THE HISTORY OF THE HOUSE
Smolna 14 apartment house was completed in 1910 according to a design of a famous Warsaw architect, a Polish Jew, by a name of Edward Eber. It was the first example of Berliner modernism in the city, signified by the minimalist, geometrical decor of the facade. The house was the most distinctive one in the street due to its corner tower with peaked finial.
A prominent family Plater, whose ancestors belonged to The Livonian Brothers of the Sword Order (in today’s Latvia) lived in this house. Also until 1938 the 4th floor was inhabited by the main rival of Polish pre-war chief of state Józef Piłsudski – a chief ideologue of the right-wing National Democracy party named Roman Dmowski.
During the Warsaw Uprising in 1944 the house was in the middle of a fierce fighting, situated just across Polish guerilla publishing house, defended by division of gen. Antoni Chruściel “Monter”. Many civilians seeked refuge in its basement.
For the last several years we have been trying hard to restore it in the most authentic way possible, paying special attention to preserving many original details like handles or carpentry features.
HISTORY OF THE B&B
The beginning of B&B goes back to the summer of 2003. That year the beautiful building of Smolna 14 after many years of neglect has undergone a major renovation of its staircase, and the courtyard received a new entrance gate. As the building became presentable, one of the tenants Jarek Cholodecki invited his first guests: Ela Ślosarska, his friend and co-worker from Chicago, who agreed on a joint visit to Warsaw with Ruth Everet and her husband Yakov. On hearing this news, Rabbi Marc Kiel, Ruth’s cousin also decided to visit Poland. And that was the beginning.
The party stayed in a B&B because it seemed to be the best name for 2 rooms on the 3rd floor. Better than the “guest rooms” (which in Poland brought memories of communist times.)
Initially it was clear that Poles would not risk staying in a such a hotel alternative and the place was geared predominantly towards guests from the USA. Jarek knew that a lot of them were bored of typical chain hotels and were looking for something more authentically reflecting the place they visit. For this reason since the beginning he tried to preserve in the B&B every detail that told the story of Warsaw’s first modernist tenement house, trying to make it look true to its pre-war character. So he restored destroyed doors and windows, repaired the broken edges of the marble stairs etc.
As the guests showed their appreciation of those efforts Jarek also focused on other aspects:
– sourcing ecological food,
– maintaining lots of plants,
– providing bicycles,
– keeping bees,
– using recycling…
– and finally providing guests with best possible freshly roasted in-house coffee!
The number of rooms grew, The first was named queen because there was simply a queen size bed in it. The second smaller room had narrower bed and it became king. When there were more rooms on the ground floor they followed the convention of aristocratic names becoming prince and princess.
More conscious choices came a little bit later, when grand children Emma Chołodecka, Aleksander Myers were born. Later the rooms received names after significant historic figures.
Why the name Chopin? It is thanks to the American pianist Pamela Howland. She came came to Warsaw in 2006 mainly because of Chopin. She was surprised to find out she could listen to him for free but only in the summer and once a week on Sunday noon, at the Frederick’s memorial park… Pamela responded with a proposal that was difficult to reject: “I will be coming next year and I will play and Jarek will arrange a salon and instrument.”
The dream about the salon and the piano began, only came true in 2009, when Katarzyna Kraszewska brought Kawai grand piano to one of the rooms.
From June 21, 2013, pianists are performing here every single day, on a new instrument, this time a world renown piano manufacturer- Steinway.
Two years after the launch of the daily recitals, it became clear that Chopin was too present in the B&B to not call it by this name. So Chopin it became.