A top interior designer deals with your most pressing decorating problems.
The Finder gets some insider-y tips from Maureen Courcenet of Signé Design — one of the savviest, style-iest interior designers we know in Singapore!
Plus, if you liked her Finder Blogger posts on how to buy art that matches your furniture or how to find the best artworks in the National Gallery, you’ll love what comes next.
Q: I shipped all of my furniture here from my home country. But they look shabby and old-fashioned (and not in a good way!) in my new modern condo. Do I have to get all new furniture? I’m on a budget!
A: If you’ve trundled them up all the way over here, they must mean a little something to you. Here are a few of my favourite ways to make you fall in love all over again with your old furniture:
1. Add some local spice:
Make little changes to your old furniture to refresh their look! Lacquer the top of an old chest in a crimson hue or add a streaked marble top to your console for an elegant smooth look.
Alternatively, embrace the old-time look! Artfully place old Peranakan tiles on top of an existing dresser for a vintage, yet edgy look. The contrast with your new modern condo will turn them into instant conversation starters.
2. Find them new friends:
Don’t hesitate to pair an old flame with your newest fling. Mixing things that you love — old and new, vintage and contemporary — is how you’ll create a layered signature look that’s “so very you” instead of feeling like coming straight out of a showroom.
Just make sure some details tie your new pieces together with your old ones — a motif, a texture, a color or a shape. Let your creative sparks fly!
3. Dress them up:
New cushions on your well-worn favourite sofa, a colourful table runner, a luxurious bed throw, new lampshades — all are easy, budget-friendly updates.
This also goes for art. Dramatise a classic painting with a modern, glossy white frame, or find creative ways to hang your photographs for a quirky, fresh look.
4. Embrace flower power:
Get fresh flowers from your local wet market. Then, try matching the blooms to the main painting in your living or to the cushions on your bed.
Even a simple bowl of pomegranates or mangosteen will bring a spark of light to an old dining table.
5. But know when to let go:
If the love spell is definitely over with these old-weary companions, be strong enough to let them go.
There are plenty of ways to resale furniture in Singapore with people always on the move. Knowing they will go to a new home will make the parting sweeter.
Q: What wall or decorating colours do you think work particularly well in Singapore? Why?
A: Every new place makes you see things in a different way. Find inspiration where you live, whether it’s a high-rise flat or a shophouse.
Dress up your walls if you like — go for wallpapers with textures and special effects. Think linens, velvets, wood paneling, marble, metallic sheens — what have you.
Unique special effects paints of Dulux Ambiance Marble Pebble and Metallic Silver Taupe at the Plain Vanilla Bakery, Tiong Bahru – Photo courtesy of Dulux
If the artist in you prefers to treat your walls as a blank canvas, paint them in one or more of the incredible array of colors and selection of detailed textured finishes from the Dulux Ambiance special effects paints.
Landing in Singapore, the elegant grey-white-navy-black veil of my Parisian upbringing was suddenly lifted by the radiant brightness of Asia’s hues. I began to play with contrast! To DIY: Display a red furniture piece against a turquoise wall. Paint a door orange and a feature wall pink.
Or, if you’re still a bit colour shy, just try it out on a guest bathroom and let the wow comments convince you painting up another wall might not be such a bad idea after all!
Q: How many pillows are too many pillows on the sofa or bed. My husband and I can’t agree!
A: The pillow conundrum is top of the list with my couple-clients.
If your other half is truly a no-pillow man, make sure you choose a sofa that’s comfortable already. With a comfy base taking care of your seat, simply accessorize with a few statement cushions.
The number will depend on the style you’re after — a stylish look with one on each end, an eclectic look with three quirky square cushions spread across your sofa and so on.
Do not match your pillows to your sofa! Make the most of the few you’ve got by choosing them in a colour, pattern or texture that will make them pop. Reference other items in the room: artwork, armchairs or wallpaper.
On the bed, keep it simple with four cushions: two large matching cushions at the back, two decorative smaller ones in front.
To fulfill your love of cozy plushness, have fun harmonizing said cushions with a lush plaid splayed on your sofa or a flamboyant bed runner or maybe even a teeny-tiny accent cushion. Now that isn’t cheating, is it?
Q: What are some of your favourite decor and art sources in Singapore?
A: Here are my personal picks for…
My go-to places are the Dempsey cluster and Tan Boon Liat building. From furniture to rugs to any kind of accessories, you’re sure to find that one thing you’re looking for at the numerous boutiques.
Special favourites are Maywell Lifestyles for Burmese items with a modern twist, Artful House for Indian furniture with a soul and unique vintage creations and EM Gallery for lush regional textiles. Also, visit a Black and White at China Collection, discover a world of style at Taylor B’s treasure-full multi-level caves and stroll around Just Anthony’s showrooms for Chinese furniture. End with a dash of quirkiness at Fred Lives Here!
When it comes to art, I always think of Picasso’s saying “Painting is just another way to keep a diary.” Collecting art is a way of remembering a shared journey, a home away from home during an expatriation, but it should also talk of where you’re from and who you are.
That’s why when arriving in a new place, I always head to the local museums and galleries! Start at the National Gallery Singapore or the Singapore Art Museum and finish at Art Commune for a top pick of Singapore‘s pioneer artists, or Gillman Barracks with its cackle of galleries to discover the regional contemporary art scene.
Finding out how artist-expatriates relate to Singapore is also a favourite past-time. Get lost in these colorful creations all inspired by our little Red Dot on the artists’ websites: Clare Haxby, Julie Williams, Sandra Macheroux, Diana Francis and Louise Hill.
If you haven’t had enough yet, be patient: The next biannual Affordable Art Fair is probably right around the corner – there you can shop to your art’s content on a budget!
Compiled by Sara Lyle Bow, The Finder, June 2016
images: Signé Design Interior Decorating