 12th, 2011

We have a few more walls that need adornment, so we’ve been looking at new pieces of artwork again. It’s truly one of our favorite things to do.

Beto Rossi's Still Life in Blue hangs in the living room at Embassy Circle.

Beto Rossi's Still Life in Blue hangs in the living room at Embassy Circle.

When we opened the Guest Houses … Woodley Park Guest House in 2000 and Embassy Circle Guest House in 2007, we had a lot of empty walls. People suggested all sorts of corporate art … meaningless, repetitive, vaguely attractive “filler”. Quite frankly, that just didn’t appeal to us. We have always felt that corporate art was sort of like SPAM in your inbox. You just want to hit the “delete” button and make it go away.

So, we not only chose original works of art, but we purchased them primarily from guests who have stayed with us. It’s a great feeling! Each time we walk past a painting by Maria Consoli Ianzito, Louise Link Rath, Beto Rossi, Justina Selinger or Shoshanna Ahart, we remember these “artist friends” and the joy that knowing them has brought to our lives, as well as the beauty their paintings have brought to our rooms.

Over the next couple of posts we’ll introduce you to some of our Guest House artists, starting with Beto Rossi and Justina Selinger.

Beto Rossi

Beto's Still Life with Black Flowers hangs in Room 111 at Embassy Circle

Sao Paulo, Brazil

We met Beto Rossi when he came to Washington DC in 2000 for his first U.S. solo exhibition. He stayed with us at the Woodley Park Guest House right after we purchased the property, and before we closed it down for renovation. The house was definitely NOT luxurious at that point … we referred to it as “shabby but habitable” … but Beto didn’t seem to mind. He was the epitome of graciousness.

We will never forget the night Beto’s exhibit opened. He wanted to cook Brazilian paella and make his own homemade Sangria for all of his guests … and all of ours. So, what’s an innkeeper to do? We spent the day shopping and cooking with him, went to the gallery opening, and then entertained a happy crowd of art buyers and guests at our home. It was a great evening.

Beto stayed with us a second time, and during some of his free afternoons, he made beautiful multimedia collages for us, and for all of the guests who were staying at Woodley. Is it any wonder we love this man?

Needless to say, we have purchased some incredible paintings from Beto over the years. We love his style. It is so vibrant and joyful. Very Brazilian, in fact! Right now, we’re trying to talk him into coming back to Washington DC to see our newest Beto Rossi paintings, which adorn the walls of the Embassy Circle Guest House.

Justina Selinger’s Red Barn hangs in the dining room and has become a trademark of Embassy Circle.

Justina Selinger

Justina Selinger's Red Barn hangs in the dining room and has become a trademark of Embassy Circle.

Occidental, CA

We met Justina Selinger through her husband Howard, who became one of our all-time favorite guests the minute he walked in the door. Howard was traveling with colleagues, and we had such fun together that he decided to come the following spring and bring Justina with him. We had lots in common with Howard and Justina, who are the original owners of The Inn at Occidental in Occidental, CA. We went to dinner together (there always seems to be food in these stories), and laughed for hours about our experiences as innkeepers.

Almost as an afterthought, at breakfast the next morning we asked Justina what she was doing now that she had retired from innkeeping. “Painting”, she replied. We asked if she had a website, which she does, and we spent the next few hours admiring her paintings and making wish lists.

We were nearing the end of the renovations here at Embassy Circle Guest House, so we brought Howard and Justina over to see the progress and all the empty walls. Howard immediately decided that we absolutely had to have Red Barn, a stunning new painting which, unfortunately, wasn’t pictured on the website. No problem! Right before we opened Embassy we hopped a flight to San Francisco and spent a couple of wonderful days with Howard and Justina, eating great food, touring Russian River, Sonoma and Napa Valley wineries, and buying paintings!

It’s become a habit!

Welcome the Inaugural Blog for DC Inns

April 27th, 2011

Welcome to our new blog. We’re so glad you found us.

We have owned B&B’s in Washington DC for 11 years. In April 2000, we purchased the Woodley Park Guest House, and in March 2007, after a 3 1/2 year renovation, we opened the Embassy Circle Guest House near Dupont Circle. We calculate that we have met almost 35,000 guests during this time, and MANY have encouraged us to write a book about being innkeepers. Well, we’re not quite ready to write a book yet, but we have decided to write a blog about the business we love. We’ll share our intimate knowledge of the Nation’s Capital, introduce you to guests of our Washington DC bed and breakfasts, discuss the life of an innkeeper, and maybe even take time to talk about our favorite books, movies, wines and restaurants. We hope you enjoy it … and that you will feel free to comment about what we have written … or about anything at all. To the guests who have been visiting us for years, and the guests we have not yet met, we can’t wait to hear from you!!

Laura & Raymond Saba
Courtney & Joe Lodico

Washington DC … A Beautiful City!!

In this time of heated national debate over budgets and such, we thought it would be both fun and useful to list a couple of things we can all agree on:

1. Washington DC is a beautiful city. It is full of world-class museums, stunning monuments, and gorgeous architecture.

2. Spring is a GREAT time to visit Washington DC! The city is beautiful. The weather is lovely. The trees are in bloom.

3. There’s a LOT to do here in the Nation’s Capital, so you should plan to stay 4+ days if you want to do more than just scratch the surface.

4. You don’t need a car to visit DC. You can walk anywhere, or you can take our high-speed Metro (subway) system just about any place you want to go.

5. DC is a city full of beautiful neighborhoods that are filled with restaurants and bookstores and coffee shops. Staying in one of the convenient downtown neighborhoods, like Dupont Circle … home of the Embassy Circle Guest House, or Woodley Park … home of the Woodley Park Guest House, is lots of fun, especially at night. The streets are full of people, you have a choice of excellent restaurants, and you can safely wander the neighborhoods and enjoy some of the best architecture in the city.

6. DC, like every other city in the world, has thousands of expensive, cookie cutter hotel rooms. Cookie cutter hotel rooms are definitely NOT as much fun … and NOT as good value … as a great bed and breakfast inn.

The Pandas Don’t Give A Bamboo Shoot About The Budget Debates!!

7. A great bed and breakfast inn pampers you with beautiful rooms and beds you don’t want to get out of; good healthy food to start your day or snack on in the afternoons; a lovely safe and convenient neighborhood to explore; and knowledgeable, warm and caring hosts who will ensure that you enjoy your stay to the fullest. A great B&B will also offer you a house full of guests from around the world, which makes for interesting conversations around the breakfast table … and may even result in new friendships and invitations to visit far-off places.

8. A great B&B is, literally, a home away from home, whether you are traveling for business or pleasure. In a great B&B, you can expect to arrive as a guest and leave as a friend. It’s definitely nice to have a place to call home when you are on the road. And it’s nice to be able to depend on friends when you arrive in a strange city.

Fading Glory by Shoshanna Ahart - Woodley Room 108

Fading Glory by Shoshanna Ahart - Woodley Room 108

Fading Glory by Shoshanna Ahart – Woodley Room 108

9. All of these benefits are included in your room rate at a great B&B. No extra charge for extra service. No extra charge for advice and friendship. No extra charge for anything!

10. To find DC’s best B&B’s, check out Trip Advisor. It’s a great source of information, and it’s all written by guests like you. Or, if you prefer, just give us a call. We have a couple of world-class B&B’s to recommend!

TRUE CONFESSION: Now that we have listed some things we agree on, we have to admit that we have one item we do not agree on … What To Call Our Blog! Your thoughts and suggestions are much appreciated … so much, in fact, that we will offer a $100 gift certificate to whoever comes up with the best name! So, please, send us your ideas. Our new blog needs a name!


Laura & Courtney