Two of New York’s most sought-after florists offer theirsimple, natural inspiration for the festive season
There was a time when elegant hotel lobbies and town-house drawing rooms were filled with massive, sculptural floral arrangements that were as rigid as they were overbearing. Now, however, you’re more likely to find rustic blooms placed in a vintage vase with a pastoral simplicity, as if they had been gathered during a mushroom-foraging expedition in the woods. And of course, in our farm-to-table, authenticity-obsessed world, that might well be the case.
This spontaneous, natural style is currently a huge inspiration for designers, decorators and florists, who rummage through country flea markets for heirlooms and harvest wild greens, wood and rocks to create earthy atmospheres. “I believe this year is about comfort,” explains florist David Beahm, who designed arrangements for the wedding of Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas, among others. “I think it’s all about texture—wood, wool, repurposed items. Designs have to be understated. If you think back to your childhood, the flowers were very stiff. Now flowers need to dance; they need to be thrown in a vase to go wild. It’s about letting the soul be free. I think the secret is to gather a bunch of one type of thing and put it in a vase and not try to ‘design.' ”
Florist Michael George, whose clients include Tom Ford and Calvin Klein, believes that this trend toward natural simplicity has to do with the current political and economic situation. “Our lives are simplified not necessarily by choice but by the current situation,” he says, “so everyone is going to take it back a couple of notches. I tell people to go to the woods, catch stuff, put it together yourself.” George recommends consulting guides such as his own book, Simply Elegant Flowers With Michael George, to learn the basic rules of flower arranging. He offers an uncomplicated yet imaginative idea for a long-lasting composition: “Take holly, give it a dome shape, insert a red carnation and that’s it. Put it in either a tacky Christmas bowl or a crystal bowl. Seasonal foliage provides the fragrance of the season—you don’t have to spray!” Other options for red blooms are red lilies, amaryllis and chrysanthemums, which can be accentuated with white flowers and cedar, birch or pine greens. Those in search of rare, luxurious blooms will opt for garden roses, miniature calla lilies or deep burgundy peonies.
For non-traditional arrangements, Beahm suggests playing with colors and compositions. “Take an heirloom item in your home, and put some pine on it,” he says. “Instead of red and green, use other colors like purple—it’s a royal color but a comfortable color, too. Birch bark and purple are particularly beautiful together. Or why not go to the farmers’ market, get some fruit and put it in a beautiful wood bowl with some tulips?” Beahm uses white narcissi, tulips, cyclamens and dark red amaryllis as different variations on the holiday theme. Simple and natural doesn’t have to mean timid, according to Beahm. “Homeowners should not be afraid to be theatrical,” he says. “Create a setting in your home. Even if it’s as simple as running out to the store and putting cookie dough in the oven to create a lovely aroma as your guests walk in. Or bake an apple pie and play A Jolly Christmas From Frank Sinatra.”
Arts and lifestyle writer SHIRINE SAAD has contributed to The New York Times, MTV, Nowness and Surface, among others. She has just written Boho Beirut: A Guide to the Middle East’s Most Sophisticated City.