Homeowners Ayrine and Jérémy have a very personal approach to home styling. The exotic and unique ornaments and furnishings which adorn the living spaces of their home in Brunei have been handpicked from Vietnam, Bangkok, Cambodia, China and Myanmar. Jérémy explained, “No human being is perfect. Life is not perfect. And in a way, the pieces that we’ve chosen for our home highlight the beauty of imperfection, of fluidity and movement – they are perhaps symbolic of the human struggle to become more enlightened.” When we took a closer look at some of the figurines in their home we could see that there were no perfect lines, features or angles – every piece had a character of its own, making it truly one of a kind.
Ayrine explained that when she arrived in Brunei with Jérémy and their young son in August 2014, one of her main priorities was to create a comfortable home for her family. She explained, “Before moving here we’d lived in Paris, Cambodia and Bangkok. And I’ve always believed that our home should be a bright place filled with light; but more importantly, it should reflect both beauty and harmony. For us it is also very important that our furniture is functional. We take our furniture with us from country to country, we don’t leave it in storage because we believe that it should be used and enjoyed as a part of our everyday life.” There were many captivating pieces in the living and dining areas of this home but Ayrine revealed that her favourite was the Buddha that they’d bought in the Chatuchak Market in Bangkok. She also mentioned that both she and Jérémy have a preference for organic material, hence the reason for the exquisite wooden cabinets and beautifully carved wooden tables.
Currently, Jérémy is Associate Professor and Ayrine is a Visiting Academic at UBD. When we asked them to tell us more about their backgrounds, we discovered that their experiences were just as fascinating as some of the pieces in their home. Ayrine was born in Cambodia, but grew up in France. However, during her childhood she and her family spent about six years living in West Africa where her father worked as an Architect /Urbanist. Later on, she returned to France where she completed her Masters in Human Resources at the University of Paris 7. In 1997 she decided to return to Cambodia as part of the United Nations “Capacity Building Program” because she believed that this was the best way to help the people of her country. From 1995 to 2005 she was involved in doing humanitarian work with many well-known NGOs. Ayrine said, “In spite of their poverty and suffering, I admire the courage, dignity and generosity of the Cambodian people. They give but never expect anything in return.” She later on held the post of Director of Operations at the Academic and Educational Centre for Khmer Studies and was in charge of promoting Cambodian studies.
In 2007 she met her husband Jérémy who grew up in Lyon and also got his PhD in Anthropology in Paris. Jérémy explained that he was inspired by French cultural anthropologist Georges Condominas who is “best known for his studies of the ethnic minority people of Mnong in Vietnam’s Central Highlands.” He added, “He was my mentor – and the person who had a significant influence on my career.” As an anthropologist one of the highlights of Jérémy’s career was being able to assist with the setting up of displays at the world-renowned Quai Branly Museum in Paris. This museum “houses 300,000 works of art from Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas” and it was here that he learnt about “the art of display” – as he was able to work with curators to create the scenography for some of the most stunning displays. In fact, it was the knowledge gained from this experience which he used when deciding how to best display the ornaments and pieces in their home – that’s why many of the wall pieces are not fixed to the wall but appear to be “floating”. He also believes in using space effectively to promote the flow of positive energy throughout the home, therefore the furniture is often rearranged to create completely new settings.
Ayrine and Jérémy are both witty and knowledgeable. We were completely enthralled by the stories of their travels and life experiences. It was indeed an absolute pleasure to have met them. Together, this couple have created a wonderful home for their family – one that is welcoming and expresses their individuality and beliefs. They both agreed that because of their many life experiences they have become more open-minded and less judgemental – they are able to face the “otherness” in different cultures with “new eyes” – they see what lies before them and are willing to embrace the imperfections. Because of this, no matter where they are or what they’re doing, they always manage to achieve a real sense of joy, inspiration, fulfilment and contentment.