Need a get-away for an all-girls weekend? How about a peaceful retreat from the frenetic pace of the city? Either can be yours at the delightful Yellow House Bed & Breakfast in Salado, Texas! Less than an hour north of Austin, two hours South of Dallas, and three hours from Houston, the Yellow House Bed and Breakfast is delightfully different from the lace-doilied lodging lampooned by IFC’s Portlandia.
Cathy and Brian Harris have created a wonderful combination of charm and sophistication just minutes from the artist-rich Village of Salado, with plenty of shops and eateries nearby. Guests can choose from five tastefully appointed rooms in the main house, each with its own private bath, the private Pink House or either of 2 former lake cottages on the property. Another private house has been moved to the property and is under renovations.
“The outside renovations are nearly complete,” says Cathy Harris, “we’re still working on the inside.” Cathy said she hopes to have the new house complete and ready for guests as early as this Winter.
What is a Bed and Breakfast?
“Bed and Breakfast” (or B&B) can mean different things to different people — so it’s good to do your homework. A typical bed and breakfast is small owner-occupied establishment that offers overnight lodging and a community breakfast, but not other meals. Many are attached to private homes and offer 1-15 private bedrooms with a bath. In response to a question about licensing, BedandBreakfast.com tells us
Although standards vary widely from state to state and even county to county, most states in the U.S. regulate B&Bs of a certain size; many require B&Bs/country inns with five or more rooms to comply with the same standards hotels and larger lodging properties must follow. In Europe, B&Bs are often regulated and/or rated by different government agencies than larger inns and lodges.
My first experience with what was advertised as a B&B was on the island of Kauai. It wasn’t really a B&B at all, but the once-inhabited children’s room of an empty-nester. Guests had to arrive and depart at certain “civilized” times of day, and had to ring the doorbell to enter. While that might satisfy the traditional definition of a B&B, it would be far from my choice for lodging. Some are old homes that are dark, dank and musty and look like grandma left it to someone who just didn’t have the heart to part with anything in it. (See the Bed & Breakfast Inspection Episode from Portlandia) Unless you have a personal referral, or trust a third-party review (like this one*), you can always consult BedandBreakfast.com or TripAdvisor.com for reviews.
My friends Ramona, Caroline and I had originally planned to book the Pink House to visit our friend Tara who recently moved to Salado. I was also interested in their perspectives on Texas wine, and the Village was hosting their annual Salado Swirl that weekend.
The four of us met working on the same litigation. Tara and I instantly bonded over shared stories of powerlessness, watching while one of our parents (her mother and my father) lost an arduous battle with cancer. Caroline joined our project, and we met Ramona when our group joined hers at another location. They were all a godsend when my own mother died rather unexpectedly last Fall. By then, Caroline has moved on to a fascinating job as a Texas “Petroleum Landman,” chasing down and curing titles for oil and gas leases.
Tara, a truly gifted attorney and wonderful baker, moved to Salado after the double whammy of losing the house where she and her mother had lived (her landlord announced she was selling to a McMansion builder,) and the firm where she was contracted downsized the legal team. Tara has an incredible knack of remembering not only all the names of everyone she meets, but the names of their spouses and children as well. She passed the Bar Exam with little-to-no study required, and is one of the kindest woman I have ever known. We all had not been together at one time since my mother’s funeral, and the Salado Swirl wine event was the perfect opportunity for an all-girls weekend.
The Yellow House Bed and Breakfast
I found the Yellow House Bed and Breakfast on the Salado Tourism website. For me, hotels and motels are usually so impersonal and homogeneous. When I go in a group there isn’t really a “common area” to hang out in, unless you want to sit on someone’s bed among their cast off clothing. No thanks. So I went straight for the B&Bs. To choose among them I looked at 1) proximity to Tara, and town 2) website pictures and information 3) price.
We planned to book the Pink House so we could have a space all to ourselves, but when I emailed to ask about it, Cathy said it was already rented. After approval of the other ladies, I booked three rooms at The Yellow House.
When looking at the Yellow House website, one just assumes that if you stay in the “main house,” you’ll be staying in the 2-story home that faces the road. July in Texas, especially central Texas is really, really hot – with temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit the norm. Yes, they will tell you it is a “dry heat” — that just means it feels more like a pizza oven than a rice steamer. So I was worried that the rooms would be upstairs or in an attic. But the rooms for rent are not in the main house per se, but in an addition built on to the back of the home. The residence and the lodging are separated by the door that leads to the kitchen. Guests enter via the back porch through either of two red doors.
Since we were the only guests in the main house for the weekend, it was as if we had a private home. Cathy gave us plenty of privacy, but was available just on the other side of the kitchen door should we need anything at all. “I’m pretty good at gauging just how much interaction with us that our guests need,” says Cathy.
We chose three separate rooms based on looking at website pictures of the five available; the Country Room, the Hat Room and the Cottage Room. Also available in the main house are the Primrose Room in the back–with its two queen beds, window seat and larger bathroom, and the Gold Room–a bit more Baroque with a single king-sized bed. While all the rooms are pretty, I chose the Country Room because it reminded me of my childhood home, the Cottage Room because it looked like my “guest” room in my parents house and the Hat Room because I knew either Ramona or Caroline would love it. Let me tell you a bit about The Country Room…
The Country Room
The white wood paneled-walls with brown and blue quilts reminded me of the room from my childhood. A few wire and dried-flower hearts on the wall and a free-standing wardrobe are the perfect added touch. A night stand made from an old sewing machine table, wrought-iron beds and a Tiffany-style floor lamp, along with a cedar “hope chest” it was the room I wanted when I was a teenager (it was missing the Black light, Kenny Rogers David Cassidy posters). While I love hanging out with my friends, I also need to retreat and recharge. The Country Room is the next to last room from the back of the house, so there was plenty of quiet. The bed was so comfortable. I had no trouble drifting off to sleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. This is no small feat, since insomnia often has me roaming the rooms of my own house.
Ramona, who forced me to stop not once but TWICE at Buc-ee’s (which claims to have the cleanest restrooms in America), called dibs on the Hat Room shortly after we discovered it was just off the TV room. The decor is quite stylish!
More about the Hat Room…
The Hat Room
The Hat Room is the perfect setting for the Bride-to-be during a bachelorette or bridesmaid weekend. Off by itself on the other side of the common room, through double French doors, it features black and white toile bedspreads, with red accents and black, white and red hats on the walls.
In one corner there is a bench, marble coffee table and hats with trailing veils. If you’re hot-natured, or going through that time of life that makes you feel as if you are, then this room is for you. The entire place is air-conditioned, and each room has a ceiling fan – but this room is especially cooler. Since it’s right off the common room, if other guests are out it feels like your own little suite.
If you love the decor, and would like a little more privacy, the Green Cottage is similarly decorated.
A Bountiful Southern Breakfast
A delicious hot breakfast is served at promptly 9:00 a.m. in the dining room for guests of the main house and delivered to guests in the cottages and guest house. Honey comes from three hives on the property.
Fresh fruit and juice are available, as well as a selection of individual coffees and teas via a Keurig single serve coffee machine.
Self-service coffee and tea are available in the dining room at all times. A refrigerator is stocked with complimentary soda and bottled water, and packaged snacks are available throughout the day. Night stands include little bowls of chocolates. And each afternoon, the smell of fresh-baked cookies fills the air. Fresh flowers brighten the table.
Brian says some of the flowering plants have been on the property for at least 20 years.
“We especially like the Rose of Sharon plants near the dining room windows, they are very old plants that you don’t see too much anymore,” he says. “They bloom all summer long and attract butterflies and hummingbirds.
“We try to get plants that attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds but don’t attract deer. We really want to provide for the bees, we have 3 hives and I harvest the honey to use on biscuits for the breakfast table,” says Brian.
It Came With The House
Cathy is cute and petite, with shiny dark hair styled in a medium bob. Her children are out of the house, but she’s hardly retiree age. So, I wondered how it was she came to run a Bed & Breakfast. “It came with the house,” she says. In follow-up I asked just what that meant, and Brian told me the story.
Brian is an executive with a firm that makes lasers used to manufacture computer chips. He says he can live anywhere, as long as it’s close to an airport. But it wasn’t always that way. He and Cathy met while working third shift at a semiconductor factory in Carrollton, Texas. He was working nights while still in college, and she was in the production office. So they started in Dallas, then moved to San Francisco then to Austin, Albuquerque and back to Austin. He says the Bed and Breakfast really did come with the house.
“After a couple of years of ’empty nesting’ in a downsized condo we found ourselves in a community where the home owners association actively gave citations for planting flowers that were not approved by the committee. We had visited Salado several years earlier at Christmas and really liked the small village atmosphere, so it was on the top of our list of places to move to. So we spent the 4th of July 2006 in Salado looking at real estate,” he says. They found two homes that they liked but there were issues with both.
“So our real estate agent told us to ‘go home and I’ll call you when something comes up’,” he says. With a population of only 2000, Cathy and Brian had seen all the houses on the market for sale. So they headed back to Austin and watched the real estate listings, hoping for the perfect house. One day Brian searched Craigslist and found an ad for “seven bedrooms and six bathrooms on six acres.” The ad listed the address, so Cathy and Brian drove up from Austin to take a look.
As they drove through the gate, Brian says, Cathy fell in love with the wrap around porch and farm-house look of the place and said “this is the one I want.” As they drove around back, it only took them a few minutes to figure out that Cathy’s dream home was a bed and breakfast.
“You know how you can justify anything if you want it bad enough?” asks Brian. “Well, it was just the two of us but we figured that we needed all 7 bedrooms – arts & crafts room, library, guest room, exercise room etc. . . you get the idea.”
So the Harris’ bought what was once “Country Place Bed and Breakfast” as their primary residence, not minding all that extra space.
Salado’s Yellow House Bed and Breakfast is born!
Brian tells us that after they moved in and began to renovate the owners’ quarters, he and Cathy decided the didn’t want to have regrets of owning a great property and not sharing it. But how did they come up with the name?
When thinking about names Brian say Cathy wanted to use something that no one could ever forget, something simple.
“We have owned about 14 houses over the years and never had a yellow one, so we spent a lot of trips to paint stores and found the perfect yellow – and the name of our B&B.”
The Harris couple spent from Oct 2006 to December 2007 remodeling and refurnishing and hosted their first guests during the Salado Christmas Stroll in Dec 2007.
Brian and Cathy have been married for 33 years. “We had been to a couple of B&B’s over the years,” says Brian. “I can remember saying one time ‘we could do this’. But we never said another word about it until after we owned this property.
Brian said they really didn’t buy it to run as a B&B, they just wanted to live in Salado. So it wasn’t their dream, he says, adding “we can say to anyone who is dreaming of doing this in retirement – “Don’t wait! – it is HARD WORK”.
It May Not Have Been Her Dream, but…
Brian says after he and Cathy moved in and started running the B&B, they quickly figured out that Cathy has been in training her whole life to be an innkeeper. Her first ‘job’ was helping her aunt with housekeeping at the Holiday Inn at Denton Texas while Cathy was in middle school. She was an expert at cleaning bathrooms and making beds before she was in high school. Brian says Cathy has always been good at entertaining and cooking large quantities of food.
“It was not uncommon for her to make Wednesday evening dinner for 70 people at our church,” he says.
And when times got tough for them, Cathy went to work for an eye doctor and did a lot of customer service and appointments. “It’s very similar to working with our guests,” he says. Cathy had told us that before opening the B&B, she had worked at a CPA firm part-time. The CPA work was very good training for helping to keep the Yellow House Bed and Breakfast finances in order, says Brian.
“So to answer your question directly, yes Cathy has hospitality experience (from middle school) but she has a serving heart that comes through in everything she does.
Cathy discovered another talent after buying the property–interior design and decorating.
“Cathy has a keen sense of style and is able to mix old and new furnishings and color in a way that resonates with almost everyone who visits,” says Brian. “Almost everyone who tours the property says ‘the pictures on the web don’t do it justice.'”
And he’s right. It’s difficult to stand at the perfect angle with a camera or camera-phone to capture what you see and feel in each room. It’s hard to capture on digital “film” the catch in your breath and the joy you experience at being taken care of without being smothered or hovered over.
Tips for Staying at Salado’s Yellow House Bed and Breakfast
1. Arrive before dark. The Main House sits on Farm-to-Market 2268 between Settlements Road and Prairie Lane. There is a whole lot of nothing if you’re coming west from Route 95 after the sun sets. I passed it twice in the dark (and for your City Dwellers it is DARK in the Country)
2. If you like to see the country, take 95 North instead of 35 from Houston or Austin. It’s a bit tricky to get to 2298 from 95, but worth it to avoid traffic on 1-35 from Austin or Georgetown if TXDOT is repairing the roads.
3. Plan to relax. If you rent a room in the main house there is no television in the private rooms. There is a television in the common sitting room, but who needs it? The beds are super comfortable – get some rest!
4. The blue wash cloths are for make-up removal. I always take cotton balls and astringent with me to remove my make-up so I do not get it all over white towels in hotels. But Cathy has thought of everything. Each bathroom has two sets of wash cloths. The fluffy white towels in each bath are for drying, and the white wash cloths for bathing. The dark blue towels are to remove all those pretty colors that you put on your face.
5. If you’re allergic to perfume, bring your own soap or look out in the hall cabinet for individual bar soaps. I am very sensitive to heady floral scents. It took me a day to figure out the liquid hand soap in the bathroom was making me sneeze.
6. Bring a hair dryer. I was surprised to find no hair dryers in the bathroom. Salado is pretty arid, and the air dries hair quickly. But if yours needs straightened or your prefer not to go “Au naturel” during your stay, bring a travel dryer.
7. Don’t mind the goats. The sound of the goats that is. Yellow House Bed and Breakfast is near a farm. I could only hear the goats in the morning when I was outside taking pictures.
8. Choose the room or cottage to suit your needs. Main house rooms each have a private bath and accommodate up to two guests per room. Three rooms have two Queen Beds each, and two rooms have King-sized beds. Room rental is $145 to $155 per in the main house. Cottages are $165 per night and the Pink house is $330 per night. Rooms are secured with MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Discover.
9. Leave the kids with grandma, and the pets at home. I’m sure your child is the most well-behaved and delightful little cherub on the planet. But Yellow House Bed and Breakfast is not the place to bring your children. There are antiques and breakables all throughout the rooms and guests are here to relax in peace and quiet. You should be too.
10. Book early, if you’re visiting Salado for an event. Salado is a tourist town, and Yellow House Bed and Breakfast has lots of ladies’ groups visit. The Pink Guest House books fast, and requires a two night minimum stay. The Purple and Green Cottages also require a minimum two-night stay. Guest rooms in the main house have no minimum stay.
Speaking of Events…
The Village of Salado hosts a number of Wine and Art events throughout the year. Next up is Salado’s Chocolate and Wine Weekend, September 20-22, 2013. Individually ticketed events take place beginning with an Evening of Chocolate and Wine on Friday night. Saturday events include “hands on” Chocolate experiences, Death by Chocolate competition, Chocolate and Wine Pairing, a Chocolate Trail and Chocolate and Music events in the Evening. Sunday begins with an 11:00 a.m. Chocolate and Champagne Brunch, and Chocolate and Wine Pairing class offered at 12:00 – 1:30 p.m. or 2:00 – 3:30 p.m. Tickets for individual events range from $9.95 to $49.95 and the Death by Chocolate contest is free to attend. For more information on Salado Events visit saladoevents.com.
* We paid full rate for our rooms, and received no compensation for this review.