Dictionaries define the French phrase “je ne sais quoi” as an appealing quality that cannot be adequately described or expressed. Well, Aude Giraud’s home, an airy, high-ceilinged, three-bedroom conservation terrace house in East Coast, certainly exudes it in spades.
She moved into the rented 100sqm space a year ago, and shares it with her husband and their baby. “People say it’s an unusual home for Singapore—retro and charming,” says the French-Javanese founder of Ask A French – Flowers, whose arrangements are inspired by classic 18th-century still lifes. “I fell in love with it because it’s within the Katong-Joo Chiat heritage area, where it’s like time has come to a standstill. The layout is exactly as it was in the 1930s. I found out that the sea used to be just at the end of the street, before the land was reclaimed. Leatherback turtles used to lay eggs in the crawl space under the house. The neighbourhood’s mix of traditional coffee shops and western eateries is amazing.”
Giraud is also Flanery, the singer-songwriter whose debut album Oh Boy is a folksy exploration of life, love, heartbreak and healing. Her stage name was inspired by the French word “flânerie”, an aimless state that leads to wanderings, and though she’s classically trained in the viola (and has been since her pre-teens), the guitar is now her instrument of choice.
The short walk up the graceful Art Deco-style staircase leading to her home is a visual treat, redolent with period details including the plaster mouldings that adorn the home’s façade, the richly patterned polychromatic cement tiles underfoot, and the unassuming wire mesh grilles that evoke a bygone era. An old brass fan and a tarnished candelabrum, placed casually next to the front door, enhance the patina charm of the place; a large potted palm and handmade wreaths introduce a touch of tropical greenery.
“My taste in home decor was shaped by my travels,” explains the 36-year-old, who grew up in Paris and enjoyed an eclectic childhood exposed to lots of different cultures, travelling often to visit her father, who lived in Singapore, and her grandma, who lived in Indonesia. “I also like all things vintage; things that carry a story. So the overall scheme for my home is French and vintage, [in a palette of] blush and earthy colours.”
Her career path is as varied. After obtaining her Masters in Communications in Paris, she worked as a TV journalist before moving to Singapore seven years ago as a writer-cum-photographer.
She used to live in a conservation flat in Tiong Bahru, visiting the wet market there twice weekly to buy fresh flowers for DIY arrangements. Then, orders from friends started pouring in, which led her to start her florist business.
“There’s one thing connecting all this: The art of storytelling,” she says. “As a folk musician, the whole spirit is very linked to nature; as a singer-songwriter and florist, music and flowers are everywhere as part of my daily life.”
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The first thing you notice, entering the living room, are two guitars leaning against a wall. A poster featuring a vibrantly coloured still-life floral painting from Amsterdam’s famed Rijksmuseum hangs above a teak-and-rattan daybed with blush pink upholstery from vintage furniture store Second Charm.
An antique teak cabinet, topped with, among other things, a portrait of Hindu monk and philosopher Swami Vivekananda (bought at a Jaipur flea market), apothecary-style glass vessels and small floral arrangements, looks soulfully evocative and is testament to Giraud’s pro-level home-styling abilities. Seemingly disparate decor pieces—a brass coffee table, a blush pink stool, a rattan armchair with mustard yellow cushions, a bookshelf filled haphazardly with tomes about lifestyle and flowers, a free-form white rug from Pile Poil—come together beautifully. Two wall-mounted wood-framed mirrors bring light into the intimate space, reflecting the languid movements of the whimsical hanging mobile comprising pastel arc shapes.
The dining room pulls double duty as her floral atelier and workspace. A profusion of preserved flowers, which she has dried herself, are artfully assembled alongside candles and framed pebble-shaped vase housing a single cotton bloom nestled amidst dried foliage. A blush Georges flower lamp from stylodeco.com bathes the space in a cosy, flattering glow.
In the baby’s room, wall-mounted bird cutouts soar above the white cot. A floor mirror with a blush pink wooden frame brings light into the nursing area, which is decorated with scatter cushions from Nobodinoz in the shape of guitars and clouds.
“To me, a beautiful home is a home where you feel at home. To have a stylish home, you need to fill it with things that remind you of a story or an experience, or things that inspire you,” she shares, adding that she loves Hock Siong for home decor items.
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Conservation houses tend to come with quirks and Giraud’s home is no exception. “While the house is elevated, the kitchen is outdoors on the ground level and very basic. We added a light blue Smeg fridge to enhance the retro style,” she says. A selection of cookbooks, a vintage teapot and mason jars perched casually atop the fridge turn it into an attractive focal point.
“The bathrooms, also on the ground level, are not very interesting-looking,” Giraud points out. “Plus, they’re open-air, beside the back patio, so we installed curtains from Good Earth India for a boho-chic solution and privacy. I don’t mind these quirks—the kitchen and bathrooms being outside; they match the beach house feel of the place.”
A bougainvillea arch in the far corner of the back patio draws the eye away from the bathrooms, while a layer of Astroturf conceals the roof awning sheltering the kitchen from the elements, which is visible from the dining room.
Unsurprisingly, Giraud’s bohemian French aesthetic extends to her wardrobe too. “I’d consider myself a minimalist,” she says. “I like discreet pieces in beautiful materials. I don’t have many luxury pieces, but I mix them with simple vintage pieces. I might wear a vintage dress with a Hermès scarf or belt and Vans sneakers. I collect Repetto shoes. The thing I wear all the time is a woven basket bag. My favourite brand of the moment is Meadows, which draws inspiration from prairie style and folklore. I also shop online at The Fifth Collection and local sustainable brand Esse.”
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Her favourite place to buy fresh flowers? Tiong Bahru Market and Hawker Centre, the very spot where her flair for creating striking floral arrangements blossomed.
This article was first published in the January 2022 issue of Harper’s BAZAAR Singapore.