This Bristol Home is Pretty in Pastels

Put the anchors away; this romantic abode is all about pastels and patinas


Who says you need to outfit your home in white and navy when you live near the sea? “Vintage eclectic, with a little shabby chic thrown in,” is how Carol Riley describes the interior of the 1946-built Cape Cod style home she’s shared with husband Michael for over 25 years. The Rileys are known around the East Bay for their perfectly named bed and breakfast, Bristol Cottage. Carol recalls being instantly drawn to the house by its charming shape, architectural details, and a yard originally full of cherry blossom trees.

Inside the welcoming abode – just a five minute walk from the waterfront – instead of crisp stripes, find faded florals; textures like damask, not driftwood; and rather than on-trend blue-and-white rattan dining stools, pull up a weathered bench or bright turquoise kitchen chair.  “I don’t like the coastal look to be honest, you know, anchors and lobsters are just not my thing.” Instead, ship-shape elements like open shelving, washable slipcovers, and piles of pillows abound. Splashes of dusty aqua on everything from furniture to the enclosed porch ceiling result in a pleasing look best described as bespoke beach house.

Carol’s handiwork can be found around the house. From her home studio, which she describes as her happy place, she fashions things for herself and for sale under her Tatters label. “I can go sit in the studio and lose myself.” This is where Carol designs clothing, accessories, and decor using vintage and new fabrics, salvaged trimming, and notions, along with painting the occasional piece of furniture. The entire Riley family recently transformed an old church in Warren to be Carol’s own boutique, named The Church Palace. Says Carol, “It’s a destination spot for anyone that loves things that are a bit different and one-of-a-kind.”

Whether it’s clothing or rooms, a house or a church, a signature element of Riley style is layering. Carol will generally begin with an ivory base and add interest with accents and embellishments. She expertly brings in a mix of patterns by sticking to a singular colorway. “I swing between all neutrals,” she says with a Cheshire cat-like grin. “And then mad colors!”


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