Noe Valley Voice June 1997

The Inside Story on Four Noe Valley B&Bs

By Pat Rose

Summer is upon us, and that means out-of-town guests who want to soak up the city sights. The problem is where to put them. If you don't have a spare room-- and who does these days? -- having guests in your home can be like living in a fishbowl. But downtown hotels are inordinately expensive and far from the neighborhood.

Fortunately, there's an alternative that keeps friends and family off the pull-out sofa, yet close by and comfortable. Noe Valley bed and breakfasts are one of the neighborhood's best-kept secrets. (In fact, some are so low-key, they declined to be interviewed for this article.) These guest lodgings come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from a European-style tourist home to a fully furnished apartment in an old Victorian.

The Hidden Cottage
1186 Noe St. between Jersey & 25th
Contact: Dave Cannata at 282-4492

Just up the hill from Jersey Street on Noe sits a striking two-story white Victorian with an American flag flying, bougainvillea blooming over the front door, and an antique weather vane perched on the roof. According to neighborhood lore, this residence was once a farmhouse back when the area was dotted with dairy farms. If you take a closer look, you'll also see a small handpainted sign shaped like a teapot announcing the Hidden Cottage Bed & Breakfast.

Owners Dave and Ginger Cannata decided a year ago to convert a bedroom and bath in the back of their house into a B&B, to help pay for their kids' school tuition. "We didn't want people staying right in our house," says Dave Cannata, "so we closed off the space and created a private entrance."

Tucked away in a back garden full of impatiens and plum trees, a wood staircase leads up to a light and airy bedroom complete with lace curtains and a skylight. The room has a queen-size cast-iron bed, a beautifully restored oak dresser (one of Dave Cannata's many refinishing projects), a ceiling fan, two spacious closets, comfy chairs, and a TV, VCR, and private phone.

A sliding glass door off the bedroom leads out to a deck with an outdoor shower, potted ferns, and lots of privacy. The large bathroom has marble floors and a double-tub beneath another skylight.

For breakfast, guests receive coffee and tea, croissants and fresh fruit, hand-delivered in a picnic basket. Though the house is only a block and a half from 24th Street, Cannata says, "People can't believe how quiet and sunny it is." The fact that he and his wife offer private parking makes things even more peaceful.

During the couple's first year of operation, their visitors ran the gamut "from priests to ukulele salesmen," Cannata says. Most of the referrals came from neighborhood friends and travel agents who'd heard about them through the grapevine. (They don't advertise.)

Nowadays, the cottage is generally booked a month in advance, with April and May being the busiest times.

The room limit is two people, and to discourage one-night stays, the charge is $150 for one night and $100 for two nights or more.

There's another small catch: This year the Hidden Cottage is already promised for the months of June through August, when the Cannatas will be in Maui relaxing on their own vacation.

Noe's Nest
3973 23rd St. between Sanchez & Noe
Contact: Sheila Rubinson at 821-0751

If you prefer the hustle and bustle of a European pension, then you'll feel right at home at Noe's Nest, on 23rd near Sanchez. Proprietor Sheila Rubinson, a single mom, turned her residence into a bed and breakfast 11 years ago.

Ninety percent of her clientele are friends and family of people in the neighborhood. Many are older parents, and she makes an effort to put out the welcome mat. "Some guests just want to get their keys and go," says Rubinson. "Others want to sit and visit, or have me show them around."

In good weather, visitors congregate on the front deck over a breakfast of bagels, lox, cream cheese, fresh fruit, and quiche. Inside, the house is a mix of cultural artifacts and modern technology. Aboriginal masks and a Japanese wedding gown grace the walls of the common dining room, while a fax machine hums on a table nearby. The house is full of fish tanks and photos of film stars, including Rubinson's daughter Kendra, who had a part in the Robin Williams movie Jack.

Each of the five guest rooms has a theme. The smallest, the Oriental Room, still manages to hold a queen-size bed, a Japanese lacquered desk, and a sleeping loft over a bathroom and closet. The Garden Room at the back of the house has a fold-out couch, a queen-size bed, a working fireplace, and a picture window with a view of the garden. A large bathroom with a tub and shower also looks out onto the garden, and after a bath you can stroll out the door onto your own private deck.

The patio garden below has a hot tub and massage room, and is accessible to guests through an enclosed alleyway on the side of the house.

Upstairs are two more rooms: the Castaway Room, which sleeps four, and the Penthouse Suite. The Penthouse, the largest and sunniest room in the house, has a king-size bed and corner fireplace, plus a combination shower/steam room, a washer and dryer, and a full deck with a view of Noe Valley. The French Room, which sleeps two, is situated below the kitchen with a private outside entrance.

Each room has cable television, a VCR, and a private phone. They're all stocked with books and videos too (including a copy of Jack).

Rubinson says Noe's Nest's busiest season is March through October, with summer often booked eight weeks in advance. Prices range from $95 to $160 a night.

The Victorian Garden
26th Street near Noe
The Edwardian
27th Street near Church
Contact: R.N. Geikow at [phone number removed]

If you're looking for the comforts of home with all the amenities, you might want to stay at one of two Noe Valley bed and breakfasts owned by R.N. Geikow. He calls one the Victorian Garden and the other the Edwardian.

Geikow started the Victorian Garden out of an apartment he renovated in his first house, on 26th Street near Noe.

"I liked the idea of a B&B as an alternative to renting the apartment full time. It gives me the freedom to use the space when I need it for my own friends and family, and I can book guests when it works with my schedule."

The Victorian Garden has a street-level entrance on the side of the house, which opens into a long foyer lined with prints from the museums of Europe. Geikow and his wife love to travel, and the apartment is full of charming touches from their trips -- pottery from Portugal, watercolors from Ukraine, and a soap dish from England, for instance.

The bedroom and bath at the end of the hall share a sound system, and the shower-only bathroom features colorful Mexican tile. The bedroom has a queen-size bed, large closet, desk, armchair, and phone. A galley kitchen off the bedroom is equipped with all major appliances and a full set of dishes.

Guests make their own breakfast from a well-stocked pantry of cereals, breads, oatmeal, and even pancake mix. Geikow also provides fresh fruit and yogurt.

The living room features a large arched window that looks out onto a garden filled with geraniums, petunias, and roses. The room has plenty of chairs and an overstuffed couch to lounge around in, plus a TV, VCR, and working fireplace. Guests can also sit outside on the patio and use the gas grill for barbecuing.

Geikow's other B&B, the Edwardian, is located a couple of blocks away at 27th and Church. He acquired the building about a year and a half ago. This street-level apartment has a formal living room with hardwood floors, upholstered furniture, a cable TV, stereo, and phone, and a large sofa that converts to a queen sleeper. The fully stocked kitchen is large enough to hold a dining table and chairs.

The sunny bedroom at the back of the apartment has a queen-size canopied bed and a view of the garden. Geikow grows tomatoes, squash, and other vegetables in the garden, which also boasts climbing jasmine, miniature roses, and beautiful red fuchsias.

The rate for either bed and breakfast is $95 per night with a two-night minimum. But Geikow says reduced prices for longer stays are negotiable. His busiest time is March through November, and the Christmas holidays. He suggests booking six to eight weeks ahead for weekend stays during the busy season.

Geikow notes that the majority of the guests are seniors and parents of Noe Valley residents, and his neighbors often have people stay with him. "Our guests are discreet, they don't have parties, and they don't interfere with the quiet of the neighborhood," he says.

"It's been a great experience. I get to meet interesting people from all over the world, and they're so appreciative. It's a really fun way to serve people."