Whether in fashion, food or design and architecture, the French aesthetic has found favour with many a discerning luxury tastemaker. Even more so when it comes to interiors, where the effortless style of melding classic with contemporary, old with new is well loved. “French savoir faire is the instinctive knowledge of subtlety, elegance and harmony,” says French-born, Singapore-based interior designer, Isabelle Miaja.
The managing director of Miaja Design Group shows us how it is done at the Art de Vivre a la Francaise showcase, organised by Business France, the French Trade Commission for International Business Development, from March 8 to 10. About 20 French luxury brands, from furniture and lighting, to tableware labels and designers, including Christofle, Charles Paris, Cristallerie de Montbronn, Isidore Leroy and Longwy, will take up home at the historic Inverturret House, a black-and-white colonial house in Gallop Road—the former residence of French ambassadors from 1939 to 1999. Many of these brands are debuting in Singapore for the first time.
“We are using an ‘art meets design’ approach to show these art pieces in the best possible light through ‘vignettes’ setting them in an everyday life stage as well as showcasing each of them alone, to enhance their own unique world of creativity and individuality,” explains Miaja, who has been based in Singapore for more than 20 years, and known to add local touches to her designs, with Sofitel So Singapore for example.
“We hope that the sets will inspire guests. The intent is to put in a ‘mise en scene’ of today’s creativity, artistry and savoir faire. Inverturret House will be the jewel box that will hold each unique luxury brand, like so many pearls in a beautiful oyster!” enthuses Miaja. She tells us more.
How can one incorporate French savoir faire at home?
Work first on the base design—it should be strongly defined yet not ostentatious. Floors, walls and ceilings should act as the subtle setting onto which we add the details and colours. Tell a story and stick to it, and then take risks, adding design touches that will surprise and unnerve—a painting, a sculpture, a unique piece that adds that moment of lightness and/or drama.
How about the balance between the different periods and styles?
Balance is good in principal but I prefer to stretch the mind and juxtapose emotions. I try to create a sense of surprise and shake expectations. Design is like art, in my opinion, and it should provoke thought and inspire the mind, so the result is enriching and generous.
What are some of your favourite French brands?
Christofle, Pierre Frey, Pouenat and Sébastien Barrau—brands we are showcasing at Art de Vivre Singapore 2017. What I see as an aesthete is the amazing and powerful workmanship, and the design minds that make each brand unique. I am constantly humbled by the work that goes into each piece, and the thought process behind them.
Where do you get your local inspirations from and how do they fuse seamlessly with the French aesthetic?
My inspiration comes from the changes that occurred during my two decades in Singapore—its symbols, its architectural daring approach, the four different cultures finding their way together as one, and a common denomination with France, which was the early 19th century. Shapes like the hexagon, which in Singapore signifies luck and is reflected in its coin, and France with its natural geographical shape. These remind us that both countries are made of constant renewal.
What is your ultimate design project?
My ultimate dream is to create, design and build my own resort—a project that I believe will come to me and happen eventually. In my life, it has always started with a dream.