Christmas ornaments decorate the spiral staircase at Carriage House, a Capitol Hill bed-and-breakfast on Third Street Southeast.
Most tourists visiting Washington, D.C., sleep in beige, cookie-cutter hotel rooms with pay-per-view movies on the flat-screen TV, stocked mini-fridges and an optional wake-up call from a drone-voiced front desk.
Others experience the city more like locals. On Capitol Hill, two bed-and-breakfast inns, tucked away on streets lined with row houses, offer more intimate experiences for guests than a Marriott or a Hyatt — visitors are sleeping in someone’s home rather than a hastily cleaned hotel room.
Both B&Bs are located in the most residential parts of Southeast: Carriage House is halfway between the Capitol South and Eastern Market metros, and A Capitol Place is five blocks northeast of Eastern Market.
A third B&B, Maison Orleans, was converted into a medium-term rental property earlier this year.
Current and former innkeepers said they distinguish themselves from chain hotels with personal service, whether that means recommending restaurants and tourist attractions or simply having a drink with their guests late at night. B&Bs on Capitol Hill also allow visitors to get to know the neighborhood, something few tourists in the District even consider.
The two inns on Capitol Hill do not look alike, but they have a few things in common: pleasant owners, tasteful decorations and similar rates, which run about $150 a night depending on the season.
A Capitol Place, a few steps from Lincoln Park on 12th Street Southeast, is owned by Jim and Mary Pellettieri. The row house is a split-level, with a small staircase leading up to the Pellettieris’ home and a separate staircase leading to the English basement where guests stay.
Jim Pellettieri spent his career at the Department of Defense, and both he and his wife were on NATO’s staff in Brussels in the late 1980s. They bought their home in 1990, and their European experience is evident inside the guest apartment: The walls are filled with French posters and Belgian photos, and the narrow hallway that leads into the main bedroom brings to mind a flat in London or Paris.
Mary Pellettieri said she enjoys the variety of people who have stayed with her over the years, including professors, museum curators and families with young children, as well as citizens of faraway countries such as Georgia.
“It’s worked out great,” she said. “I rent it with a minimum of four days, or monthly too. We’re as busy as we want to be. We make friends from all over the world. Why give them to hotels that don’t care?”
Diane Powell has embraced that same philosophy at Carriage House on Third Street Southeast. Powell, a Tennessee native, moved to the Washington area in 1986, and she and her husband — both NASA employees — opened the inn in 2004.
Following the speeches from elected officials, the crowd stands at long tables as they dig into BBQ, brunswick stew, cadillac rice at the Law Enforcement Cookout at Wayne Dasher's pond house in Glennville, Ga., on Thursday, April 17, 2014.