Tuesday, June 8, 2010

flowers chic & cheap

There are few things that brighten up the house more than fresh flowers. I remember first getting the bug when I helped my sister put together arrangements for our other sister’s wedding reception years and years ago. When we first moved to L.A., I spent a happy summer helping a woman design and construct flowers for weddings and events as well, where I found how soothing it was to handle cool, fragrant blooms and coax them into more orderly shapes.

So when Clarkson-Potter contacted me about reviewing the new book Flowers Chic & Cheap, I was pretty jazzed about the possibility. Flower arranging can be a slightly mystifying activity, since just looking at a bouquet won’t always reveal how it’s put together. But just as in sewing, it helps to be armed with confidence and basic knowledge of construction.

The book is a fun read, and really helpful for anyone who’s ever wanted to tackle flower arranging at home. I’ve included my review of the book below.

Flowers Chic & Cheap by Carlos Mota

Americans spend more than 20 billion dollars on flowers each year. With floral supplies now readily available in every craft store and with more professionals willing to share their trade secrets, however, DIY-ers are finding that it’s surprisingly easy—and easier on your pocketbook—to create lovely bouquets at home.

Flowers Chic & Cheap: Arrangements with Flowers Picked From the Market or Backyard advocates tossing out fussy bouquets and expensive vases in favor of “quick methods for making beautiful yet uncomplicated arrangements.” Dozens of techniques and suggestions for putting together bouquets are offered, ranging from centerpieces to bouquets. Many basic tricks are showcased, such as playing with scale, using all of one color, using unusual containers, or creating a “dome” effect with a tightly gathered short bouquet. Author Carlos Mota also showcases more unusual arrangements, most notably with orchids presented in a thrifted bird cage, as well as a lovely “Narnia”-style nature centerpiece with moss, tree trunks, and pines.

Some especially great flower arranging tips in the book include:

* Deconstruct less attractive mixed bouquets for more sophisticated arrangements
* Use herbs and branches for fragrance and variety
* Add Sprite to water as flower food in a pinch
* Vary heights in grouped arrangements to achieve “highs and lows” for visual interest

The author’s background as a stylist for Elle D├ęcor magazine is apparent in the magazine-style layout of the book, with some inspiration taken from designers such as Ralph Lauren and Bill Blass, as well as in the usage of some pull quote-style layout. The author’s exuberant personality comes through in his verbiage as well as in the confident, perhaps slightly scattered way in which he presents his ideas. (Contributor Rita Konig does a great job of keeping Mota's voice in her text.) The information included is creative and sound, however, and includes the usage of just a few basic floral supplies—that is, any reader who picks up the book should be able to get started on flower arranging with just a few dollars’ investment.

Not all of the arrangements are entirely convincing, however, as suggestions for putting a containered bouquet inside a decorative paper bag or for putting flowers inside a ceramic tourist mug are a little reminiscent of large online flower retailers. They certainly aren’t quite as “chic” as Mota’s readers might hope. The supplies and resource section is also heavy on New York-centric recommendations, whereas it would be helpful to include more universal vendor names and perhaps more description of what each vendor’s specialty is.

The book is nevertheless full of great design ideas and helpful tips for anyone who would like to consult a basic primer, or just for use as inspiration. The author’s easy-breezy approach to demystifying flower arranging is encouraging, and his style reflects a modern, refreshing departure from the more formal or cluttered bouquets popular in years past. This book would make a great gift for any nester, especially packaged together with some basic floral tools and, of course, an extravagant armful of blooms.

Flowers Chic & Cheap by Carlos Mota
ISBN: 978-0-307-58798-5
288 pages, softcover
Price: $25.00
Color photographs
Skill Level: All
Usability: Very Good

Photographs courtesy of Clarkson-Potter Books.

I've been yearning to revisit the L.A. Flower District downtown again, and after reading this book, I just might have to do it sooner rather than later.

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