In the Emily Dickinson room, there was a heart
shaped whirlpool bath with a waterfall faucet
and a roaring see-through fireplace. A line of
Victorian stained glass skylights brightly illuminated
the room. In a cupboard sat the collected works
of the poet. Set on a small table beside two wicker
chairs were freshly baked chocolate chip cookies
and hot coffee. Classical music drifting in the
background added to a mesmerizing calm. This was
our introduction to Amber House.
The Amber House (800-755-6526), with rates from
$149/night, is a charming bed-and-breakfast just
a ten-minute walk from the capital in Sacramento.
The inn consists of three homes with fourteen
rooms. Although it is a comfortable destination
for business folk during the week, on weekends,
as when we arrived, it is more of a romantic destination.
A honeymooners' car, customarily garishly painted
with "JUST MARRIED," was parked out
front when we arrived.
'As I read through the guest book in our room,
I felt a little like an impostor. This was a place
where many lovers have spent their honeymoons
and anniversaries. "It's a special place
to celebrate love," one wrote.
I was here because I had read it was a delightful
place to stay and Sacramento was but a fifteen-minute
drive from Davis. I was making another trip north
visiting my son who was starring in a school play
at U.C. Davis. Not very romantic, but it was an
The Amber House is set in an historic preservation
neighborhood still very much in the process of
renewal. Michael and Jane Richardson have been
its proprietors since 1986. Theirs is perhaps
the archetypical story of how many come to the
business of managing a B & B.
"We had a baby," Mike began, "and
we were both working evenings and nights. We didn't
see much of each other. So we decided to get out
of the fast lane." And so their adventure
with the Amber House began. The original inn they
bought at 1315 22nd Street was a craftsman style
home built in 1905 as a wedding gift for a local
doctor's bride. In a craftsman home the rooms
are all very boxy and neat. There's no gingerbread.
But the main living room in Amber House is remarkably
comfortable with plush seating before a large
fireplace. In a smaller nook library, you can
read at a window seat. I enjoyed relaxing on the
wooden swing on the veranda. And although there's
a formal dining room where breakfast is served
on an antique Duncan Phyfe table, most guests
choose to have breakfast in the more private and
romantic setting of their rooms, or on the veranda,
or in the gardens out back. Breakfasts vary from
sweet to savory and change daily with perhaps
waffles and strawberries served one day and a
special quiche served the next.
Jane Richardson chose to name the rooms of her
inn after poets and so there's the Emily Dickinson
room, the Wordsworth room, the Chaucer, Longfellow,
and Lord Byron. Each is uniquely decorated. Each
contains a collection of the poet's works.
Over the years, the Richardson's expanded. They
bought the colonial revival home across the street
and themed it for musicians - Beethoven, Mozart,
Brahms, and Vivaldi. Each room contains collections
of "cd's" with the works of those musicians.
The musical motif is carried along with special
wallpaper in the rooms and a spinet piano in the
foyer. The Vivaldi room is the best choice there
with its outdoor deck, a fireplace, and Jacuzzi
Their third house is the "artist's manor"
across the street. It's a prairie style home themed
after the impressionists - Renoir, Van Gogh, Monet,
and Degas - and decorated accordingly. Should
I ever return to Amber House, I would choose the
Van Gogh room, not just for the replica of "Irises"
on the wall, but because it has a huge solarium
bathroom with another heart shaped tub. In fact,
11 of the 14 rooms in houses have jacuzzi bathtubs.
At this writing, the Richardson's are renovating
a fourth adjoining old home. The theme? It will
be a "writer's haven," I'm told.
What makes this a wonderful "bed and breakfast"
is not only the uniqueness of each setting but
the immediate rapport the hosts establish with
their guests. As soon as you open the front door,
you become family. Everybody knows your name.
And the service is superb. There's the coffee
and cookies set in your room in the evening. There's
coffee and a newspaper set on a table outside
your door in the morning. When I asked him what
he thought was most special about the Amber House,
Michael Richardson was quick to answer. "We
offer the ultimate service in a b and b environment."
As they progress in their latest expansion, the
Richardson's have proven they have a knack - a
knack for turning old homes into unique, comfortable,
and welcoming retreats.