By: Katie Roberts; Photography by Michael Bernabe
Parisian-born Maureen Courcenet radiates French poise and grace. In the Farrer Road home of four-and-a-half years that she shares with her husband and four pets, her love of art and antique furniture which has had free rein. While showing us around, she talked about living in Singapore and setting up her own business.
What else but macarons should accompany afternoon tea with a Parisian? While they’re classically French, the setting in the living room of the Farrer Road condo apartment is anything but. For one thing, the sheer scale and diversity of the eclectic range of art and antiques is overwhelming. Luckily, the knowledgeable Maureen is able to explain the provenance of each and every piece, whether it’s from Asia, Europe or Africa.
Her education and career have provided opportunities for her to live in cities across the globe, and she says, “We’ve felt at home everywhere we’ve lived, so long as discovery is on the cards.” Five years ago, spurred on by a one-year stint in blue-skied Sydney, the couple made a decision to trade London’s dreary weather for good and set themselves up in Asia.
“After Australia, we kept travelling back to holiday in Asia, because we enjoy it so much. Our decision to move was also helped by the fact that at the time, both our companies were operating out of Singapore. Here was an opportunityfor another adventure,” she says.
“Our estate agent found us this ‘old’ low-rise condo; it was built almost 30 year ago, and has plenty of outdoor space for our golden retriever. The green views and arched windows with full privacy made the decision very easy, not to mention the proximity to the Botanic Gardens.”
The move to Singapore encouraged Maureen to branch out on her own, after a decade working in brand marketing. With her background in project management and her love for arts and antiques, interior design seemed a natural progression.
“I wanted to focus on my two passions: art history and interior decorating. The two go together – you can’t style a place without both,” she says. Her business, Signé Design, translates to “signed by” in French; “The idea being that a design project is not about putting my own stamp on things; it’s a co-creation between my client and me,” she says.
Early on, Maureen joined and found kindred spirits at the Friends of the Museum, where she reveals she is “really invested”. She works as a volunteer docent, mostly at the Asian Civilisation Museum where she covers antique artefacts and art; she’s also training to be a guide at the Singapore Art Museum where the focus is contemporary Asian art. Maureen’s passion for study and training is no surprise in view of how clearly she revels in the provenance of the collection she has personally amassed.
At home, Maureen’s apartment is an experimental lab where she tests and stretches different design style while retaining a strong focus on Asia. “Every space is a play in vignettes that tell a story,” she says. “The theme throughout is mostly about a mix of old and new, antique and contemporary, artisanal and industrial.”
“I’m a great believer in serendipity. I don’t necessarily go on a mission to find a specific new piece. But every time my husband Guillaume and I do stumble across something special, I have fun trying to make these vignettes come to life together.”
Interior design is partly about being fearless. Maureen says it’s about buying what you like, not what will fit best. “If you love something but have no clue where it will go in your home, just get it. It’s a part of your interests and passions and will therefore fit in – you just don’t know it yet. That’s how you create an individual ‘layered’ look that doesn’t feel forced or look as though it’s come straight out of a showroom.”
Maureen’s tips for living with antiques
An antique chooses you, not the other way around. If a good piece calls to me, especially after a few months of resisting, I consider it’s meant to be, and give in!
An antique has to be earned. I’m not talking dollars. Know your antique; dig out information about its provenance, history and materials – this adds layers of interest to the purchase and to the story of your piece.
Don’t be an antique snob. Replicas can look great look and are kinder on the budget; just make sure the patina and craft have been well done.
An antique gives soul to a room and home. I always ferret out one piece that brings gravitas to a whole design scheme.
Meld old with new. Your antique will shine all the more when presented with a contemporary artwork or piece of modern furniture, and the effect will give your home its inimitable “so very you” look.
Make it a love that lasts. Stop to enjoy your collection – look at the pieces with a new eye, move them around to create different moods, have fun with mixing them.
Art Commune (for Singaporean art)
231 Bain Street, #02-43 Bras Basah Complex
Artful House (for Indian furniture with soul)
315 Outram Road, #08-04 Tan Boon Liat Building
Benaka Art Conservation (for artwork restoration and specialist framing)
64 Taman Warna
Galerie Bartoux (for international pop and contemporary art)
2 Orchard Turn, #01-12A/13 ION Orchard
Li Bai Art (for one of a kind and well-crafted Chinese furniture)
20 Bukit Batok Crescent, #07-08 Enterprise Centre
Maywell Lifestyles (for Burmese furniture with a modern edge)
13 Dempsey Road
Signé Design (for interior design services)
Straits Antiques (for tribal art)
19 Tanglin Road
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