EDITOR'S NOTE: "Sandlapper Slept Here" is a column that appears in each issue of Sandlapper Magazine, featuring bed-and-breakfasts and historic inns throughout the Palmetto State. Here's an example. If you find it interesting, you may want to peruse our back issue listings for information about previous columns.
I knew this was going to be good when Naomi Perryman led me to the refreshment table for a choice of juice and a plateful of her warm oatmeal/chocolate chip cookies. You can gauge the quality of a B&B by the quality of the hostess' cookies, I've learned. Sure enough, Richland Street is top flight.
The unique thing about the home of Naomi and Jim Perryman is that although it looks similar to other homes around Columbia's historic district, some of which are more than a century old, this one was built in 1992. The Perrymans intended for it to be a bed-and-breakfast, and they came up with the perfect design.
"We've been long-time bed-and-breakfast stayers ourselves," Naomi says. "We talked about doing this when we retired - then decided to do it a little bit earlier."
The house design, she assesses, is "sort of eclectic." Naomi did her own interior design after she and Jim had drawn up the basic house plan. It's a blend of the antiquated and the modern. You'll find some antiques, but the Perrymans also selected modern furniture because, frankly, it's more comfortable and less intimidating to guests. And despite the air of historic elegance in each guest room, you'll find that one of them has a handicap-accessible sink and roll-in shower.
Downstairs, the foyer opens into a huge dining/unwinding area for guests, complete with a wide-screen cable TV, books and games. After socializing a spell and enjoying perhaps one too many cookies, guests can do the town. Fine dining is within strolling distance, and brochures direct you on a self-guided walking tour of more than 30 historic sites; the Mann-Simons Cottage is just down the street. Naomi provides keys to your room and to the front and back doors, so you can come and go at your leisure.
They were busy as soon as they opened, four years ago, and it hasn't let up. They sometimes have a waiting list of business travelers, and they've welcomed as many as five bridal couples on a single Saturday evening. Guests have come from across the US, Europe and Hong Kong and have included other B&B owners from California and Florida.
"People from overseas have different lifestyles," Naomi says of her guests. "We find that particularly interesting. Of course, if people were all the same, it would be monotonous."
The guest rooms feature elegant molding and borders and are named for modern South Carolina governors. Each is quite different. Bedding is either king- or queen-size; one room has double queens. Room amenities range from TVs to turn-down service to courtesy bathrobes. I was impressed by the absence of street noise despite the location, and the owners' complete success in insulating the guest quarters from streetlight glare.
Breakfast is billed as heavy continental, and it's ample for most anyone's appetite. Typical fare includes sausage patties, waffles, fruit, coffee and juice.
Naomi grew up near Clemson, John in Gastonia, NC. They came to Columbia from Anderson when John, a state psychologist, was transferred.
Naomi has precious little time these days to engage in her interior design profession. They took exactly two days off in one two-year period. Happily, they're used to long work schedules, and they plan to be here a long time. (They've already declined one offer to buy the business.)
"This has ended up being full-time plus," Naomi says. "But it's a lot of fun - very demanding, though."
Richland Street Bed & Breakfast (1425 Richland St., Columbia, SC 29202; (803) 779-7001) has seven guest rooms, each with private baths, $79&endash;120. No smoking inside. No children under 12. No pets.