When Dr. Robert Leonard and his wife Kathy first laid eyes on a somewhat dated home with panoramic views of Narragansett Bay, glowing lighthouses and sailboats tacking into nearby harbors, they knew, despite its flaws, it would be the idyllic locale to raise their three children. Low ceilings, monotone wall color throughout and a kitchen placed peculiarly in the rear of the house (apparently the builder didn’t get the memo that the kitchen is the heart of a home) were just some of the challenges the couple knew they would have to address, but all in due time.
As the founder and chief surgeon of Leonard Hair Transplant Associates and Director of The Hair Health Institute, Dr. Leonard travels around the world to educate colleagues on advances in hair restoration. That is, when he’s not offering solutions to patients for hair loss at one of seven locations throughout Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. So his family home needed to be a place of peace and relaxation; a place to retreat, unwind and focus on the people he loves the most.
The couple commissioned an architect to make better use of the space and capitalize on the enviable views. The process, however, was filled with permits, permissions and the like, not to mention commonplace construction hurdles and delays. To call it “challenging” might be an understatement. “We should have knocked the whole damn thing down,” says Dr. Leonard bluntly, albeit with a laugh. “The original house... was a somewhat small, center-hall colonial built in the 1970s. At the time, our architect recommended that we ‘alter and add on’ to the original building which was a major undertaking, requiring over a year and a half to finish while we were still living in our prior home – meaning two mortgages to pay! It was thought that it would be less expensive than razing the original house. He was wrong.”
While hindsight is 20/20, Dr. Leonard says having the right professionals on your team is the key to success. In their case, North Providence-based INEX Building led by Nicholas Manocchio was the right fit. The Leonards call Nicholas a fair, honest and true craftsman. Dr. Leonard’s second piece of advice to anyone considering renovations? “Be patient, because good work requires enough time to perfect – a characteristic I sometimes lack.”
As with many great challenges though, came great reward. Today, the 6,100-square-foot home boasts four spacious bedrooms and four bathrooms. As with the clothing worn in a photo.graph from more than two decades ago, sometimes what seemed perfect at the time doesn’t quite sync with tastes in the present.
“Originally, when we built the house, our style was definitely traditional; however, as the years have passed, we are slowly converting the style to more contemporary,” explains Dr. Leonard. “For example, our dining room had been of an Eastern design with heavy cornice boards, an intricate Asian design wallpaper and heavy drapery. Today, we have removed that and have vertical painted, wide striped walls and minimal window coverings which are much cleaner and contemporary.” The couple also recently renovated a bathroom to give it an updated, contemporary aesthetic. The interior design was managed by the Leonards from beginning to end. While the couple share a common passion for art, architecture and design, Dr. Leonard gives much of the credit to his better half. “My wife has a great eye,” he says.
As the family is passionate about travel, artwork from around the world can be found throughout the home. Particular favorites include pieces from Greece, an homage to the doctor’s heritage, but pieces from Italy and Africa are equally extraordinary. The Leonards say they could fill their home with beloved artwork but practice restraint to keep in step with the contemporary, modern feel of the home.
The renovated patio invites friends and family to savor the salty breeze and the relocation of the kitchen to the waterside of the home makes even doing dishes a pleasure. But for Dr. Leonard, neither spaces take top honors. “My favorite space is our family room which is open and airy and very comfortable,” he says. “I can watch TV, read or work on the computer without feeling closed in.” The jaw-dropping views of Narragansett Bay and Jamestown also help.
Though their life is a busy one, the Leonards make time for causes and organizations they are passionate about including the University of New England, South County Hospital, the American Heart Association, St. Thomas Moore Roman Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox of the Annunciation, among others.
Though jet setters, the Leonards always love returning to Narragansett. “The old adage, ‘There’s no place like home’ is oh so true! My passion for traveling the world is a strong one; however, coming back, first to America, is the best,” he says. “Home is not a building for me. It is where my family is, so being back with them in Narragansett grounds me and makes me realize how very fortunate I am.”