Welcome back to another edition of Meet the Creative! This time we’re thrilled to introduce you to the oh-so-talented, Larissa Schroeder. Larissa is our weekly Floral Design Manager who has been with us for eight, wonderful years. If you don’t recognize her face, you might recognize her work. Have you ever taken notice of those gorgeous arrangements in some of the city’s best hotels? Larissa designs those. What about in Chicago’s top restaurants? Yup, hers too. And that’s not all she has her hands in; Larissa’s wide range of clientele also include private homes, making her position all that more personal.
We sat down with Larissa in one of her rare free moments (a true feat as her role takes her out of the office nearly every day of the week) to chat about all things creative. We spoke about some of her most memorable HMR moments, how she spends her limited free time, and why this country girl may just find herself back on a farm one day. And for readers looking to learn any tricks of her trade, you’re in luck! She has pretty easy advice for keeping the Notorious Orchid – an undeserving title, she might add- alive and well (ahem, leave it alone!) Read on to hear more about our favorite ‘Flower Fairy’ as we bring you the person behind the blooms…
How did you end up at HMR?
I actually started out freelancing here for a while and along the way I met the fabulous Bill Heffernan (HMR’s Creative Director). He become somewhat of a mentor to me so when the opportunity arrived to move full-time I couldn’t say no.
What’s the first thing you do at the start of your day?
Take my dog, Max, out for walk. He’s a little chihuahua-terrier mix with a lot of energy. From there it’s coffee and a trip to the flower market.
As someone who works mostly outside the office, will you tell us a little bit about a typical days work as HMR’s Weekly Floral Designer?
I’m usually bouncing around between hotels, homes, restaurants, or retail stores setting up each of their floral arrangements. Orders may come in days ahead of time or even the morning of, so it can be pretty hectic. I usually kickoff the workday with a stop at the flower market to gather whatever I may need and from there it’s design, create, and deliver!
What kind of orders are your favorite to work on?
I love working in people’s homes, it’s really personal and intimate. You get to know the family, the pets – I’m there oftentimes twice a week, every week, every year. It’s a really special relationship.
Do you have a favorite motto?
Live, laugh, love.
Where do you derive your creative inspiration from?
100% nature. I grew up on a farm in the woods, so nature is my church. And I’m lucky that I get to head home quite often, I can soak it all up.
What’s the most memorable event you’ve contributed to during your time here?
The Millennium Park Grand Opening. It was such a huge deal, not just to us, but to the city of Chicago, too. Day after day we had to work through the night and in doing so we got to see the city go to sleep and wake up. Who gets to do that? And in Millennium Park? I think it really just set HMR apart, it was an important thing for Chicago. To this day, out of all the events I’ve worked on, that one stands out the most. It was truly surreal and I’m very proud of it. (The Millennium Park Grand Opening event began on July 16th, 2004 with a three-day celebration attended by some 300,000 people. On-site production for HMR took roughly a week prior to the festivities).
And the proudest moment of your career?
Spending two weeks in Ireland with Bill Heffernan and John Hensel (one of HMR’s Event Designers). We have a wonderful client who owns a private estate there and when he got married our design services were requested. Of course it was a work trip but we were invited to stay on this amazing property which allowed us to have an incredible experience in a beautiful country… I’ll never forget it.
What’s the biggest challenge you face as a Floral Designer?
Coming up with creative weekly hotel designs! It’s such a fun challenge but hotels, as we know, never close. They are open every day of the year, which means I have to come up with new and exciting designs every week, for fifty-two weeks a year. That’s difficult and at the same time, really fun. The creative freedom is unbeatable.
Favorite thing about HMR?
I love that every day is different. With so many orders from so many different places not once has a day ever felt repetitive. There’s always a push for more creativity, or new challenges and lots of surprises.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned here?
How to problem solve last minute. Our clients are so important to us, and to me, that we never tell them no, nor would we want to. If, for example, a last minute order came in you better believe I’m going to get it done!
Can you offer readers any every-day floral advice?
Don’t overwater orchids! Everyone fusses over them but the truth is they need very little care. This may be the number one question I get when I’m out and about, ‘How do I care for my orchid?’ So many people just overdo it, they really don’t need much. They’re tropical so they thrive in humid environments, an aspect not everyone can control in their home. Just keep them in sunlight, add water every now and then, and leave them be.
How do you spend your free time?
I’m outside as much as possible. I love heading back to my family’s place in Indiana, there’s a beautiful lake there which is where I like to find myself when I have the time.
What’s the first thing you do when you get home after a long day at work?
Take Max out for a walk around the neighborhood.
Larissa’s sweet pup, Max.
If you weren’t working as a floral designer, what would you be doing?
Living on a tiny farm in the middle of nowhere. I live here because I went to school here and because of this job, but I’m a country girl at heart – it’s how I grew up.
If you could pick up and move anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I’m pretty happy in Chicago but maybe Holland? It’s a flower mecca!
Is digging in the dirt a vice? Ha! I also can’t turn down a slice of pizza…
What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?
I’m not much of a foodie but probably fresh strawberries and tomatoes from the Farmer’s Market.
Who are you currently listening to?
Chris Stapleton, non-stop.
What’s the last movie you saw in the theater?
“The Gardener” with Bill and John. It’s a documentary about a gardener and his life and garden, it brought me to tears. It was awesome.
Name three books on your bookshelf:
“The Dirty Life,” “Bean Blossom Dreams,” and “Present over Perfect.”
Who’s the last person that left you a voicemail?
My friend, Yaya.
What’s your cell phone background?
Pick three words your friends would use to describe you:
“Hippie,” “Flower Fairy,” and “Happy.”
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Here… or on a farm in southern Indiana. .