On Aug. 2, 2019, Mike and Karen Kelley took over The Ivy, a bed and breakfast in Warrenton’s historic district, transforming it into The Ivy: An English Bed and Breakfast. 

One year later, they are grateful that they moved to Warren County from Long Island, N.Y. On Monday, Aug. 3, the Kelleys held a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate their first year of operations and The Ivy’s reopening with expanded services.

When the Kelleys took over operations of the 18th-century Queen Anne-style bed and breakfast from Jerry and Ellen Roth, the process began to transform the home into an English bed and breakfast, complete with afternoon tea. They drew inspiration from Karen’s background growing up in England and from their favorite places across the pond.

The Kelleys renamed guest rooms to reflect favorite places and honor family members. They named the Joe Wright Lt. R.N. room after their nephew, a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, who performed a reading at the couple’s wedding. The Aveley was named in honor of Karen’s mother, after the small village in Essex, England, where the family moved when Karen was 8.

The Chatsworth was named after the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire’s home in the Peak District of England, and the Kensington room was named by Mike because the couple honeymooned there after their wedding. 

The Kelleys wanted to provide a welcoming, relaxing atmosphere where their guests would feel at home.

In one year, The Ivy saw a steady stream of guests, many of whom from New York, New Jersey and Florida. Then the COVID-19 pandemic arrived. The Kelleys closed their bed and breakfast for a little over two months to study health guidelines and implement additional precautionary measures to keep their guests safe.

The Kelleys did not know when they would reopen, but in May they received calls from people needing places to stay. One was an essential worker, and the other was someone who visited last fall and wanted to return to the area.

Mike and Karen kept The Ivy open, placing hand sanitizer in all rooms and face masks in the kitchen. The Kelleys already washed bedding between guests, but they took extra precautions to clean used surfaces, such as tablecloths and placemats, every day. In addition, they left rooms to stand for two days between guests.

More guests soon arrived, many from North Carolina. Others came from Virginia and South Carolina. Families returned to visit local relatives — and the Kelleys — and enjoy some time spent on the porch in conversation.

“We have been very lucky,” Karen said.

In addition to celebrating the Kelleys’ first year of operating The Ivy, the Aug. 3 ribbon cutting ceremony also marked a time of transformation at the bed and breakfast with changes in décor, upgraded amenities and expanded services. What has not changed, however, is the couple’s wish to make guests feel right at home as they sit on the large front porch or relax in the parlor.

Throughout the home, artwork has been replaced by paintings and prints by British artists from the county where Karen grew up, or portraits of the Kelleys’ family members. There are photographs of Karen’s mother, a painting of Mike’s grandmother when she was 5, and a portrait of Mike’s great-great-grandfather, a vice admiral.

Curtains and bedding have been replaced, and furniture has been rearranged.

The Joe Wright room’s nautical theme is reflected in artwork showing the HM Steam Frigates Geyser and Cyclops, and a shadowbox featuring a display of types of knots.

The Aveley room, with a more feminine feel, features a sitting area with wing chairs, and its old-fashioned bath includes a claw-footed tub.

The Chatsworth room has a mahogany queen bed with elaborate canopy, and an original fireplace. The Kensington room features a queen bed and artwork that includes a scene in Hyde Park looking toward the area of Kensington Palace.

All guest rooms are equipped with USB ports and upgraded internet. The rooms also have convenient access to a Keurig machine to enjoy a cup of coffee or tea.

Downstairs, fireplaces in the parlor and dining room have gas logs for a bit of extra warmth and coziness on wintry days. The Kelleys added a grandfather clock to the parlor, in addition to making changes to the artwork.

Walking into the dining room, guests will find English bone china, teapots and glassware. They represent both heirlooms from Karen’s family as well as pieces the Kelleys have collected in their travels. Heirlooms from Mike’s family complement the rest of the décor.

By the fall, Mike and Karen hope to offer intimate weddings and elopements at The Ivy. They are transforming the back into a formal English garden to be used as a potential site for the ceremony. Couples may also choose to be married on the front porch or in the parlor.

The number of wedding guests will be limited to those who are staying at The Ivy, which can accommodate the couple and up to eight other people. The Kelleys will provide an officiant, photography by Mike, decorations and food, with additional services available based upon a couple’s needs.

“It takes the stress and strain off getting married,” Karen said.

Mike and Karen will bring an English theme to weddings at The Ivy complete with tea following the ceremony and an English wedding cake. Couples may choose from afternoon tea or high tea. Afternoon tea will include light sandwiches, cakes, and scones with clotted cream or jam. The more meal-like high tea will feature pork pies, Cornish pasty, shepherd’s pie, cakes, trifle and scones. For high tea, guests will sit at the table in the dining room or on the porch.

The Kelleys will also offer afternoon tea and high tea for their regular guests. 

When guests stay at The Ivy, Mike and Karen encourage them to explore downtown Warrenton and the other areas of Warren County. They hope that guests will participate in local events and visit sites such as Kerr Lake, Lake Gaston and Medoc Mountain State Park.

In the future, the Kelleys will hold photography weekends to allow guests to explore features of the Warren County area that they may not be able to experience anywhere else, such as local architecture, wildlife and area birds.

Over the course of the past year, Mike and Karen have grown to love Warren County and its people.

“We have been welcomed with open arms,” Karen said. “We are both settled very well and have made a lot of friends.”

The Ivy: An English Bed and Breakfast is located at 331 N. Main St., Warrenton, and can be reached at 252-257-9300 or info@theivybandb.com. Information is also available on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @theivybandb and on the web at www.theivybandb.com