If you think that bed-and-breakfasts are tucked away in rustic areas in the scenic countryside, think again.
There's one in the heart of one of Chicago's toniest neighborhoods. The four-room Gold Coast Guest House Bed & Breakfast, 113 W. Elm, has been around for almost two decades.
However, the spot is very easy to miss if you are not looking for it. Owner Sally Baker told Windy City Times that she doesn't have a sign in front of the B&B to protect the guests' privacy.
Walking through Gold Coast Guest House is quite an experience, revealing a place that has dozens of charming detailssuch as a backyard garden complete with statues that is framed by a 20-foot-tall window wall.
Baker gave WCT a tour of the inn, which she said tends to attract everyone from students to European visitors. The downstairs room, she said, is advantages because of the close access to the quaint living area ( which has a computer for guests to use ) and because there's an extra bathroom right down the hall. "A B&B should have a bathroom as good as the one you have at home," she said. "I have extra-deep tubs and I make good the showers are installed high for tall people. There's a rain-shower head and even a curved shower rod to give people more room." Each room also features different photos and books in addition to the standard items like TVs and cabinets.
Baker added that she tries to keep things simple. For example, there is breakfast, held at a table overlooking the living area and garden. "I try to keep it simple," she said. "A lot of people come and go out for dinner, so they're not interested in the big breakfast." Then, with a laugh, she said, "And I'm not that particularly interested." However, there is a nice selection of more healthful items, such as oatmeal, bagels and fruits. ( Also, those who are really into health and fitness can purchase a day pass to the Gold Coast Multiplex, located about a block away. )
Speaking of the garden, it is Baker's pride and joy. ( She even added fodder to the second-floor feeder while talking. ) "The garden was two levels when I bought it," she said. "I did plant some more ivy and even [ added ] some trees. I just try to keep it kind of wild and green. It was all green space but I thought it needed some sitting space so I added some chairs. A good view of the city doesn't necessarily mean high-rises."
As for the building itself, Baker said that she purchased it from a gay couple in 1994. "I think they bought in the '50s or '60s," she said. "They had a friend who was an architect; he did the window wall. The plumbing was in place for four bathrooms, but now there are five. And the spiral [ staircase ] was in place.
"I loved the location, and I loved the way it opened into the garden. I thought it'd be a fantastic bed-and-breakfast." However, she doubted if similar businesses would open in that neighborhood, citing real-estate prices.
When asked about hosting civil unions or weddings, Baker said that she doesn't do either, mainly because of space and privacy issues. "We get asked all the time if we'd do a wedding ceremony here. I say no," Baker said. "How can we have the guests here trying to get to their rooms? It's the guests' place." However, Bakerwho regularly visits her lesbian niece, her partner and their childrenadded that same-sex couples are just as welcome as opposite-sex ones.
When asked what she liked most about what she does, Baker quickly responded: "I like helping people discover what a fantastic city Chicago is. I think the city is amazing: You have the lakefront, festivals and the museums, and it's quite walkable." However, she was also quick to say what she likes least ( albeit with a laugh ) : "It has to be cleaning and laundry."
A real-estate mogul of sorts, Baker also has three condos ( two studios and a one-bedroom ) for sale nearby at 1140 N. LaSalle.
Rates at the Gold Coast Guest House B&B are $129-$229 per night; amenities include free local calls, free wi-fi and a computer for the guests' use. See www.bbchicago.com .