Life/Style

Chez Magnifique

An American in Paris fell in love in the city of light, and started a new life back home in Rhode Island

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Most travelers would agree that France has a certain je ne sais quoi, so you couldn’t blame Lisa Le Campion when she was a young University of Rhode Island student for eagerly anticipating her study abroad year in a country long associated with passion and romance. Daydreams of falling in love overseas are common before such endeavors, but most often just that – daydreams. But not for Lisa.

“[I] met my future husband the first weekend I was there, in September,” she says. “We became engaged that April, and were married the following year in July, 1986.” While there, she also fell in love with France itself. “I have found the country of France to be so beautiful,” describes Lisa, so it’s no surprise that when she and husband Alain looked to remodel their family home in Coventry, they sought to have the renovation celebrate their blended cultures.

The road to their pre-renovated home wasn’t exactly simple either. They were looking for an open floor plan as the couple loves to entertain, but such layouts were not as de rigueur 15 years ago as they are today. The couple looked at many houses and despite the ripe real estate market, couldn’t find a home that was just right. In lieu of compromising, they decided to start from scratch and build a home to suit their needs. “[We] decided to work with an architect to help us achieve our ultimate floor plan that would allow for entertaining so we could always enjoy our company and not be in separate rooms during dinner parties,” explains Lisa.

This time around, the couple wanted to make an impressive and beloved fireplace the focal point. “Our challenge was trying to find a skilled, affordable carpenter who could install our very large molding and stone European fireplace,” says Lisa. The couple called countless carpenters and found one extraordinary team who was up to the yeoman’s task. Ironically, it took Red, White & Blue Carpentry of Lincoln (and Red House Custom Building of Barrington) to manage the European piece, but international harmony is what this family is all about.

Though the fireplace vignette is remarkable, Lisa and Alaine aren’t all about fancy, coveted pieces or a museum-like home. Comfortable and inviting but unique has long been the Le Campion’s preferred style aesthetic. Proof: Lisa’s guilty pleasure is turning trash into treasure. “I wanted to include my finds from local thrift shops, antique stores and yard sales into my home,” she reveals. For example, Lisa has been collecting antique kitchen utensils for years from resale shops and tag sales.

In the new space, she’s finally been able to create a distinctive but functional piece of art by mounting the pieces to a corkboard surrounded by an eye-catching antique frame. “But what I love most about it is that it’s not just a display. I actually use most of the pieces on it for most dinner parties, then wash them and put them back on the board,” she says proudly. In fact, the juxtaposition of economical meets exquisite may not be more evident than the “wine table” she crafted which featured an old vase from a garage that she scored for a bargain price of $1.50. “I put it between two comfortable, oversized chairs in our living room that overlook our favorite painting from Provence, France.”

It must be hard to choose a favorite, as the couple shares an affinity for not only striking art, but pieces that have a good story behind them. “We have combined art from local artists in Rhode Island, like a custom stained-glass window from an artist we had the pleasure of meeting at the Scituate Art Festival, and art from both unknown and renowned French artists to reflect our love of both French and Rhode Island cultures,” tells Lisa. The couple sources from many sites while in France, including outdoor markets, art galleries and quintessential quaint villages. “We normally go back about once a year or so, to visit my husband’s family and to share and relish this wonderful culture with our children, Michaela and Andrew. We want them to spend as much time as possible with their French cousins and to embrace the French culture… cooking, museums, the language, Paris and mostly importantly family.”

This time of year, the family takes advantage of their bucolic surroundings by spending time on the dual-level deck when possible and soaking up every last minute before winter’s return. Designed and built by Kent County Seamless Gutter in West Warwick, the family considers the space an extension of the main home. “Our lower deck receives a lot of morning sun. [It’s] where we enjoy reading and having breakfast. In the early evening, it’s a wonderful place for a pre-dinner cocktail and conversation,” says Lisa. The upper deck, which boasts a covered gazebo, has a whimsical vibe all its own as illustrated by the antique crystal chandelier overhead. “We thoroughly enjoy having nightly dinners on our upper deck, while we turn on our antique chandelier (from Estate Services in West Warwick). The warm glow of the fixture and the spoils of farm to table foods often result in dinners with friends that continue late into the evening.

“The advice that I would give to any homeowner who is remodeling their home is to make it ‘yours,’” advises Lisa. “Show your heritage, your loves and your interests. To me, this is what is most important. It makes it a comfortable place for you and your family, and at the same time… a conversation piece to reflect your family’s interests and heritage.”