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Design and taste are married well at South End inn

Email|Print| Text size + By Necee Regis
Globe Correspondent / October 22, 2006

Sometimes you want to get away in your own hometown. It's amazing how a mere mile and a half change of perspective can enhance your appreciation of the city.

That's how we arrived at Encore Bed and Breakfast in the South End, a neighborhood we previously enjoyed only as a place to go out for dinner, or as a somewhat confusing series of streets to navigate while traveling from point A to point B.

The South End is the largest district of Victorian row houses on the National Register of Historic Places . Encore is in one of these 19th - century brick homes, a vertical stack of rooms at one end of a quiet street between Tremont Street and Columbus Avenue. We found it online, hitting pay dirt in our never-ending quest for a B&B with clean lines and contemporary furnishings.

Encore has four rooms, each named after a 20th - century composer, playwright, or choreographer. Our room, the Bernstein, was on the third floor. A long, narrow room with exposed brick and hunter green and pale yellow walls, it felt spacious because three west-facing windows provided bright afternoon light. (Next time we'd like to try the top-floor Albee room, with its purple walls and private balcony.)

The room's furnishings were enough to make a modernist giddy: a pair of Marcel Breuer Wassily chairs flanked an Eileen Gray table made of glass and chrome tubular steel. In the common area, we found pale gray Philippe Starck Dr. No armchairs.

If you think all this modernity feels cold, be assured that it doesn't. In the breakfast nook, the clean lines are tempered by a Moroccan rug and decorative masks collected by the owners.

In the bedroom, wide-wood slat blinds, off-white cotton window treatments, and a decorative wool rug in green, yellow, and gray create a warm tone. In addition, colorful framed posters of theater and dance performances adorn each room.

The Bernstein bathroom, more clean and efficient than luxurious, has a standard tub, white tiles, stainless steel designer sink and faucets, plenty of towels, and Aveda bath products. It is nice, but you wouldn't linger there.

You would linger in the queen-size bed with oh-so-soft sheets from the Calvin Klein Khaki Collection, a study in greens and gray with stripes and subtle leaf patterns. There is a TV, but what really engaged us was the Bang & Olufsen radio with its remote control. Wake up and ``click!" -- your favorite station and the sound is magnificent.

Encore's owners, Reinhold Mahler and David Miller, developed the space five years ago. Mahler, a retired architect and professor, greets you at the door and serves breakfast with his charming German accent (he emigrated in 1989). He refers to his partner as ``the phantom of the B and B." (Miller has a day job with an investment company and at night runs a company in the Black Box theater at the nearby Boston Center for the Arts.)

A simple European-style breakfast is served each morning between 8 and 10 . (Thankfully, there were no oversized omelets or cream- cheese - stuffed French toast .) Each room is provided with a menu and choices to check off and leave on the counter the night before: coffee, decaf, tea, bagels, croissants, muffins, juice, cold cuts, cheese, boiled eggs, granola with yogurt and fruit, and German fitness bread. We couldn't resist ordering the latter, though Mahler kept encouraging us to spread butter on the bread, which we felt would defeat the purpose.

The only drawback was that we also had to select our breakfast time the previous evening, which meant making sure to set our alarm so as not to miss our appointed meal. Oh, the pressure!

Encore's location can't be beat. It's within easy walking distance of all the South End's great restaurants, shops, the BCA, and the Mills Gallery. It was hard to choose a dining destination. We had a terrific, if noisy, meal one night at Petit Robert Bistro, a short block from the inn, and a second, more refined dinner at Hamersley's Bistro.

There are many other restaurants we'd like to try, which means the next time we stay at Encore, we'll have to book a room for an entire week. Can't wait.

Contact Necee Regis, a freelance writer in Boston and Miami, at neceeregis@yahoo.com .

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