SINGAPORE – Dictionaries define the French phrase “je ne sais quoi” as an attractive quality that cannot be adequately described or expressed.
Well, Aude Giraud’s house, an airy, high-ceilinged, three-bedroom conservation terrace house on the east coast, certainly exudes it in spades.
She moved into the 100m² rented space a year ago and shares it with her husband and their baby.
“People say it’s an unusual house for Singapore – retro and charming,” says the Franco-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 in the heritage area of Katong-Joo Chiat, where it feels like time has stood still. The layout is just like it was in the 1930s. I discovered that the sea was just at the end of the street, before the land was reclaimed.
“The leatherback turtles were laying their eggs in the crawl space under the house. The mix of traditional cafes and western restaurants in the neighborhood is amazing.”
Giraud is also Flanery, the singer-songwriter whose debut album Oh Boy is a folkloric exploration of life, love, grief and healing.
Her stage name is inspired by the French word “flanerie”, an aimless state that leads to wandering. Although she was classically trained in the viola, the guitar is now her instrument of choice.
The short walk up the graceful Art Deco-style staircase to her home is a visual treat, evoking period details including the plaster moldings that adorn the house’s facade, the richly patterned polychrome cement tiles under the unassuming wire mesh legs and grilles that evoke a bygone era.
An old brass fan and a tarnished candelabra, laid casually next to the front door, enhance the weathered charm of the place. A large potted palm tree and handmade wreaths introduce a touch of tropical greenery.
“My tastes in interior design have been shaped by my travels,” says the 36-year-old, who grew up in Paris and enjoyed an eclectic childhood exposed to many different cultures, often traveling to visit her father, who lived in Singapore, and her grandmother, who lived in Indonesia.
“I also love all things vintage; things that have a story. So the overall scheme of my house is French and vintage, in a blush and earthy color palette.”
His career path is just as varied. After obtaining her master’s degree in communication in Paris, she worked as a television journalist before moving to Singapore seven years ago as a writer-photographer.
She lived in a conservation apartment in Tiong Bahru, visiting the wet market there twice a week to buy fresh flowers for DIY arrangements. Then, orders from friends started pouring in, which led her to start her florist business.