In March, Isabelle Chicoine and Karim Houry spent $1.2 million on a circa-1830s bed-and-breakfast in Woodstock, Vt., that’s so quaint it could have been painted by Grandma Moses. But to make it their home, they needed a business plan, a marketing strategy and internet savvy.

“Developing the website, doing the marketing takes a lot of our time,” said Ms. Chicoine, 52, who had been working as director of communications for a private school in metro New York before she decided to ditch it all for a life of changing sheets, scrambling eggs and composing picture-perfect yogurt parfaits. “If you present something really pretty, you have a good chance of making it on Instagram,” she said.

After investing $400,000 in a full redesign—complete with faux deer head mounts in plaid flannel—the couple reopened the B&B over the summer, having won key approvals from town authorities. “My PowerPoint skills came in handy,” said Mr. Houry, 54, a former executive with a Wall Street financial-services company.

To compete in the Airbnb era, a new breed of innkeepers are ditching the needlepoint pillows and potpourri in favor of free Wi-Fi and vegan breakfast sausage. “Bed-and-breakfasts were getting a bad rap for the doilies. The modern B&B doesn’t look like grandma’s house,” said Heather Turner, marketing director for the Professional Association of Innkeepers International.

There are about 17,000 bed-and-breakfasts nationwide, according the Association of Independent Hospitality Professionals, a nonprofit trade group with 625 members that was founded three years ago—partly in response to the rising number of mid-career professionals who have taken up innkeeping.

“They’ve had another career as a teacher, lawyer or doctor—they want to be in the hospitality business,” said Rob Fulton, the group’s CEO.

Getting into the business takes money. Stately homes come with hefty carrying costs—taxes, insurance, utilities, staffing and upkeep—which can slice into profit margins. And unlike home-sharing setups such as Airbnb, bed-and-breakfast proprietors often face a host of additional regulatory requirements. Innkeepers must take out extra liability insurance, become certified in safe food-handling practices, submit to health and safety inspections, and install fire-rated doors and alarm systems.

Read more of this Wall Street Journal article by Amy Gamerman by clicking here.