The experience of serenity and connection with the distinctive Eastern Washington landscape around Walla Walla begins on the way to a new local bed-and-breakfast. The Barn B&B Walla Walla, long conceived and designed, is owned and managed by Anand and Naina Rao.
The process of relaxation and sipping the character of the place starts as you turn off the U.S. Highway 12 onto quiet Stovall Road. Parking for fishing (and bird watching) grants visitors access to the Walla Walla River and a chance to experience the clear, sparking river waters that originate from mountain snowmelt and rainfall that also feed the many springs, creeks and lush fields in the area.
Abundant natural vegetation follows the river and is bordered by green fields of livestock pasture and alfalfa. Adjacent rolling hills of dry-farmed wheat, a feature in itself in summer when the fields are golden with stiff, waving heads of grain, shelter the bed-and-breakfast from winds and gently enfold the buildings in an embrace.
The darkly forested and aptly named Blue Mountains rise in the distance, generators of puffy clouds that stand like formal sentinels on the horizon overlooking the fertile farming land below. Overhead is the vast Eastern Washington blue sky that lifts spirits and lets thoughts soar.
For the Roas, The Barn B&B is far more than just a bed-and-breakfast. They say that guests “in a few minutes feel the peace of the place” and “are like friends at the end of their stay.”
The word elegant is usually not associated with barns, but The Barn B&B is just that. The buildings are a pristine white with tidy black trim and roof, and though the structures are very large, they sit lightly on the site. Deep green lawns, a large pond and simple landscaping emphasize the elegant simplicity of the setting and provide highlights of the interior spaces. One special and distinctive suite is round and housed in a conception of a galvanized grain silo. A pool and hot tub are in the works.
Anand and Naina have intuitively grasped and translated the building’s interior spaces into those that connect with the local region. You enter through simple French doors into the main reception area, called Julian’s Hall. In front of you is a large, free-standing, modern fireplace of steel with a slate bench patterned with distinctive, rustic bolts that embrace the traditional and the modern — a reoccurring design motif found throughout the property.
The main room’s ceiling soars like the sky outside, and natural light fills the windows. Large, natural beams provide a traditional feeling, and the softest wheat-colored walls offer clean serenity. Each area of the room has artwork from the Roas’ travels and life. Pieces from Thailand, Europe, the Middle East and Naina’s native Kenya are engaging and inspiring.
To step into the cool spaces is to instantly relax and breathe. The room has so much of interest and holds many flavors of the world around us. It simultaneously makes us feel sheltered, clean and comfortable, yet inspires us to look to the future and the friendships to meet there.
Naina sourced all the furniture locally and had chairs upholstered in fabric to suit the décor colors of each room. Seating areas of furniture from the Roas’ work and travels around the world provide areas to relax and visit. In the reception, in front of the fireplace, two geometrically patterned black and white chairs from India with a low, red, antique Chinese table in between subtly generate possibilities of adventure. Sun-washed watercolor pictures depict the Middle East, and a chest with carved mango wood doors from Bali anchor another corner of the room.
A large table of locally sourced walnut serves as both breakfast table and, on Monday and Thursday nights, a dinner table. One guest lamented that the breakfast was so good, she wished it wasn’t just a bed-and-breakfast, but a breakfast, lunch and dinner. Weekday guests on Monday and Thursday can enjoy a family style dinner that Naina and their chef, Elizabeth Garza, a graduate from the Walla Walla Community College culinary program dream up and make.
Anand and Naina join the guests for dinner and look forward to these evenings. For Friday evening happy hour, a simple and ingenious charcoal pizza oven Naina brought from Nairobi cooks three pizzas at a time on the terrace. Seating areas on the terraces overlook the pond and provide great bird watching during breakfast.
Breakfast and dinner menus vary, but all have an international influence from the many places in the world the Roas have lived. A Latin dinner menu is as follows: cucumber gazpacho with shrimp and melon, Argentine beef empanada and carnival slaw with Mexican chocolate chili crema for dessert. A breakfast menu: truffle scone, kale banana smoothie followed by chorizo frittata. Another is: warm banana muffin, pineapple-mango smoothie, mushrooms on toast (a French classic with sausage, a poached egg and an Indian twist).
Naina takes into account any special needs of the guests, and for a guest on a gluten-free diet she is making Vietnamese rice pancakes with vegetables and shrimp inside, and for another a traditional Indian/Scottish breakfast called kedgeree: salmon and eggs and sweet peas.
The seven guest suites are clean, elegant spaces with every comfort. The Roas limited the amount of rooms so they could give guests a special experience.
For 15 years, The Barn B&B has been a thought, then a plan and now reality. In each hotel they stayed in, the Roas noted what worked really well and what could be improved; no detail was too small, and each and every facet of the rooms and common spaces reflect this — while connecting to the local specialness of Walla Walla. Colors are tranquil and relaxing: from soft wheat to a blue like the color of the early morning sky.
Each room has a similar, but different modern rustic décor with many beautiful details everywhere, including a private outdoor shower set in a Zen-like garden with washed pebbles, granite steppingstones and standing basalt stones. Even when not in use, the spaces are serene and wonderful to look out into. Above each bed is a vibrant, jewel-toned painting by Naina done on dried lotus leaves, and the accent pillows are a beautiful, patterned-silk fabric.
The paintings reflect the ever-present theme of water in the Walla Walla Valley, as do the pebbles in the outdoor area and the natural pebble mosaic floors in the showers. Abundant towel racks are elegant, industrial-rustic, galvanized pipe. Linens are specially sourced from Thailand. Recognizing a good night’s sleep is essential to the enjoyment of any person, there are pillow menus and mattress preferences as well as a soap menu. All soaps are made locally. A special body wash with lemon grass evokes Thailand, where the Raos used to live. Light switches are labeled, and the entire room is designed for easy, thorough cleaning.
The friendliness of people in the area is part of what drew the Roas here, and they are very pleased to see how guests often chat and get to know one another. They envisioned The Barn B&B as a place to bring people together. Guests have joined them at nearby winery events and then come back to spend more time visiting.
The Roas have lived and worked in many places around the world. Anand’s father worked for an airline was posted to India, Switzerland, Russia and Kenya. Naina grew up in Nairobi, Kenya, where the two met. Arnand’s work in hotel operations, then in corporate management with Hilton International, EuroDisney and the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and Six Senses Resorts and Spas, brought them to Kuwait, Khartoum, Sudan at the confluence of the Blue and White Nile rivers, Thailand, London, Paris, Atlanta, Chevy Chase and Bangkok.
There are many stories to tell. They learned to adjust to each country and learned the language, food and customs, and they bring this wide experience and embrace of the world to their own bed-and-breakfast here in Walla Walla as their retirement dream.