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Clever updates don’t sacrifice any historic charm of this Bristol B&B

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Trading in demanding careers for owning a bed-and-breakfast nestled in a charming New England town is such a ubiquitous dream that there’s been countless articles and even televisions shows about the idea. For most, it’s all talk, but for Douglas and Elizabeth Miller, their dream became a reality in 2016.

“We just wanted to try and do something together, and spend more time together,” says Elizabeth. When the William’s Grant Inn in her native Bristol was put up for sale, the Millers knew this was the moment they’d been waiting for. Located on High Street, the inn was already well established and, as Douglas points out, firmly planted on Bristol’s coveted Fourth of July Parade route. But they did see the need for renovations and some remodeling to give the home, which dates back to 1808, more modern-day comforts.

“Because it was a historic home, we wanted to keep [the upgrades] consistent with its history but not necessarily make everything look period,” explains Douglas. The couple transformed a covered porch attached to the back of the home into a spacious farmhouse-style dining room with a table that sits twelve. It’s a bustling space in the morning as guests savor the full-course breakfasts for which the inn has become known. “My father ran a breakfast restaurant for 45 years, so [serving] has always been part of my family. Everything is homemade, and we try to give a nice variety to our guests,” says Elizabeth.

The gourmet start to the day and the company often means guests chatting until late morning. A coffee station invites them to enjoy a hot cup of Joe any time of day and the room, with its warm historic blue tones and homey shiplap styling, welcomes them to stay a while. Here they will also find games mounted to the wall which serves as decor as well as entertainment. The Millers did have to clear the dining room renovation with Bristol’s Historic District Commission and the space has been a celebrated addition.

The Millers also renovated the entire kitchen to have a more contemporary and better functioning space. It took breaking down some walls and taking some stairways out, but the result has been well worth the labor (none of the seven fireplaces were disturbed, however). The farmhouse-inspired kitchen sports rich, brick-red cabinets and blue-and-white Portuguese tile. The centerpiece of the space is a framed American flag gifted to the couple from friends. “We tried to keep the red, white, blue theme because we’re such a patriotic town,” explains Liz.

Over the past two years since honing their skills as innkeepers, Douglas and Elizabeth have come to learn a little about the inn’s namesake. William Bradford III, the grandson of the distinguished Deputy Governor William Bradford, built the home and was a ship captain and owner. The home remained in the Bradford family for several generations over the course of around 150 years. But the Millers are much more focused on the home’s future than its past. One thing they ask of their guests is to pin on the inn’s wall-sized map where they are visiting from, and guests from around the world have discovered both the inn and “America’s Most Patriotic Town.”

Elizabeth tells of a saying around their William’s Grant Inn: “Enter as guests, leave as friends.”