Lessons from an Innkeeper: Create A Warm Welcome

Innkeepers across Michigan are already making their holiday preparations, decorating to the hilt and planning special menus. A B&B can be the perfect place to relax, renew and get in the spirit during the coming season. You’ll also find inspiration for your own hosting and celebrating. Silver Palate Cookbook author Julee Rosso’s warm, relaxed style and her creative approaches to food captivate guests at her Wickwood Inn in Saugatuck. In this series, Julee shares fresh, memorable tips. 

My husband, Bill, and I bought the Wickwood Inn in Saugatuck, a pretty artists’ haven along the Lake Michigan shore in 1991. Since then, the bed and breakfast has welcomed 100,000-plus guests and appeared regularly on lists of top inns. Even after all those visitors, my No. 1 hosting rule remains simple: Show people how much you care. Here’s how to bring inn-style hospitality to your home this season.

Set the stage. I believe decorations, candles, a fire and music combine to create a mood and tell guests how important they are. Aromas matter, too—the right scents can bring back good feelings and memories every time your guests step in the door. During the holidays, food aromas mingle with the fragrances of evergreen boughs placed in vases and strewn across the fireplace mantel in the sitting room.

Greet each guest personally, graciously

Greet each guest personally, graciously

Get everyone involved. I make a point to greet each guest personally, graciously. I make the first drink for everyone, introduce them around, and then tell them to help themselves. People want to do something so they don’t feel awkward being waited on. Having access to the bar or coffeepot makes guests relax. People gravitate to the kitchen; let them in. That way, the cook can join in the fun!

Create intimate spaces

Create intimate spaces

Create intimate spaces.

Small round tables are better for talking, and smaller rooms bring people together. Sitting on hassocks, on the floor by the fire, on the arms of chairs, guests have no choice but to interact. And they can move from one conversation to another more easily.

Surprise everyone with a small, thoughtful gift

Surprise everyone with a small, thoughtful gift

Surprise everyone! Give a small, thoughtful gift to each guest. People love to open something. Keep it simple and functional—not just more stuff. Give homemade brandy, tomato sauce from last summer’s garden, recipes on hand-decorated cards, a bag of homemade cookies tied with satin bows. Arrange gifts at place settings … just something special for each person.


Want to try one of Julee’s fabulous recipes?  We’ve got her Pomegranate Spritzer recipe just for you!



From carving the Thanksgiving turkey to baking cookies, food makes any experience more memorable. Check back next week, when Julee shares tips more tips and recipes.


Julee RossoJulee Rosso is the owner of the Wickwood Inn in Saugatuck, author of the Silver Palate Cookbook , and Michigan Travel Ideas contributor.  If you have questions or comments for Julee, please leave a comment below, or contact her via Facebook or on Twitter.

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