ANNE-KRISTIN VAUDOUR and her husband Arnaud love heritage homes; they previously lived in shophouses before moving into this historic black-and-white house in Singapore. The bonus is that it’s set in the grounds of the Grand Duchess condo, so they get all the facilities and community – but still the grand space!
ABOUT THE GRAND DUCHESS
Size: 6,000 square feet
Location: Within the Grand Duchess condo complex on the East Coast
Who lives here? AnneKristin and Arnaud, daughters Lou (18) and Salome (15), sons Sacha (10) and Elias (5), helper Meliza and dog Zola (Lou, Salome and Sacha live in France with their mother but spend time here during vacations)
Where are you from and how did you end up in Singapore?
My husband is from France and I’m from Germany. We met in Singapore eight years ago – I had come to Asia as a young student in the mid-90s, studying journalism in Shanghai and later working there in advertising. In 2000, I moved to Hong Kong, where I worked in arts and cultural management and later in luxury retail. In 2012, I asked my employer if I could transfer to Singapore to open our operations here.
Two years later, I met my husband – he works in the video games industry. His job took us back to Hong Kong in 2017. That was the time when I decided to realise my dream of becoming an artist – and it’s been an amazing journey so far. Our stay in HK was always meant to be temporary, and we finally moved back to Singapore two years ago. That’s when we settled in this house.
What kind of place were you looking for?
Before moving to the Grand Duchess, we lived in two different shophouses in Joo Chiat. We absolutely adore living in heritage houses – they have all those ornaments, decorations and little details that the Bauhaus art movement deemed unnecessary. But they were built for a more individualised lifestyle and we appreciate that very much. Further, we needed space for four kids, so we were looking for a five-bedroom house.
Last but not least, we’ve always enjoyed living on the East Coast and close to Joo Chiat. It’s such a unique neighbourhood with its many local fusion restaurants and specialty stores, and the vicinity to East Coast Park.
The Grand Duchess offers everything we were looking for and more. It’s very unusual for a heritage building to be found inside a condo complex. But this gives us the bonus of having access to a big pool and other facilities. We enjoy mingling with the condo community and our son has many friends here.
Were you looking for a black-and-white specifically? How did it happen that you chose one?
Initially, we were looking for a shophouse again. But two years ago, due to COVID and the fact that more people were working from home, there weren’t many available that matched our need for five bedrooms. Luckily, we came across the Grand Duchess on PropertyGuru and, after our first visit, we knew it was for us.
It’s such a unique property in Singapore. We adore the colonial-style façade, the shaded and spacious verandah, the tall ceilings and the arched windows. I don’t know how many of those types of houses are actually available as residential homes in Singapore. There’s also ample space to entertain guests and host our family whenever they come to visit us. The house ticked off everything on our list, it had been newly renovated and we were ready to move in.
Tell us more about this black-and-white house.
The house was built in 1925 by Tan Soon Guan, a descendant of the renowned Peranakan merchant Tan Kim Seng. Since the 19th century, the Tans have been influential businesspeople and a philanthropic family in Singapore. Two Victorian-style heritage houses were built here (the other in 1914) and are the foundation of the new Grand Duchess condo, completed in 2010. The bungalows have been restored by ADDP Architects with great attention to detail. They feature PeranakanArabesque glass windows, cast-iron railings and vintage brass doorknobs – they even re-used the old lamps and lanterns.
The larger of the two bungalows (the one built in 1914) now serves as the condominium’s clubhouse. Few luxury residential developments in Singapore enjoy the privilege of having their own architectural heirloom, much less two. As a huge fan of heritage buildings, I’m happy about this great opportunity to live in such a rare gem.
How would you define your home décor style?
Our style reflects our wanderlust and eclectic personalities. We’ve been living in different countries in Asia and Europe and each of them has filled us with new impressions and taught us a different lifestyle. We wanted to see that reflected in our abode, and we wanted a congenial space where my modern artworks, period antiques, and ethnic and contemporary furniture could be arranged together. You could define it as mainly a tropical Indochine style.
We have furniture from Bali, combined with locally sourced rattan furniture, some more contemporary accent pieces and baroque elements. While we have some brighter accents in the accessories, our main colour scheme is black and white – it’s an elegant contrast and reflects the heritage history of the building.
What’s your favourite part of the house and why?
My studio – I spend most of my time here. It’s such a bright space and I love the tall arched windows all around that open to the tiled roof with its little round turret in the middle. They give me a feeling of time travelling every day and spark my imagination.
Where did you source your furniture and décor?
When we moved in, I consulted with my friend and interior designer Alessandra Giardina about how to furnish and decorate the house. Alessandra has a lot of experience with colonial-style buildings in Asia and gave us many excellent ideas.
I especially liked her sustainable approach. Instead of letting us buy all new furniture, she encouraged us to up-cycle some of our old pieces. Our sofas, for example, were in a bad shape after three moves and months in storage, and we intended to dispose of them. But she advised us to call an upholsterer and we’re super happy with the result. She also found solutions around incorporating our existing furniture into the new concept.
As this house is much bigger than our Hong Kong home, we also had to get new pieces, which she helped us to source locally – mainly from Bungalow55, Crate & Barrel, Rooma and Snow Globe. Our plants are from The Nursery; they come to your home to consult you on which plants to place where. The carpets are from Nasser Nishaburi in the Tan Boon Liat Building; he has an amazing selection of carpets and is 100 percent focused on his customer’s needs. He went out of his way to make us happy – I would always go back there if I needed a carpet. J&C upholsterers did some magic when it came to giving a second life to our sofas. They also produced two matching ottomans for us and customised most of our pillows. Our accessories are mainly brought back from travels – mostly from China, Bali, India and Italy – and some are from Raffles Boutique inside Raffles Hotel.
The art pieces come from various places. I follow a lot of interesting and talented artists on Instagram and Facebook. Many of them have become friends and I like to purchase from them – it’s more direct and I can support my fellow artists. I also find some unique and low-budget art on antique markets, especially in Paris and Rome but also Hong Kong and India. Our main piece is by Indonesian artist Deddy Paw. I spotted it at Art Seasons, my favourite gallery in Singapore; they showcase pop surrealist art by Asian artists, a genre which is rarely a focus for galleries here. Other purchases have been made at the Affordable Art Fair.
Naturally, a lot of wall space is allocated to my own artwork. For example, along the staircase, I’ve displayed my iconic Imperial Eyewear collection, and the TV room is decorated with my Humanoids. Samples of my artwork can be found in every corner of the house.
What are your favourite pieces of furniture?
I’m quite fond of the baroque sofa in the music room. It was left behind by the previous tenant in our first shophouse and had seen better days, but somehow we liked it and moved it around with us, despite the massive weight and bulky shape. I’m glad Alessandra had the idea to call an upholsterer! They did an amazing job to restore it to its original glamour.
My husband is in love with our blue and white cabinet, which is an artwork by Steve Lawler, aka Mojoko. He printed his whimsical, locally inspired pop art on an antique Chinese wooden cabinet.
What do you love about Singapore?
It’s beautiful, clean and safe, and everything is convenient. We love the tropical flair, and the eternal summer works for us very well. There’s so much greenery and we indulge in trying out the many feel-good hangout places. You can find loads of great restaurants and coffee shops all over the island, and enjoy everything from a jungle setting to a first-class design bar, an artsy environment, a traditional Chinese restaurant or an outlook over the sea while having drinks or a good meal.
Singapore has first-class medical practitioners and an amazing airport, and you can find nearly everything you could possibly need or desire. It’s the home of many cultures, which makes it very interesting in terms of food, architecture, shopping and making friends; and the multicultural aspect is a great benefit for the education of our son Elias. We also can’t wait for the world to open up again soon so we can explore more of Southeast Asia.
Anne-Kristin and Arnaud tell us 12 things they like to do in Singapore in their spare time:
#1 Explore our neighbourhood, Joo Chiat
#2 Read a book in the Raffles Hotel courtyard
#3 Take an Art Walk at Gillman Barracks
#4 Have tea at Halia in the Botanic Gardens
#5 Treasure hunt at Junkie’s Corner
#6 Watch the sunset at Aloha beach bar
#7 Go for brunch at Dempsey
#8 Eat a Turkish dinner at Arab Street
#9 Walk at MacRitchie Reservoir
#10 Head to Bras Basah to find rare books, especially at Basheer Bookstore
#11 Shop for pottery at Thow Kwang Pottery Jungle
#12 Visit the Asian Civilisations Museum
This article first appeared in the May 2022 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe, so you never miss a copy!