Bedroom furniture on a deck is one of the many touches Ellerie Cain, interior designer and owner of Ellerie’s River Cottages, adds to her B&B cottages near the Stillaguamish River and Darrington. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Bedroom furniture on a deck is one of the many touches Ellerie Cain, interior designer and owner of Ellerie’s River Cottages, adds to her B&B cottages near the Stillaguamish River and Darrington. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Welcome to Ellerie’s: A bed & (make your own damn) breakfast

River cottages near Darrington offer a peaceful retreat and a lively innkeeper.

At Ellerie Cain’s B&B, she’ll make your bed.

But you have to make your own damn breakfast.

What’s up with that?

It’s Cain’s business motto. And those are her words.

She provides guests at Ellerie’s River Cottages with all the fixings for them to make a country breakfast at her compound of four rentals near the North Fork Stillaguamish River and Darrington.

“People love it,” Cain said. “They don’t have to get up and get dressed.”

Not until they darn well want to.

A secluded domain with beavers as neighbors, eagles overhead and Mount Higgins as a backdrop might seem an unlikely showplace for Cain’s decades as a Seattle interior designer and landscaper.

“I always knew someday I was going to live on the bank of a river on a slice of heaven. I didn’t know how I was going to do it. I just believed I would do it,” said Cain, a peppy 75-year-old in a red flannel shirt, blonde hair and pearl earrings.

“When I drove down this road, Swede Heaven Road, and I saw that river, I knew I was supposed to be here. I got shivers.”

Cain was of retirement age when she bought the first cottage in 2007 and moved to the sticks. Rather than scale back, she has continued taking on more.

She curated three over-furnished bungalows and a modest bunkhouse. It’s a landscaped paradise in the middle of nowhere.

The decor is a mashup of vintage quirk, haute-rustic charm and Ellerie ingenuity.

Accents include a clawfoot tub on a veranda, a double bed on a deck, a barber chair in the pantry and, in the courtyard, a Buddha statue with Mardis Gras beads.

“It is like staying in a treasure hunt. Every day you see something new that you never saw the day before,” an online reviewer wrote.

Guests are greeted by an “R” from the original Rainier Brewery when entering the “River” cottage in her B&B complex near Darrington. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Guests are greeted by an “R” from the original Rainier Brewery when entering the “River” cottage in her B&B complex near Darrington. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

There’s a lot to take in. On a tour, Cain points out the ornate bed frames and castoff fixtures she got at job sites and in Ballard alleys, and antiques she collected over her years in design. Old windows are repurposed as porch railings. It’s a long story how an arched stained-glass window from an English parsonage ended up in a bathroom.

“You rescue things and you figure out a use,” Cain said.

See something you want? Make an offer.

“I bought things with the idea that someday they’d go in somebody’s home,” she said.

The walls have art, not TVs. She hasn’t owned a TV since Bill Clinton was president.

There is WiFi. Screen time is allowed. If you must.

Snoozing is encouraged.

“There’s always a daybed,” Cain said. “People climb up and take naps and they throw the doors open and there’s a wonderful breeze coming in.”

She might even let you feed carrots to Baxter, the mellow 12-year-old Sussex spaniel who lumbers around, but not far. Baxter doesn’t chase the beavers or bark at the eagles. All he wants to do is eat carrots and please his roommate.

The acre-plus spread is graced with giant trees and colorful plantings. Cain, by choice, doesn’t sit down much, even with dozens of beds, chairs and sofas at the ready. She does the mowing and much of the hammering.

To get there is about a 7-mile, winding-road drive from downtown Darrington. Yet it has a misleading Arlington mailing address.

How do people find this place?

Word-of-mouth. Online. Or maybe meeting Cain at Costco when she and Baxter make the 70-mile round-trip for provisions. She strikes up conversations, a friendly eccentric aunt to everyone.

Guests come for festivals, river rafting, bicycling or just to unwind.

A family from Austria stayed last week. “Go figure,” she said.

The Bunk House is the smallest cottage and the most rustic. It has two rooms and bunkbeds — and no indoor plumbing, but facilities are conveniently nearby. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

The Bunk House is the smallest cottage and the most rustic. It has two rooms and bunkbeds — and no indoor plumbing, but facilities are conveniently nearby. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Norman Nations, 63, of Chehalis, slept in the bunkhouse last October on a quick trip back to his hometown of Darrington.

“It was really neat,” Nations said.

He booked the two riverfront cottages for a three-day family gathering of about 10 people in August.

The innkeeper and her dog are part of the draw. “She’s bubbly and is really interesting to talk to. Baxter is part of the place,” he said.

At times, Cain’s white Dodge Grand Caravan that brakes for bed frames and other finds is filled with revelers.

“I haul people around from the wedding venues because they’ve had such a good time partying,” she said.

Off-season, Cain and Baxter call all four cottages home.

“Whichever one I want at the time,” she said. “When they are full, I live in the loft.”

The loft has a chandelier.

It has a big closet with her clothes. Flannel shirts are her uniform these days. With jewelry.

A bedroom in what is called Tree House cottage. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

A bedroom in what is called Tree House cottage. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Cain spent decades as a city girl.

“It took me awhile to think I could live without a run to Nordstrom and move up here,” she said. “A lot of my friends still think I’ve lost my mind.”

So might the people who meet her at Costco.

Her life might read like a series of seemingly random coincidences.

Cain said she wanted to be a home economics teacher but didn’t want to be confined to a classroom.

“So I went into banking, and then one day I thought, this wasn’t for me either,” she said.

“I started cleaning houses. Under the auspices of ‘I think I need to vacuum under the sofas and the beds’ I asked if I could change the furniture around. They never put it back because they loved the way it was.”

So she started a design business, which she still runs.

She bought the first cottage as a getaway for herself and her things.

“Somebody came by and said, ‘You know what? There isn’t a B&B and we need something like that,’” she said. “It just so happened the owners of the other house (next door) decided to move. That’s when I woke to the thought, ‘Oh, I guess I’m supposed to have a B&B.’ ”

And here she is, on her slice of heaven.

“I want people to know, you can live your dream,” she said.

Or at least spend a weekend away from TV.

Andrea Brown: abrown@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3443. Twitter @reporterbrown.

Bed & (make your own) Breakfast

Ellerie’s River Cottages is at 31416 365th Drive NE, Arlington.

Prices range from $35 per person in the bunkhouse that sleeps four, to $250 a night, double occupancy, at an 1,100-square-foot bungalow that sleeps five. Kids and (approved) pets extra.

More info: 206-362-9200; https://www.elleriesrivercottages.com

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