Thursday, December 3, 2015

Holiday Gift Giving: Our Gift Certificates are Available Online

Shop in your pajamas this year and leave the crowds behind! 

Give your friends and family the gift of a memorable experience by ordering a personalized Gift Certificate for a relaxing getaway at our Inn!

Gift Certificates start at $25 and can be purchased on our website by clicking here, or call us at 888-226-5096 to order by phone. A personalized certificate will be created and mailed directly to you or the recipient!

We can customize gift certificates for any amount over $25 to be used toward a relaxing stay.  Your recipient can choose between two masterfully restored early and mid-1800s buildings: the 1850s log cabin and the 1830s Federal brick homestead. Our goal has always been to understand our guests and deliver a lasting impression that involves all five senses: the sight of antiques and comfortable surroundings, the sound of soft music, the touch of plush towels, the smell of the freshly ironed sheets, and the memorable taste of homemade cookies.

Call us today at 888-226-5096 to give a gift of relaxation this Christmas!
And to view what your gift recipient will experience, click on the photo link below to watch our winter video on Facebook:

Monday, October 26, 2015

Recent Cabin Restoration Details

Guests this Fall and Winter will notice our recent updates to the cabin restoration...

It started in early Spring, as we hired a painter to paint the main house and to seal the logs on the cabin. At that time we were only going to seal the logs and repair the chinking (the area between the logs) where needed. We went to a store called Log Home Center close to Noblesville, Indiana. We decided to use their products to seal the logs and the chinking. We bought top of the line products that included a 3-step process, to seal the cabin after fixing the chinking and cleaning the logs. We picked out a nice grey stain for the logs and the chinking. We bought what we thought was enough chinking for the repairs and we were on our way. The rest of the product was mailed to us because we needed to test the color on a section of one of the logs once we got home. 

Bob and I had a trip planned to visit our son and his family to help paint their house months in advance. With rain delays here, the painter had to switch his time to help us. He ended up working at our place a few days before our trip to Virginia. We were here when the first coat of the stain went on one side of the cabin, we all thought that it looked darker than what we thought it should be, but we decided that we liked it anyway and got on the road to Virginia. When we got to West Virginia our painter called and said that the second batch of stain was much lighter.

At that point we didn't know what batch was wrong. As it turned out the first batch was too dark and the second batch was the correct color. The painter was able to blend the light and dark together so it worked out - the good news is that we decided that we liked the new dark grey color.

About a month later the painter came back to finish the porches. We decided to keep the cedar stain that we used 11 years ago when the cabin was reconstructed. That produce is called Sikkens. The contrast between the grey and the cedar looks great.

As for the chinking, Bob and I worked side by side for more than a month on ladders making all repairs to the chinking. Every time we ordered chinking a few days later we ordered more. Not sure how much chinking we bought, Bob thinks about 40 small tubes and about 10 large tubes - that is a lot of chinking!! We worked in the hot sun and sometimes the nice shade. Sometimes we worked when big dark clouds were looming. At one point I told Bob that I would never say the word again (chinking). All the hard work paid off because now that its all done, it looks great. Some of our regular guests arrived when we were still working, so they got to see the changes in action.

Our sources for stains and finishes: The product called Sikkens ( is sold in different places throughout the country. We bought the product at an old hardware store in Cincinnati called Doppes J B Sons Lumber Company ( at 1001 Dalton Ave, Cincinnati, OH 45203. And we visited the Log Home Center ( at 16907 Mystic Rd, Noblesville, IN 46060.

Additional Photos:

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

"The 50 Best B&Bs in America" - MSN Travel

We were surprised and thrilled to see our inn included in MSN Travel/Business Insider's recently released feature article, "The 50 Best B&Bs in America", a great resource if you are looking for travel ideas:

Not everyone has the time or resources to hit all fifty in this article, but it makes for a fun wish list. Also, if you are ever interested in a regional bed and breakfast experience, we do offer a two-stop adventure with our friend, Marsha, for those interested in experiencing two bed and breakfasts during a two-day weekend adventure!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Last-minute Special for THIS weekend: 30% Discount for the Log Cabin Suite

**We just had a cancellation so we are offering a 30% Discount for a two-night stay in the Log Cabin Suite THIS FRIDAY and SATURDAY.** Valid for a reservation covering both nights 9/25-9/26, this is the only weekend opening between now and November for this suite, so it is the perfect opportunity to getaway during such mild weather - right now the weekend forecast is calling for temperatures in the mid-70s! The Log Cabin Suite has a private balcony on the back, and a porch with private entrance on the front side. Learn more about the room on our website and give us a call at 888-226-5096 to book the special rate. Happy First Day of Fall!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Notes from an Innkeeper: The Transformation of Thomas' Room

Welcome to our new series, Notes from an Innkeeper, which will include a behind-the-scenes view of the inn, room by room with information you can use for your own home decorating projects. It will feature paint colors, furniture and decor sources, our favorite antique discoveries, project tips, and more. If there is anything you've ever wondered about our interiors - just let us know in the comments  or on Facebook. We look forward to journeying through the inn with you and reminiscing about its transformation over the last twenty years. Keep in mind that we are always making updates, so the photos below are from different time periods with decorating elements that have changed since they were originally shot. Please don't be surprised to see different looks in each room upon arrival, as part of the fun is keeping things fresh and interesting. First up...

Thomas' Room in the Main House 

If you've flipped through our photo books in the dining room you might recall that the Main House was built sometime in the 1830s by Willis Graves, a prominent political figure in county government at the time who served as county clerk during the new century's early decades. He built an attractive federal brick home that featured Flemish bond brickwork and federal style mantels. The backstory of our purchase is also published on our website: "For many years, Nancy and Bob routinely passed the home on their way to the Burlington Antique Show at the Boone County Fairgrounds. By then, the house was sporting dirty, white siding and a hip roof over the front porch. One day a 'For Sale' sign appeared in the yard and they took a closer look. In December of 1991, the Swartzels bought the property and began renovation under the direction of Master-carpenter Bob Brames. Brames and his wife Jean (who are also Nancy's parents) worked with Nancy and Bob as they all poured sweat and determination into the project." The two hard-working Bobs...

In August 1995, the inn opened for business. It was declared a National Register of Historic Places Home on June 19, 1979. Inside the Main House, Thomas' Room is just up a set of timeworn, original stairs and to the right.

Some details about this special room post-renovation:

  • Wall paint color - Porter Paint "Antique Lace" 
  • Trim - Williamsburg Gray was Pratt and Lambert - Martin Senour Paints W1090 Purdie House Gray Paint color, Porter Paint matched it. 
  • The Nightstand table was made by Spicer, it is a vintage reproduction piece, but the company is no longer in business. 
  • The queen bed frame is a reproduction by David T. Smith and is a tiger maple pencil post in style. 
  • The sewing was all done at the inn (a curtain tutorial is also on the blog). The fabric was found for the curtains and canopy at Tassle's in Louisville - quite a find at only $4.99/yard! - while on a shopping trip with Marsha, who is the innkeeper at Inn at Woodhaven. 
  • The needlepoint looking rug was found at TJMaxx, but is no longer in the room. 
  • Antique Mirror is a 19th century chippendale miniature from Bob's collection. 
  • The swivel lamps were from Pottery Barn, with new shades. 
  • The fresh flowers and cheese plate are an add-on option for overnight guests. 
  • The bed linen layering system is the same in all the inn's rooms: We begin with 100% cotton sheets, a down blanket, another sheet, covered with a quilt, down pillows (we have PrimaLoft for those with allergies) and then a plate of our homemade cookies is usually waiting on top. A helpful tip is to buy sheets that are 100% all cotton, always avoid poly blends. Our sheets are ironed and often line-dried, weather permitting (Nancy's tips for fresh sheets). The white quilt is a reproduction and covers the triple-sheeting mentioned previously. When sheets pill after washing then that is a sign of lower quality, the length of thread isn't long enough so when it spins it pills. One sheet brand to look for at Home Goods is Ralph Lauren, the thread count is 300 and on the package it says Dunham Sateen. These sheets come in a lot of colors, but we only use white. The inn has other brands too, but this set works well and can also be found at places like Marshalls and T.J. Maxx. 
  • The inn's pillows and down blankets are from a line sold to the hospitality trade from Downlite, you can order them through us if you enjoy them during your stay (details about the inn's pillows). 
  • The ice bucket holding the champagne was bought in California at the Domaine Chandon Winery, made in Europe. Guests are welcome to bring their own wine since the inn does not have an alcohol license. Glasses and a bottle opener are in each room. 
  • The base carpet was just a neutral short carpet, it has since been replaced. 
  • The chair has been reupholstered, a tip is to buy well-made pieces and then you can recover them as needed as you redecorate. This red chair is a Baker piece, and is now off-white. Several of our reupholstered pieces were recovered by a gentleman in Louisville, feel free to call Nancy directly at the inn if you would like his contact information. 
  • The nightstand contains books about Boone, Lewis and Clark, and John Adams. 
  • The work desk was one of the first antiques we ever bought at the Burlington Antique Show, and we walked it on down to the house. It was a great find, only $135, with nice old paint. 
  • The lamp was by Turtle Creek Pottery (division of David T. Smith) and the lampshade is from Pallet Studios in Cincinnati. Pallet Studios is like a lamp shade doctor, they adjust the harp underneath to the shade and give excellent advice on which shade to choose. 
  • We have since re-covered the lamp shades since this was photographed, and replaced them with new office white shades. 
  • Luggage stores are a good source for quality luggage racks.  
  • The painting above the work desk was purchased at auction, but part of it needed total restoration. It was restored by Old World Restoration in Cincinnati. Several guests ask if the painting depicts Willis Graves' son, Thomas, for whom the room is named after, but the portrait is of an unknown gentleman. 
  • On the tray, the china is from our collection including Johnson Bros. and Villeroy and Bach pieces, the tea pot is Spode.  
  • The Christmas ornament hanging from the canopy is a reproduction German ornament. 
  • The flat-screen television sits atop an antique green chest of drawers that is part of our private collection, the old paint finish has great character. 
  • Changing the fabric in curtains and canopy covers can change the whole look of a room, Nancy made both the versions in this post, with tan fabric (described previously) and before that the room was dressed in the red version, which was an old decorator fabric, more expensive and most likely from Calico Corners.  

  • The needlepoint stool was bought at an antique auction, probably 18 years ago, and the pole lamp (similar to current Circa Lighting offerings) was from a house auction. 
  • The chest of drawers (in a previous photo) was from the Burlington Antique Show, its unique with an alligator-like finish, but the mirror is no longer on it. 
  • The needlepoint pillows are no longer in the chair, styles have changed and we make updates.
  • The yellow print comforter at the bed's base in the older photographs was a Ralph Lauren bedspread.
  • The long brass antique bed warmer on the wall was used (before heat was commonplace) to warm a bed with coals in it. 
  • The wall print above the chair was a Courier and Ives print of the Summer House Homestead in Spring.
  • Also in the photo to the right: A very vintage computer laptop. :) 
  • The teapot on the tray is used often in the dining room for our guests' breakfast. It has an insulated interior and felt lining under the silver cover, from Williams-Sonoma online. 
  • The wooden antique chair is not currently in room; it was replaced with an upholstered chair.
  • You can see in the photo above to the right, the tricks of the trade... the work desk is a great antique with beautiful legs, but the traditional front side with a drawer had an upturned surface, so we just turned the table around to cover the "flaw" (which really is code for "character" - you can barely see it just behind the lamp). 
Thomas' Room Bathroom

  • Nancy and Bob's good friends used to own a stone and tile store, and you will notice beautiful tile and stone throughout the inn. In the Thomas' Room private bathroom, large porcelain tiles were laid on the floor at an interesting angle, and ceramic was used in the shower/tub enclosure with a rope trim. Brands and names unknown since the bathroom was re-done over 13 years ago and the store is no longer open.
  • Mirror is from Restoration Hardware or Pottery Barn.
  • The robe pictured is older, we now have slightly different robes from Robeworks that are branded with our logo and available for purchase through the inn. 
  • A variety of towel brands are used in the inn, one example is Ralph Lauren. We always use white towels to give a spa-feeling to all the bathrooms. 
  • The faucet is Delta, sink is Kohler and the large apron/lip of the surface is intentional - it makes it easy for guests to store toiletries on it or rest a hair appliance. 
  • Many bed and breakfasts, and residences too, use pedestal sinks. If you do, don't forget to look for one with an apron ledge on it, as this makes it much easier to get ready in the morning. 
  • Light fixtures are Restoration Hardware.
  • Paint colors in the bathroom are unknown, it was matched from a paint chip but the name did not transfer to the can. 
  • Information about the Airjet tub can be found in the guest room binders; the brand is Aquatic Serenity
  • Great smelling Hand Soap can be found at HomeGoods. 
  • An example of our continuous updates, this older photo of the bathroom was back when the bathroom had a different mirror, brass light fixture/make-up mirror, and tan shower curtain. 

Other bathroom tips are to have a magnifying make-up mirror for guests, and we put saran wrap on top of the glasses so they don't get dusty and guests know that they have not been used. All our glasses are washed in the downstairs dishwasher in between guests and are topped with saran wrap so you know they are clean. (Nothing like the scary undercover news story about what can happen at some Cincinnati hotel chains:

 Up Next: Catharine's Room across the hall...

The idea for these posts came after following a beautiful home renovation in New England on the For the Love of a House blog. Thanks, Joan, for the inspiration! 

Monday, June 1, 2015

We are Open during 4th of July Week for the first time in years!

Join us at the bed and breakfast during the 4th of July week (June 29 going through July 5) - for the first time in many years we will be open for the holiday and Cincinnati is a great place to celebrate Independence Day! 

Ideas from

Below is a list of events that usually occur around the Fourth of July holiday weekend. Check back at closer to the holiday for specific event info including dates and times once they are set by the community. 
Larosa’s Balloon Glow at Coney Island – Spend the day enjoying Sunlite pool, live music, family entertainment and classic rides. In the evening, the sky illuminates when hot air balloons of every color glow for all to see from 8-10pm. At 10:00pm, the grand finale is a spectacular Rozzi’s Famous Fireworks display over the banks of Lake Como.
4th of July Bash on Fountain Square –  Fountain Square provides nightly entertainment throughout the summer. At 10:00pm, experience a dazzling Rozzi’s Famous Fireworks display overtop of the square and Macy’s downtown store.
Ault Park Independence Day Celebration - A full day of family-friendly fun including: Children's Parade, Food, Festivities and Music. The event starts at 11am and concludes after the fireworks at 10pm.
Fireworks at Kings Island – Starting at 10pm, this colorful pageant in the sky will be 10 times the size & scope of the traditional nightly fireworks display at the park. The park stays open until midnight on the 4th to enjoy even more thrills.
Fireworks Friday at Great American Ball Park – Attend the Cincinnati Reds game at 7:10pm, then stay for the post-game fireworks show with soundtrack starting approximately 15 minutes after the end of the game. If you can’t make it to the ballpark, the fireworks will be visible nearby on both sides of the river. Try Smale Riverfront Park or Newport on the Levee for great views. 
Florence Freedom Post-Game Fireworks – Enjoy the World Famous Rozzi's Fireworks Show following the 6:35pm Florence Freedom baseball game versus the Washington Wild. 
Red, White and Blue Ash – Celebrate Independence Day in the northern suburb of Blue Ash with free live entertainment by national acts and Rozzi’s Famous Fireworks at 10pm.
Red, White, and Boom! – The Cincinnati Pops presents all-American favorites alongside May Festival Chorus and Classical Roots Community Mass Choir at Riverbend Music Center. Then stick around for post-concert fireworks!
Welcome Home: A Salute to Service - An all-day celebration of veterans at Sawyer Point that includes a parade, festival for veterans, children's activities, music, food, and concludes with fireworks.
Fourth of July Fireworks at Washington Park. Spend the day enjoying this newly renovated public park in historic Over-the-Rhine, then watch as the sky lights up with fireworks at dusk.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Best Breakfast Recipe and YOUR chance today to win a $500 Gift Card

Nancy's signature Three Cheese Tart was recently selected as a finalist in the 4th Annual Best Breakfast contest sponsored by, and today it is up for vote as the public decides the winner through a series of brackets (a la March Madness tournament-style). We could use your help by taking a minute to vote - and your vote enters YOU to win a $500 Gift Card!

How to enter your vote:
Step 1 - "Like" the Facebook Page:
Step 2 - Then CLICK HERE FOR THE TOURNAMENT and vote for Three Cheese Tart!

This is the first bracket as a finalist, if we win will will advance to the next round. Thank you for your time, support - and your vote!


"Years ago I figured out that blending Feta, Parmesan and Gruyère cheeses makes a unique taste that almost no one can resist when baked in a quiche. Even guests who typically overlook the words 'tart' or 'quiche' on a menu absolutely love it! Using the same cheese and herb measurements will allow for adding vegetables as written in the base recipe, or you can substitute anything from your local farmer. My weekly trip to Eagle Bend Farm for eggs makes me relax alongside innkeeping, and our guests can experience this haven too since Eagle Bend is open by appointment. They raise alpacas and wonderful chickens, so many different kinds of chickens, and there is even a fiber studio with knitting classes. The chickens who lay our favorite blue eggs are called Araucana. This original recipe is special to us since it has been a guest favorite for so many years, and we hope you can enjoy making it at home now too. If you host any out-of-town guests for a Kentucky Derby party this Spring, consider preparing this tart for brunch and use Kentucky country ham to create a true regional specialty. The ham makes it even better. Enjoy!” - Nancy Swartzel

Willis Graves' Three Cheese Tart

1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1/2 cup sliced fresh cherry tomatoes
1 (9-inch) homemade pie crust or high-quality, store-bought version
Salt and black pepper to taste
2/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 3/4 cups shredded Parmesan cheese
8 ounces shredded Gruyère cheese
4 local eggs
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup white wine
Dash ground cayenne red pepper for a little kick
Fresh herbs to taste, such as thyme or rosemary
Extra shredded Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top of tart
Freshly cracked black pepper
Fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley springs for garnish

Also known as quiche or breakfast pie, this tart is a perfect way to showcase regional, in-season vegetables and goods from the farmer’s market. The mushrooms and tomatoes can be substituted with an equivalent amount of produce and/or breakfast meats. When possible, our eggs are sourced from nearby Eagle Bend Farm in Burlington; their fresh golden yolks yield a wonderful flavor.

Bake the empty pie crust at 350 degrees for 12 minutes, remove from oven and let cool for approximately 10 minutes before adding other ingredients. Once the pie crust is cool, place mushrooms and tomatoes (or substitutions) in the bottom of the pie crust and season with salt and pepper. Layer all three cheeses on top of the vegetables.

In a separate bowl, mix local eggs, heavy cream, white wine, fresh herbs, and cayenne pepper. Be careful with the cayenne pepper - a little goes a long way! Slowly pour egg mixture over the pie and sprinkle the extra shredded Parmesan cheese and freshly cracked black pepper on top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. To serve, garnish with fresh parsley and enjoy!

Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Looking forward to Spring!

On a snowy Saturday, we sure are looking forward to Spring being just around the corner, what about you? While going through photos this week, we found this favorite memory of special guests enjoying the weather in front of the Graves' Suite. One day soon all of this snow will give way to our green gardens - hope to see you!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Our New Driveway and Snow Day Inspiration

One of the fun aspects of inn-keeping is that there are always new projects! Cleared from under the snow we've seen this winter is our newly paved parking area for guests. You may remember this was a gravel lot, but it was professionally paved last year...

This update even adds function to the guest experience - now your luggage will roll a little easier to your cars!

And in honor of the snow on the way, a link to our winter video is below. The cover photo features a time when our inn was snow drenched several years ago. It's a cozy place to spend a snow day with coffee, magazines, comfortable beds, and the air-jet tubs!

Just click on the photo link below to watch the video on Facebook. 
Best wishes to you as you stay warm and safe!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Friday the 13th Catharine's Room Available ($135) AND Gift Ideas for Your Special Valentine - or Yourself!

Read on for last-minute room availability TONIGHT and other gift ideas like how you can custom order our comfortable pillows, purchase gift certificates for a future getaway - or use the following recipe to bake up our chocolate chip cookies for your Valentine this weekend... 


It's not too late to have Valentine's Day plans! Our cozy Catharine's Room is available today, Friday the 13th, for $135 (plus tax). Call us today at 888-226-5096 to surprise your Valentine with a special night at the inn!

Don't have time for a getaway this weekend, but need gifts ideas? We have personalized gift certificates available for any amount beginning at $25, and we are sharing our signature chocolate chip cookie recipe below in case you want to cook up something for yourself or a loved one to celebrate the big day.

If you want to recreate the comfort at the inn while at home, don't forget that you can special order our pillows and robes for use in your own home. Just last week a previous guest emailed after receiving her new pillows, she took a photo of her guest room, and said she loved the new pillows!

Just ask us if you have any questions or need additional information to place an order. We have a PDF with details and information about some of the inn's favorite pillows:

And if you like to bake in the kitchen - you can make our made-from-scratch chocolate chip cookies! These are the same signature treats that we have waiting for guests on their pillows each evening during their stay. Enjoy!

Willis Graves Bed and Breakfast Inn Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company

2 1/2 cups unsifted flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoon high quality vanilla extract
11 1/2 ounces Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips

Stir flour with baking soda and salt; set aside.

In a large mixer bowl, cream butter with sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Gradually blend dry mixture into creamed mixture. Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop 1 tablespoon of dough per cookie onto ungreased cookie sheets. We bake ours in a convection oven at 350 degrees for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. If you are baking them in a regular oven, adjust the bake setting to 375 degrees.