Although I have left Carmel to return to Napa, I still have much to share about this charming little town by the sea. The Soiled Doves Bath House is one of those places I had been curious about since June, and finally managed to explore during my stay in the fall.
You will find The Soiled Doves on Dolores Street, almost across from Comstock’s famous Tuck Box. It is housed in a lovely historic cottage that was built in 1926, and was originally the residence of one of Carmel’s first business women, herself born in 1870.
Today the cottage is a little oasis of peace, and a cornucopia of quality bath and body products that will soothe your body, mind and soul. The owner, Betsy Durnell, has been in business for about twenty years, and in this location for seven of them. She is kind and charming, will make you feel welcome, and will be delighted to share the magic of her shop with you. She curates the selection of products personally and, as you can see in the images, she has done a wonderful job of styling the place. Each piece of furniture and decor is also carefully selected to achieve this fresh and elegant look.
Betsy’s dream is to eventually expand the business into a whole Victorian house, adding spa services and a tea room. I really like the sound of all of that.
On chilly days, the fireplace helps keep things warm. It is now converted to gas (as most fireplaces are, by law, in California) but it used to be a wood-burning one originally. Betsy explained that this is, and was also back when the cottage was a residence, the main source of heat in the whole building. I shivered at the thought of getting into the bathroom on a cold winter morning.
The pretty vintage lamp in the image above has a little bit of a story. Betsy recounted how she had fallen in love with it at a vintage store several years previously. The price was a big hefty for her, so she decided to pass. A year later, on another visit to the same store, she saw the lamp had not sold, so she asked the owner if she could maybe come down in price. The owner would not, because she loved the lamp herself and did not really want to sell it. Another year and another visit to the vintage store later, the lamp was still there, and the owner still would not come down on the price. But Betsy felt the lamp was waiting for her, with its “arms at the waist as if saying, ‘So? Are you taking me home or what?'” She bit the bullet and now gets to enjoy it every day in her shop.
I particularly love this display with the rabbits. It is both opulent and whimsical, reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland, but with a touch of glamour.
These beautiful colored granules in the jars above and below are not bath salts as I initially thought, but a different version of potpourri. I just love how she uses bone china tea cups to scoop them out into sachets or boxes.
After you have browsed the front room, do continue on, as more wonderful treasures are to be found in the back rooms. If I remember correctly, the nook in the image below right was converted from what used to be the kitchen.
If you are up for a little chat, do ask Betsy about Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and also about the origin behind the name The Soiled Doves. Ok, if you can’t wait till you get to Carmel, you can find the story of the name at this page on her website. But the Queen Elizabeth part, you will have to wait and ask.
“Would you like a lovely lavender soap?” asks Mr. Rabbit. Yes, please!
Dolores Street, btw. Ocean and 7th – Carmel-by-the-Sea, California 93921 | website | ph. (831) 624-9377
More chapters from The Carmel Journals you might enjoy:
And just beyond Carmel: