Senses of Living® Décor

Autumn 2005 - Winter 2006
© 2005 by Bret S. Beall


I spend a lot of time talking about Paths. Physical paths, such as we find in gardens. Traffic paths that affect interior décor. Spiritual paths that impact our lives. However, this year I discovered an interesting convergence between my Path and that of a management colleague I worked with years ago.

What does this have to do with décor? Well, this former colleague, Linda Johnston, is now one of the top floral designers in the greater Chicago area! She is a partner in the Evanston, Illinois-based Bloom 3, that she created along with her business partners, Brenda Hesselberg and Kim Lesher. A mutual friend alerted me to Linda's activities, and I checked out her company's website, www.bloom3.com. You should check it out, too. I was so blown away by the creativity, sophistication and sheer beauty of Bloom 3's creations that I knew I had to know more. I knew that I wanted to bring Linda's talent and knowledge to you, the readers, as this is an area where I am less talented than others.

I learned that Bloom 3 has provided floral décor for weddings at the top of the Sears Tower (read: megabucks!). They have been featured on the cover of the Chicago Tribune Magazine's annual House & Garden issue every May for the past three years. They designed the flowers for President Carter's granddaughter's wedding. In addition to many charity events, they are providing the floral designs for the new Kohl's Children's Museum in Skokie, Illinois. In other words, we're talking about the BIG LEAGUES of floral design.

I was honored to recently sit down with Linda over sangria and tapas to discuss contemporary floral arranging. After catching up on the last few years, we got down to business.

BSB: How do you elevate an ordinary floral arrangement to an exceptional floral design?

LJ: Keep it simple! We're going into the fall. You can find design elements by going into your yard. A vaseful of autumn branches can be embellished and made a bit special by submerging autumnal fruit, such as apples or pears, in the water within a clear glass bowl or vase, and then arranging the branches among the fruit. Keep it simple. Consider using only a couple of callas, or a single orchid stem, as an arrangement for greater impact. This time of year, consider putting fruits and vegetables from the farmers market in a clear vase or bowl with water, and arranging flowers among them. Bell peppers come in reds, purples, yellows, oranges, chocolates, and the usual green, and are striking when flower stems are embedded among the tightly packed peppers. Try combining autumnal maple leaves with the complementarily colored peppers. Because the peppers can float, they must be packed tightly. Gourds (especially mini gourds), eggplants and squash work really well to support floral stems when placed in water-filled, clear glass bowls.

BSB: What about theme containers for the season?

LJ: We're not really "theme" people. Again, we keep it very simple, very clean, and preferably in clear containers. If you want to approximate the effect of an opaque container, use the effect of immersed fruits and vegetables like I just described, or try swirling sprays of autumn colored foliage into the water, and then inserting stems of similarly colored flowers.

BSB: With the presence of so many perishable products, is there a problem with pests? How long will these styles of display last?

LJ: No, pests are not really a problem. Shake out the flowers, leaves and branches really well. Rinse everything really well. And if you're buying fruit, be sure to remove the stickers. With regard to longevity, some components will last longer than others. Be sure to change the water daily; keeping the water clean is really important. Cut the stems of the flowers and leaves on the diagonal to allow maximum intake of water. Much of longevity depends on room conditions. For example, the more heat, the greater the need to monitor water quality. Without any special care, these displays will last two days minimum.

BSB: What is Bloom 3's vision? What makes you unique?

LJ: Textures! We use really interesting textures! We like the unusual, and we do everything in a very clean, simple way. We combine flowers in an unusual way. We're particularly fond of chocolate tones this time of year, whether in callas, cosmos, sunflowers, or others; these chocolate tones are very pretty for autumn.

BSB: Do you ship your creations?

LJ: We are part of a Fine Floral Network headquartered out of San Francisco. They approached us, and found that we qualified for their network due to our uniqueness. They look for small, artisanal florists across the US. They do have some requirements when ordering, like a $50 minimum order. They make sure that all members of the network are of their caliber, and they hand-select those companies with whom they will work.

We also do what is called a "cross-service order," where we will work with local florists across the US to guide them in keeping distance orders simple and specifically in our style. For example, for spring we will offer (and encourage other florists working on our behalf to offer) a simple mound of tulips in a bowl. No baby's breath, just beautiful, seasonal tulips without filler. This kind of service is available in all major cities.

BSB: Linda, thank you for sharing some incredible floral design ideas and philosophy for my readers. As I listened to you, I became excited by just how similar Bloom 3's philosophy is to that of GOD-DESS. I have to say I'm just blown away by what you are doing!

LJ: Thanks, Bret. Isn't it amazing how our paths have re-converged? Who would have thought that each of us would end up doing what we're doing, given our original relationship in meetings management and event planning?

So, readers, I have done something I've never done before. I've brought you professional insight and advice and recommendations from someone whose expertise is beyond my own. I'm really excited by what Linda has shared. I've seen what she and her business partners do, and all I can say is that I am going to be incorporating their ideas in my own home! These are some extremely talented designers, and I feel extraordinarily flattered to have been able to not only interview one of them, but to call her a friend! Visit their store at 1503 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, IL 60201; 847.424.0003. They offer interesting flowers by the stem, unusual leaves, dramatic vases, and a variety of other items (candles, soaps), in addition to their magnificent arrangements, to make your home more attractive and welcoming. I'm sure you'll enjoy the experience as much as I did!

If you use any of these ideas, or if you have interesting tales of Paths converging, please let me know at 773.508.9208 or email me. If you want me to bring you interviews with other décor professionals, let me know. I'm here to serve you!