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by Alexis contant | July 23, 2012 | Lifestyle
The stylish Marc Hall in his South End design studio
Jeb Taylor and Daniel Lopez- Ospina favor the local bloom celosia.
Hall’s dramatic arrangements made him a top choice to help with botanical design for Chelsea Clinton’s wedding.
Designs with wild plants are a New Leaf specialty.
Artfully arranged narcissus bulbs dot the surfaces of Hall’s studio.
At the design studio that bears his name in Boston’s SoWa district, the floral designer, garden designer, event producer, and soon-to-be retailer Marc Hall is waxing rhapsodic about a pilgrimage to Amsterdam’s annual Horti Fair in search of new cultivars. “This show is cutting-edge,” he offers. “They’re developing concept flowers and technologies that are incredible. We can produce an experience for our customer today that was never possible before. It’s really exciting to be in this business now.” According to Hall, in recent years the yellow peony and Charlie Brown cymbidium orchid were considered only hypotheses until they were revealed to the world through the Horti Fair.
However, this trend toward the unusual isn’t necessarily reserved for the exotic. In some cases, it happens to be the most local. Jeb Taylor and Daniel Lopez-Ospina of New Leaf Flores favor including local herbs, field flowers, and surprising textures in their arrangements. “You get more of a whole-garden feel,” says Taylor. “It’s contemporary, not just a bowl of flowers without context.” Some of his favorite pairings include Calla lilies with local Queen Anne’s lace or fragrant peonies with sprigs of mint.
An addendum to the demand for more natural, locally sourced arrangements is the terrarium. “It’s a huge trend,” says Taylor, “using wild and native plants, put in one diorama with lots of textural stones and mosses.”
While Taylor’s inspiration for native plants stems from being raised in the Berkshires by a mother who was a “serious gardener,” Hall credits the floral genius of Daniel Ost, the modern architecture of Piet Boon, and the experimental musical tunings of Nick Drake as sources of inspiration. Another influence has been family. “I come from a long line of creative people—cabinetmakers, iron forgers, oil painters, and musicians. They worked hard, expressed themselves through what they created, and always loved to celebrate,” Hall reflects. “For me, creating with flowers is as intense as composing music. I am incredibly drawn to the expansive style and fearless experimentation of the indie rock movement.” He finds true beauty when he delivers a bouquet or a garden that has perfectly fused the “major chords,” like a peony, with “minor notes,” such as one of the hundred species of fritillaria.
Marc Hall Objekt, his latest endeavor, is a clever mix of Hall’s talents. The shop is adjacent to his studio and will open to the public in early autumn. Objekt’s interior will be infused with PlanetaBasque’s sophistication. “We want to design a space that’s as open and welcoming as Marc’s personality,” Meredith Basque explains. Following the philosophy of his design studio, the store will combine his pursuit of the new, unique, and exclusive with an unerring sense of responsibility to his discerning clientele.
Taylor, Lopez-Ospina, and Hall have all worked at Winston Flowers. Before Hall became creative director there, he was part of Boston’s elite “floral underground” (appointment-only as opposed to retail florists) in the early ’90s. Now, he tends to focus on dramatic affairs. His portfolio includes the transformation of cavernous museums, monastic churches, and entire winter landscapes into intimate, breathtaking settings. Brilliant images in Objekt reveal Hall’s ability to engineer a glamorous fundraiser for one thousand as seamlessly as designing an exquisite dinner for 10 guests. The showstopping display reflects Hall’s prestigious client list, which has included Boston socialites (Madeline Redstone was his first patron), European royalty, and even a former United States President. He says that being part of the floral design team for Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky’s wedding weekend was the “professional highlight of my life. The rehearsal dinner was a spectacular extravaganza of sunflowers.”
In the meantime, the gentlemen at New Leaf Flores have been creating some drama of their own, making huge monochromatic arrangements with different shades of one hue—their take on fashion’s ombre effect. Taylor and Lopez-Ospina say, “We’re not hunting for the next new hybridized flower,” but they do admit they “love using tropical leaves, xanadu, a kind of philodendron leaf, and elephant ears.” They’re enjoying the showy beauty of the summer’s hottest new local variety—butterfly snapdragons, which open up more than the typical snapdragon and have a stronger, sweet scent.
photography by cheryl richards (portrait, white flowers); courtesy of new leaf flores (celosia)
photography by eric levin (silva); cheryl richards (narcissus bulbs); courtesy of new leaf flores