Blog post courtesy of Christie’s International Real Estate Luxury Defined Blog
From posies and bouquets to cascades, top floral designers share how you can elevate your at-home flower arranging or work with a professional to create bespoke blooms
Flowers are the ultimate home accessory, bringing all the beauty of nature directly into your living space. But the ability to elevate a simple bunch and combine blooms in unexpected ways is an art in itself. So, what’s the secret formula for great flower arranging? To find out, we tapped the expertise of five-star floral designers—their insight on everything from commissioning bespoke blooms to arranging wildflowers at home is sure to hone any budding talent.
Shane Connolly: “Let nature be your guide”
Having designed the flowers for the weddings of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles, and Prince William and Kate Middleton, London-based Shane Connolly’s diary is filled with bookings from celebrities across the world.
But, Connolly says, “the most important consideration for me is not the budget but being able to produce my best work for each person, and that largely comes down to having a shared ethos—in my case, a respect for nature. I’ve always worked with seasonal, local plants; when I choose flowers, I want them to look and feel like the gifts from nature that they are. I want them to communicate their dignity, unique beauty, and personality.”
When it comes to flower arranging, his advice is to embrace all elements of nature. “Look beyond flowers. The fall is bountiful—look for lichen-covered branches, for rose hips, for ferns. Don’t feel as though you have to bring summer into your house in the middle of winter. Let nature guide you. As the seasons change, you’ll find russets and mellow golds and softer greens. To me, they are so much more beautiful than the imported blooms you’ll find in a grocery store.”
He also advises considering the symbolism of the flowers you choose. The bouquet he made for Kate Middleton included myrtle, for a joyful marriage, and lily of the valley, which signifies the return of happiness.
If you’re commissioning a florist, he recommends working with someone directly rather than through an event planner, pointing out that the subtle nuances in tone of voice and body language that come across when working one-on-one can provide vital insights into which direction to follow.
Jenya Tsybulskyi: “Keep it simple, and seasonal”
New York-based Jenya Tsybulskyi is known for his living works of art. His flower arranging style, he says, is a collaboration between him, the client, the space and, crucially, the seasons and what they make available. His corporate clients include Christian Louboutin, Ralph Lauren Home, and Condé Nast, while personal commissions have come from the actress Priyanka Chopra and singer Nick Jonas, who booked him for their wedding.
“Every arrangement is unique. My signature is to work with different colors, textures, shapes, forms, and patterns, which I keep as nature created. I don’t spray or enhance anything—you don’t need to. You can find the exact hues you are looking for in a forest, meadow, or garden.”
What advice does he have for those wishing to hire a florist for their event? “The first thing is do your research. Find someone whose values chime with yours. I like to work with seasonal and local foliage and flowers, so if your plan is to have, say, an English country garden theme in the middle of a New York winter, I may not be the ideal choice. And trust the person you’ve hired.”
And to those arranging their own flower display? “I’d recommend keeping things simple. Select one type of branch, one type of foliage, one type of flower, and go from there… Think of it as a whole, and consider where it needs height or a splash of color. If you like the result, add to it.”
Ariel Dearie: “Emphasize natural beauty”
“I grew up in New Orleans and when I moved to New York in my twenties, I really missed the vibrancy of my hometown, so I started working with flowers. I did a few weddings for friends and then for photo shoots, and then built up my client base from there,” says Ariel Dearie of her beginnings as a florist.
Today, she’s been named one of Harper’s Bazaar’s “Top Wedding Florists in The World” (she did the 2019 wedding of Marc Jacobs and Char Defrancesco) and counts Anna Sui, Michael Kors, and Vogue among her corporate clients. Her style, she says, is “airy and sculptural. Our designs strike the balance between feeling natural and organic, but also classic and elegant.”
Her advice for commissioning bespoke arrangements is to trust in your florist’s vision. “Our best work is done when our clients trust in our design and allow us to pick out the most exquisite blooms available at that particular time.
“When people approach me to style their homes and events, the first questions I ask are: ‘How do you want to feel when you walk into your home? How do you want your guests to feel? What memories do you wish to create?’ That gives me an understanding of what the person really wants and whether I am the right florist to make this a reality.”
When arranging your own flowers, she recommends “seeking out the most beautiful blooms possible, and then emphasizing the beauty of each—each stem, branch, and berry. Allow their shapes to guide you. Don’t try to manipulate your foliage and flowers into unnatural shapes or to make them into something they’re not.”
Sidra Forman: “Be a little fearless”
Another of Harper’s Bazaar’s best wedding florists in the world, Sidra Forman, who is based in Washington D.C., gave up law to open a restaurant. The floral arrangements she made for her restaurant attracted as much attention as her food, and commissions followed.
Her approach is “ingredient-based,” and she sources her flowers from a network of local growers, from her own extensive gardens, and from foraging. “The most important factors to consider in any display are the season, the space, the ambience or mood, the flowers themselves—they have to shine—and your personal style.”
Forman’s tips for arranging your own flower displays are to do some groundwork, to experiment, and to take risks. “Get a feel for what you like, not only in terms of type of flower and color but also for form. Do you like displays that cascade, or wind along, for example? Do you like height? Do you like abundance or minimalism?
“Once you’ve answered those questions, then you can find the plants that naturally trail, or tumble, or fill out. There are so many paths to a fabulous outcome so, if you have the time, practice, practice, practice—and be fearless. And of course, don’t lose sight of your venue and event. Your display has to be appropriate for both.”