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A Storybook Home in Middletown

A globetrotting couple return to their roots in Aquidneck Island and embrace its coastal vibe

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Kathy Lewis loved growing up in Newport. Her father, Dean Lewis, served as mayor in the early 1950s (a mayoral perk was attending the wedding of then-senator John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier) and the City by the Sea was a warm, welcoming community for the family. But when Kathy met Mohamed Saleh at a reception for the Naval War College’s Class of 1984, her life changed forever.

The couple fell in love and soon moved to Cairo, where Mohamed had grown up overlooking the Nile. They lived there for four years with Mohamed’s then-teenage daughter and Kathy gave birth to another daughter, Dina. The young family later moved to the popular Washington, D.C., suburb of Fairfax, Virginia, where they lived for 26 years until Newport called them back.

“[I] always wanted to move back to Newport, mainly because I have an older brother, Jimmy, with special needs and our other brother, Tommy, has always taken care of him,” explains Kathy. “So [I] really felt the need to ‘do my part’ and help with Jim’s care.”

After a casual five-year search, the couple found the perfect home in neighboring Middletown. “The minute we walked into this house, we knew it was everything we had ever dreamed of having in a home. The entire three-bedroom, three-bath home is very beautiful, but the light yellow kitchen with built-ins, white marble countertops, custom coastal drawer/cabinet pulls and blue pendant lights and the adjoining Mediterranean blue family room with a wall of windows overlooking the garden and backyard are what took my breath away and really sold us on the property,” says Kathy. Its locale, in what she describes as a “storybook” neighborhood with lush landscaping and colorful homes, sealed the deal and she and Mohamed settled in about a year and a half ago.

The couple did find some initial design challenges, given that they had acquired many furnishings with a colonial feel over the years in Virginia. Here in the Ocean State, they sought to embrace Aquidneck Island’s palpable coastal vibe. Kathy purchased accessories from Design Digs on Spring Street in Newport, where owner and interior designer Jocelyn Chiappone offered her helpful tips on, for example, how to use fabric colors on pillows and tablecloths and add accessories like lamps, candles and picture frames to marry their old pieces and their new treasures seamlessly. “And our daughter, Dina, styled her apartment in downtown Newport recently and she just has such a fabulous sense of style, so her input and help was greatly appreciated,” says Kathy. “We definitely didn’t want a starfish and anchor on every wall, but we do have a lovely sea glass collection and the occasional shell that, along with the lovely light yellows and dreamy blues, whisper a welcoming beachy coastal feel.”

Most days, Mohamed relaxes on the patio with their pups, Harley and Lily, reads a book, watches the birds and takes in all the natural beauty that surrounds them. “After work, you will find me in my ‘she-shed’ – the shed that we turned into my art studio,” says Kathy.

“We miss our family and friends in Fairfax, but we truly love living in Rhode Island again,” Kathy says. “It’s where our love story began in 1984 and it’s where I was born and raised, and where our daughter and my brothers live and where so many of my wonderful friends reside, and so there is a real connection there for both of us. We are very blessed and hope to live out the rest of our lives here on Aquidneck Island, volunteering and giving back to this beautiful island and its people.”