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Subject: Paul Leonard, Who Decorated Famed Interiors

Connecticut, October 15
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Date Posted: November 03, 2002 2:38:51 EDT

Paul Leonard, an interior decorator and decorative painter whose graphically patterned, subtly tinted floors were trod on by jet-set aesthetes from Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis to Ralph Lauren, died on Oct. 15 in New Milford, Conn. He was 70.

The cause was renal cancer, his wife, Valerie Leonard, said.

Paul Arthur Leonard was born in Salem, Mass. After serving in the Army in the Korean War, he graduated from the Goodman School of Drama and attended the Yale University School of Drama. He then painted stage sets for Franco Zeffirelli and others.

It was not until 1961 that Mr. Leonard discovered his true mtier, interior decoration, and found a patron: Rachel Mellon, the reclusive second wife of the philanthropist Paul Mellon. He worked on several renowned houses for her, including a farm in Upperville, Va.; a house in Oyster Harbors, Mass.; and a villa on the island of Antigua.

Mr. Leonard and his business partner at the time, William Strom, were among the artisans who worked with Mrs. Mellon to create deceptively low-key, extravagantly detailed environments. Among the others were the jeweler Jean Schlumberger, who created a lead urn for the roof of Mrs. Mellon's greenhouse, and the couturier Hubert de Givenchy, who designed different maids' uniforms for each day of the week.

The partners' first commission for Mrs. Mellon was a supper dance celebrating the debut of her daughter from her first marriage, Eliza Winn Lloyd, in June 1961. The centerpiece of the event, which 800 people attended and which was reported to have cost $1 million, was a French country village of painted plywood. There was also a little cobblestone cafe where guests were served early-morning omelets.

Four years later, Strom/Leonard was engaged to supervise the installation of furnishings and to paint walls and floors at the Mellons' newly built town house on East 70th Street in Manhattan. Mr. Leonard opened a design business in 1975 in Litchfield County, Conn. Mr. Strom is now a Hollywood production designer.

In addition to his wife, a toy designer, Mr. Leonard is survived by a daughter, Samantha.

Mr. Leonard's innovations influenced average Americans, too. In 1961 and 1962, thanks to Mrs. Mellon's influence on Jacqueline Kennedy's taste, he created Christmas trees for the White House.

He later assisted Billy Baldwin in decorating the Onassis house on the island of Skorpios and his yacht.

Mr. Leonard was proud of the 15-foot-by-16-foot octagonal dining pavilion he created at the Mellons' Virginia residence for a 1985 luncheon for the Prince and Princess of Wales.

It was built, he explained, because the dining room "wasn't quite big enough."

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