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Willow Hill Bed and Breakfast (Cyndi Murray photos)
Willow Hill Bed and Breakfast (Credit: Cyndi Murray photos)

Innkeepers Gayle and Jack Birkmier want you to feel right at home when you walk into Willow Hill Bed and Breakfast — mostly because it is their home.

The Birkmiers bought their Southold home in 1972 and raised five children there. A homemaker at heart, when her youngest left the nest Birkmier was itching to fill it with people once again.

“We had this big house and I didn’t want to sell it,” she said. “So, I convinced [Jack] to make it into a bed and breakfast.”

The couple opened Willow Hill Bed and Breakfast in 1991. At the time it was one of only six on the North Fork, she said. Now going on 23 years in business, the couple said the local industry has changed a lot. But one principal has always prevailed at their inn — and that is that homeyness is key.

Visiting Willow Hill is more like staying at a family member’s home than the boutique hotel-style bed and breakfasts that have become more popular on the North Fork in recent years.

The walls are lined with photos of the couple’s children, grandchildren and the Birkmiers’ own wedding photos.

“We are homey,” she said. “I don’t pretend to be anything more than that. We invite people in to share our home.”