From Stem to Splendid: Part 2

Lush white hydrangea artfully climbs a pillar at Four Seasons Hotel Chicago. Kent Drake Photography / Birch Design Studio
Lush white hydrangea artfully climbs a pillar at Four Seasons Hotel Chicago. Kent Drake Photography / Birch Design Studio

In our last post, we followed our floral on its first few stops through the studio, where it is counted, conditioned, and developed for design. Now these stems begin their second lives. So how do our clients’ visions go from notional to tangible? What exactly happens between idea and assembly? Bill Perry and our talented team of floral designers help us understand this piece of the puzzle.

Bill Perry, Floral Designer. Photograph by Kent Drake
Bill Perry, Floral Designer. Photograph by Kent Drake

Trust & Translation Observations of the floral design team at work highlight one of the most essential components of design production: trust. The first seeds of trust must be planted between client and designer, of course. Once established, that trust becomes part of the already existing foundation of trust between our event and floral designers. And while many of our clients bring initial ideas and a sense of design direction to the table, it is up to our designers to translate and elevate (often) loose terminology of a particular look, feel, or style, into a cohesive, breathtaking event.

“Eclectic”

Eclectic. Chicago Illuminating Company / Photo by Pen Carlson
Chicago Illuminating Company / Photo by Pen Carlson

“Modern”

Trump International Hotel and Tower, Chicago.
Trump International Hotel and Tower, Chicago.

 “Garden”

Garden floral HMR Designs kent drake photography
Photo by Kent Drake Photography

“Elegant”

Four Seasons Hotel Chicago / Photo by Fandl Photography / Coordination by So Stacy
Four Seasons Hotel Chicago / Photo by Fandl Photography / Coordination by So Stacy

They do so by putting together an overview which includes drawings, inspiration boards, room layouts, color palettes, fabric and linen swatches—in-depth expansions of ideas provided by everyone from fathers-of-the bride to high level corporate clients to chairwomen on a board.

Sketches...
Sketches…
room renderings...
room renderings…

 

...and inspiration boards help to hone in on color palettes, thematic elements and the overall "feel."
…and inspiration boards help to hone in on color palettes, thematic elements and the overall “feel.”

Collaboration comes next. Through review and expansion, our event designers work with the floral team to quantify specific floral and foliage that will breathe life into the overall vision. Container and candlelight selection are key, and must work in concert with table shape, linens, china and chairs. There is also the venue’s architecture to consider, as well as all of the additional decor components: fabric treatments, custom bars, lounge groupings, graphics and lighting schemes.

Floral translation: from list to loveliness.
Floral translation: from list to loveliness.

This is where a very specialized skill comes into play: developing a written recipe into something visually spectacular–a skill that most of us simply don’t possess. And it’s not just knowing whether this list of items will go together agreeably, and how, and in what amounts, but also whether they will achieve the sometimes ambiguous descriptors of  “modern vintage,” “casual eclectic elegance,” or “statement.” Take a try for yourself: how would you classify these weddings?

Words mean different things to, well, everyone. "Modern Vintage?" "Casual Eclectic Elegance?" "Statement?"
Words mean different things to, well, everyone. “Modern Vintage?” “Casual Eclectic Elegance?” “Statement?” Clockwise from top right: Coordination by Clementine Custom Events / Photo by Christy Tyler Photography / Chicago Botanic Garden; Photo by Kent Drake / Cafe Brauer; Coordination by Clementine Custom Events / Photo by Three Nails Photography / Chicago Botanic Garden. Coordination by Birch Design Studio / Photo by Pen Carlson / Gallery 1028.

The floral designers then add, subtract, and tweak until the numbers and product equal something they see working–which they’re fully entrusted to do. It’s here that they apply yet another specialized skill: harmonizing the perfect combination of floral into the most befitting array. And the freedom they have during this stage is given for a reason: 95% of the time, clients opt for the original designs presented in their sample:

  • ''
  • ''
  • ''
  • ''
  • ''
  • ''
  • ''
  • ''
  • ''
  • ''

Our floral designers are a highly imaginative, incredibly talented group, and their uncanny knack for knowing not only weddings and celebrations, but perhaps most importantl knowing people makes them truly integral to what we do. To understand not only what the sometimes contradictory language of visions means, but also how these meanings differ based on who is using it is a highly notable skill. “Traditional,” after all, means something different to exactly everyone who uses it.

 

Bill Perry at a glance:

Interested in horticulture and plants from a very young age, Bill began working in a greenhouse and eventually made his way into design. In an average week, Bill creates anywhere from twenty to hundreds of floral pieces, ranging from every imaginable size, shape, and combination. He shared some words with us in between designs.
On working with flowers: Bill enjoys using fresh flowers as a form of artistry: “I’m always trying to use them in unconventional, unexpected ways. And there are always more ways to do this.”
His favorite flower? “I like all flowers, but at this point I love anything unusual…even to the point of being bizarre–almost ugly.” Tacca, for example, is just strange enough:

Tacca
Tacca

Favorite part(s) of his work: “I create a design for a sample, and it lives within my mind until 6-8 months later, when I get to see it come to life. This really never gets old. And knowing that the client is thrilled, and that I was a part of that? Pretty great.”

Many thanks to Bill and the rest of our fantastic floral design team for their contributions, and for beautifying our events every single day.