How to Run a Bed and Breakfast in France Bedroom Furnishings and Equipment
Buy a B&B, run your own business and be your own boss
So many people dream of quitting the rat race and moving to somewhere more beautiful, more exciting, more tranquil, warmer, cheaper or more exotic but few make that dream a reality. How will you earn a living abroad? One answer to that is to run your own guest house. No experience necessary, you use your own home and in France there are relatively few rules and regulations to run foul of. Even not speaking French very well isn't a major barrier as English is the international language.
I moved to France, bought a run down farm complex to renovate and created my own Bed and Breakfast (or chambres d'hotes). Not an expert, and not a profession, still I made something of a success of it. If I can run my own bed and breakfast, then you can too.
This is my How to run a bed and breakfast guide, based on my experience and the experience of my friends and family, to give you a bit of help setting up.
This is the second article in the guide and deals with interior design and furnishing the rooms.
I am grateful for the help of Valerie Walton of Blackwood Hall York and Nikki Williams of Bentham Lodge, York for their help and advice in writing this How to Run a B&B series of articles.
How to run a bed and breakfast: An Introduction (read this first)
- How To Run a Bed and Breakfast In France
Change your life - buy a B&B in France. I ran a four bedroom chambres d'hotes and three star gite in Limousin and these are my tips for how to run a bed and breakfast in France. Live the dream!
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All bedrooms should be en suite
These days all the rooms should have en suite bathrooms - a private bathroom accessed from the room itself. Failing this, the room should have a private bathroom near by. People really don't like sharing a bathroom or even having to go out into the corridor to use the bathroom.
If you can't provide ensuite bathrooms, I would think very carefully about setting up as a B&B. Certtainly your prices will have to reflect this lack of basic facility.
My interior decoration sprang from the house itself, a French stone built farm house. I wanted to use traditional French furniture and to keep that simple, country look. I heard one programme on the radio about what people like in decoration in the bedrooms - pink and green apparently - so pink and green it was.I suggest you do a bit more background market research.
After that the way you decorate your B&B is very personal and depends on the clients you are going to entertain but here are a few thoughts:
- You are not choosing for yourself so try to think through your decoration scheme
- Have an overall concept for your chambre d'hôtes
- Be practical, a pattern hides spots etc
- Don't choose something that some people will object to: too bright, strong, dark, light too feminine or too masculine
- Make sure that everything is easy to wash and clean
- Make sure that everything is hard wearing
- Think about hygene - no carpets in the bathroom for example
- Painted walls are easy to patch up if damaged while wallpaper is harder to repair
- Budget carefully and don't overspend
- Keep your deocration fresh and don't allow it to look dated
Choosing a Bed
The style of bed will obviously depend on your own personal choice and will fit in with the general style of your guest house but over and above that there are some other points to take into account:
- It should be easy to clean
- Not squeak or creak
- Give good support
- Be of standard measurements
I chose antique French beds but there was an unforeseen problem - Dutch men (in particular) are very tall and they solve the being-too-long-for-the-bed issue by hanging their feet off the end of the bed (or so I'm told by a Dutch holiday representative). So give some thought to choosing large beds without a footboard.
It's important to choose beds all of the same size so you don't have to worry about choosing standard or Kingsize bedding when you're making up the beds.
My French antique beds looked nice, I thought, but were hard to keep clean and dust-free.
People like four poster beds
It is actually the case that people like four poster beds in a B&B. Personally I'm not keen - I think they belong in draughty castles where they must have curtains and a top cover to keep out said draghts and to provide privacy. They also represent extra expense and cleaning - but there you go - you're running a business.
Four posters are so attractive to guests that there is a guest house in York actually called Fourposter Lodge
The four poster in the picture if from Blackwood Hall B&B, situated between York and Selby, run by my sister.
Choosing a matress
Many of our guests just loved our Ikea firm matresses - we had several reviews where the guests said "beds to die for" (not literally I presume). The matresses were not too expensive, we chose middle of the range, and were still in good condition when we sold the B&B after seven years. I did have a complaint or two that the beds were too hard. Another case of you can't please them all. It isn't practical to give guests a choice so I would say, choose Ikea firm matresses.
Bedding basics - furnishing your beds from the base up
These are the bedding basics that you will need to provide:
- A good matress
- a waterproof matress protector - people have little accidents and drink wine in bed!
- A quilted cotton cover to go over the matress protector as waterproof protectors are sweaty
- A summer duvet
- A winter duvet
- Two good quality pillows per person
- Pillow protectors
Of course you will need extra pillows and protectors so that you can change and wash them if need be.
Choose a good quality, light-but-warm duvet. The ones I liked best were filled with feathers but some people are allergic to feathers so you'll need an alternative to offer.
Choose good quality firm, plump pillows and always use pillow protectors.
Each person should have access to two good quality pillows, although to save on bedding you could store the second one in a wardrobe and ask the guests if they would like a second pillow.
Having said that people are fussy about their pillows. Some people are alergic to feathers so I stuck to artificial fill for my pillows. Big hotels have pillow menus but I really don't think this is practical for a guest house. Choose pillows that you like, you could perhaps have one thick, heavy pillow and a thinner, softer one on top so guest can choose.
Choosing sheets, duvet covers and bedding sundries
Then totally messed up with sheets and had The Great Bedding Disaster. I ordered cheap poly/cotton sheets that were A. Not cotton and B. Needed ironing as if they were cotton and C. the wrong colour; thus getting the worst of all worlds.
The sheets now don't go with the Vert de Provence curtains and the Vert de Provence furniture. But, take heart, remember, you can't please all the people all of the time and what one person hates, another adores: some people liked my green sheets.
What did I learn from all of this?
- Probably choose white sheets
- Choose cotton sheets and submit to ironing or
- Choose truly non-iron sheets - order a pillow case and test it out
- Strike a balance between cost and quality
- Buy from the UK and not France!
- Get all matching sets so you can mix and match but get DIFFERENT (yet still matching) sets for double and single beds. Sorting out doubles from singles is a nightmare and wastes precious time
- Choose patterns that don't show stains
- Choose designs that will appeal to families, singles, older people, younger people, me, women - etc
- Kids really liked having kids bedding - a bit of a personal touch
Present your beds attractively
Quilts, throws and finishing your bed
As well as Fitted sheets and a duvet cover you'll need some or all of the following:
- A quilt, blanket or throw
- Additional blankets for winter
- A flat sheet for hot summer nights
- Extra throw pillows for decorative effect
I liked to have a quilt as they protected the bedding once the beds were made up and helped to keep them clean - guests would often put suitcases onto the beds. I chose mid-tone busy patchwork quilts that didn't show small marks and that fitted in with the French farm house look.
I provided extra blankets that I kept in the wardrobes for guests who felt the cold, or for use with a flat sheet if the weather was too warm for a quilt.
These were fashionable when I started my B&B and do decorate the beds but I'm not sure what they are used for. I would 'throw' off my throw pillows as soon as I got in the room (hence the name?)
Try to make sure that all your bedding matches or fits together well with each other and with the rest of the decoration. It might be a good idea to match the frabric or colours of the curtains to give unity to the room.
A pretty and practical set that would suit men and women
This black and white IKEA bed set would allow you to add plain white sheets and additional plain white pillow cases.
Basic items and equipment for the bedrooms
People like the little extras according to my friend Nikki who runs one of the busiest and top rated B&Bs in York - but remember they all eat into your profit margins and represent extra work.
I provided the following in my guest house when I first started and consider these essential:
- Kettle, teas, herbal teas, coffee, sugar and milk
- Cups and teaspoons
- Liquid hand soap
- Towels and bath mat
- Lots of toilet rolls
- Hair driers
- Bed side lamps
- Books for the kids and a night light
- Magazines in English and French
My bed and breakfast was relatively modest and my prices refelected that. If you are running a more up-market establishment and your tarifs are high, your guests might expect a few more little luxuries.
Cosmetics, soaps and smelly sundries
Cosmetics, sundries and all those little extras
My sister, who runs a luxury guest house in her beautiful, large country house provides tthe following (probably more!)
- Guest soaps
- Shower gel
- Shower caps
- Body cream
- Cotton wool balls (you can use make-up remover pads)
- Little sewing kits
I found that cotton buds were well used
Drinks, biscuits and edible sundries
More than tea and coffee
My sister's luxury end B&B room is stocked with the following:
- Tea, coffee, capuccino, hot choclate (all in sachets)
- Sugar, little pots of long life milk, biscuits and chocolates
- A selection of little extras are put out for celebrations - Easter, Christmas etc
Where is Limousin?
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How to run a Bed and Breakfast
More articles in this series
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- A Breakfast Menu from Les Trois Chenes Bed and Breakfast
I am always looking out for breakfast ideas for our bed & breakfast in Limousin, south west France, espcially for special celebrations when we want to serve the best breakfast ever. I do like to have a healthy breakfast menu so anyone on a diet w
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