B&B facelift gives new owners a change of life

"Chuck and Jennifer Johnson plant an arbor at the shore of the manmade pond they had built at their new Langley bed and breakfast, Ashingdon Manor.Matt Johnson / staff photoTwo years ago, Jennifer Johnson told her husband of 37 years that she would never sell the house the couple owned on Capitol Hill in Seattle.But the day after she and Chuck Johnson took a day trip to South Whidbey and toured the former Twickenham House Bed and Breakfast with a Langley real estate agent, she announced that she was ready to move. In late 1998, they signed a purchase agreement with the establishment's former owners, Maureen and Raymond Cooke.The rest, says Chuck, is history. Since June 1999, the two have been working on a dream at the bed and breakfast. Now called Ashingdon Manor, the six-suite B&B has a new look and feel, as do Chuck and Jennifer's lives.We saw the place and thought we could really do something with it, Jennifer said.They did much more than just something in 1999 when they began installing a 10,000-square-foot pond and extensive landscaping and painted the formerly cedar shake-wrapped B&B yellow. Located at the intersection of Maxwelton and Langley Roads, the B&B renovation project attracted considerable attention and interest. Chuck said that while most of the interest was positive, he and Jennifer did have to do some negotiating with Island County and a fair amount of talking with neighbors while building the pond.These days, the B&B is also attracting customers. Jennifer, who operated an executive dining room and single-unit B&B in Seattle, said she and Chuck are still adjusting to having a larger establishment. A gourmet chef, Jennifer is making more breakfasts than she did at her Seattle dining room, but has her nights off from cooking duty. Chuck actually had the biggest adjustment to make, leaving a career in electrical and software engineering to become head groundskeeper and assistant bed maker alongside his wife.The change has paid off for both of the Johnsons. They say they enjoy planning and designing the interior and exterior of the B&B almost as much as they enjoy interacting with their guests. Chuck said he most looks forward to breakfast conversations with the guests.The breakfast is the best part of the business, Chuck said.Looking a bit California country outside and decorated inside with a mixture of English and Asian furnishings, Ashingdon Manor is filling up on weekends and weekdays, even though in its newest incarnation it is one of the newest players on the local the B&B scene. Jennifer Johnson notes that she and Chuck are not finished renovating the B&B, but they have a good start.The suites, which range from a modest-sized single bedroom with bath to two rooms that include sitting rooms and patios, are entirely re-decorated. Guests can expect down comforters, fluffy towels, oversized robes and, in some rooms, private propane fireplaces. However, the old Twickenham House pub is gone, supplanted by the Johnsons' living room.The scenery isn't bad either. Chuck Johnson said the pond and surrounding landscaping have begun to beckon blue herons and other exotic Whidbey Island creatures.We did it hoping to attract wildlife, he said.Suites at Ashingdon Manor rent for between $95 and $135 a night. This winter, the Johnsons will offer special rate packages and will serve dinners on certain nights.For information, call the Johnsons at 360.221.2334. The business also has a Web site at "

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