One Great Room

By Carol Tisch Photography by Gene Pollux May 1, 2009

Tricks of the Trade


If Carrie and Jason Riley’s great room looks familiar, it’s because the couple opened their doors in March to hundreds of visitors during Designer Digs, a tour of homes of 10 members of the Florida West Coast Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers.

"My husband and I wanted a casual, livable, modern feel," says the 30-something founder of Riley Interior Design in Sarasota. Their 3,000-square-foot Lakewood Ranch home is a study in clean, less-is-more, contemporary style. But the home’s tranquil, monochromatic color scheme and cutting-edge materials were chosen for practicality as much as beauty.

"We have two dogs, a Shiba Inu and a boxer," Riley says. "I used neutral tones to help hide their fur. I couldn’t go too dark or too white with fabrics, because either way it would show." Nylon carpet, durable countertops and tile floors, and a spacious, uncluttered floor plan are tricks of the trade that add to the carefree appeal of this successful young designer’s elegant digs.


The flowing great room features a monochromatic palette of cream tones for porcelain tile floors,1, walls, and textural kitchen backsplash, 2, of easy-care sealed, honed and filled travertine subway tiles. A comfortably scaled chair-and-a-half, 3, coordinating loveseat and ottoman substitute for massive sectional pieces, creating easy traffic patterns and Zen-like tranquility. The designer made decorative moldings pop by painting ceilings, 4, two shades lighter than walls and bringing ceiling trays down to human scale with chocolate-brown paint. Texture creates interest throughout the monochromatic great room with Fabrica’s retro-modern nylon frieze rug, 5; lots of wenge-finished wood, 6, and stainless steel metals are used for an urban-sleek, jeweled effect. Riley wanted a lighter, fresher look than granite, so she clad kitchen countertops, 7, and oversized island in pale cream CaesarStone quartz, which resembles marble but is durable and maintenance-free. Riley replaced a clumsy pantry closet with custom kitchen armoire, 8, outfitted for grocery storage, creating a more spacious, open plan than the original builder layout. Etched-screen pendant, 9, lights above the bar soften the interior, as does the ambient light of a living area chandelier, 10, that uses low-intensity bulbs inside beautiful wax candle surrounds.

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