All couples house hunt with their wants and needs in mind, but some couples house hunt with theirs and their extended families’ wants and needs in mind. That was the case when Leah Carlson Souza and Miguel Souza went searching for the perfect house to make a home. “The kitchen had to be a kitchen I could really cook in and have a lot of people hang out in,” insists Leah. “I come from a big Italian family and we always hung out in the kitchen.” Though the house she grew up in offered plenty of space to gather and connect, it was always the kitchen the family – and extended family – gravitated to. A spacious kitchen was something she kept in mind as she and Miguel made their real estate wish list. “My husband and I always wanted an open floor plan. I love the fresh, open and bright feel,” explains Leah. “We wanted a house we could entertain in and also a house that our kids could feel good in... and have space in!”
The couple set their sights on Touisset, a coastal community quietly embedded on a peninsula in Warren, an 18th century whaling port. Like many of Rhode Island’s cozy waterfront enclaves, Touisset was once populated primarily by summer homes that today, have been modernized to accommodate year-round living.
“We bought the house two and a half years ago from a couple in New York that was using the house as a vacation home. They came every season, actually,” tells Leah. While the location, just steps from the bucolic 66-acre Touisset Marsh Wildlife Refuge and just a few minutes drive to Warren’s charming downtown was perfect, it was the coveted views that sealed the deal. “The thing that convinced us was the water view from the neighborhood and the house. We can walk to the beach because it’s literally in our backyard. We can launch kayaks or just go and sit on the beach whenever we want,” says Leah. For Miguel, who grew up in Falmouth on Cape Cod, the neighborhood reminded him of home. The sentimental overtones combined with coastal ambiance was the ideal situation for the couple, and with four bedrooms, two baths and 2,105 square feet of living space, they blissfully signed on the dotted line. “We fell in love with it at first sight – for real,” she says.
As two busy professionals – and parents to young Liam in addition to Miguel’s two teenage children – an added benefit to the home was that it was move-in ready. Leah owns La La Luxe in Providence, one of the city’s preeminent salons, which keeps her on her toes and has given her experience with making something her own.
“I absolutely channel my creativity in my home through my love for music and hair!” she says. “I believe every book in our house, if it’s not a children’s book, has something to do with music and/or art along with vintage beauty magazines from the ‘60s and ‘80s.”
Both she and Miguel are musicians, so one bedroom doubles as a studio space stocked with a couple of Roland electric pianos and recording equipment. It fits seamlessly into the home’s modern/vintage vibe. “I guess to us, it’s a little old-Hollywood-glam-meets-modern-day-comfort,” says Leah. “Comfort” being a key factor. All of their furnishings are intentionally soft, comfortable and uncomplicated so that all who enter feel welcomed. “We wanted a house that was open to everyone... where everyone could sit and relax... maybe sink into some fluffy pillows or pick up an acoustic guitar and pluck away or just enjoy the view,” Leah explains.
And it’s not just the adults who get their jam on in the cozy coastal home. Little Liam’s instruments, including drums, reside in the large living space so the family and their friends can all make music together. (Disclaimer: Liam’s many trucks are “parked” in the space too.) “It’s cozy in there while Liam plays, and that’s where you can really see the water view, curl up, have a glass of wine and melt into the couch,” says Leah.
Many of the furnishings are from antique stores in Providence and Warren amassed over the past 20 years. “My absolute favorite for decor, music stuff and wall art is Nostalgia in Providence on Wickenden. I could spend 12 hours in there and have to go back for more – love that place,” reveals Leah. “I also love Podsnappery in Warren for little extra conversation starters.”
Just like the home’s unique nature, most visitors walk away with a unique impression. “I once had someone say it felt like a house in the Hamptons and then I also had someone say it felt like a ‘Vermont cottage in the ‘60s if a celebrity owned it,’” she says, laughing.
And though it may appear as though every detail is simply placed in a haphazard way, most pieces have been placed with careful intention. “I don’t ever want people to feel like they can’t touch anything when they come over. I want them to ask, ‘what’s with The Beatles books?’ or ‘who’s the Bowie fan?’ because that is what all of the little pieces and decor are meant to do: spark conversation and make people smile,” she says. “I mean, that’s pretty much what I do at my salon every day, and that’s what my husband and I do every day, all day. We love people and love to talk to people. For the most part, I want guests to come in, enjoy the little things and feel at home.”