What a Difference a Year Makes!

One year ago today, in the thirty minutes before 6 a.m., when New York is still dark and chilly outside, my team and I went to work on creating our first Flower Flash. Since that day in Central Park, we have created nearly two dozen Flashes. We kidnapped a trash can on Bedford Street on the first day of summer. Threw it in the back of a truck, flashed it, and then plopped it at the foot of the Highline at dusk. A collaboration with Farrow & Ball led to our biggest Flash to date, a wild posting campaign on the corner of 59th Street and 5th Avenue during New York Fashion week. We even flew to L.A. (for a day) and concocted a series of tumbling trash bags filled with marigolds and dahlias on Santa Monica Boulevard. Working in the bright California sun and without the comforting din of New York City traffic was nerve-wracking but I love that LMD had the opportunity to bring a Flower Flash to a new city.

When Irini, my Director of Special Projects, asked me back in September of 2016, what needed to change in order for me to feel fulfilled professionally. I knew the answer lived somewhere in the idea of making a gesture of goodwill. We discussed whether contentment can lead to complacency. In my case, yes! Work is busy, my team is amazing, clients are happy. But something was missing. And then it clicked: How better to counter my professional norm of throwing extravagant parties for my fortunate clients than giving something similar to the everyday New Yorker. The Flower Flash was born.

And that I was reluctant to call these floral installations “Street Art” will come as no shock to those who know me well. Identifying as an artist has always made me break out in hives. But what initially began as a personal experiment to reinvigorate and reconnect me to my craft, turned into a beautiful shared experience in a city of millions. Any reservations I had about what to call what I was doing bubbled up and quickly deflated after watching New Yorkers joyfully interact with the Flower Flashes.

No matter how popular or elaborate these flashes become, our mission and our intent will never change. To bring beauty to New Yorkers and produce a positive, emotional response through flowers. In most cases, the Flower Flashes last only a few hours. Meeting one face to face mostly depends on luck and what kind of chronotype you are, but though they are physically fleeting, there is a lasting effect to the work. I don’t think I will ever be able to properly explain how rewarding it is for me and my team to watch as people engage with the trash can installations. If Art is a reflection of the world and the times we are living in, it is very clear to me and my “merry team of flower bandits” that people need Beauty and Joy in their lives. Truly, now more than ever. Watching people’s reactions to the Flower Flashes emphasizes the basic goodness in all people and prioritizes compassion and the need for LMDxNYC to carry on

Pink is the Word

Never has a color perfectly captured the zeitgeist of a generation like Millenial Pink. But truth be told, artists and designers have had a love affair with many variations of the gorgeous hue way before millenials were born. From Nantucket Prepsters with their salmon pink trousers to Picasso and his rose period, the color has never been out of style. Even with my leanings towards green, white and black, pink has consistently bewitched me and found its way into many a floral arrangement. It’s not hard to see why with so many stunning shades found in nature. The Bowl of Beauty peony and Yves Piaget cabbage rose being two of my favorites.


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Millenial Pink, however, has reached a higher echelon and somewhere between scrolling through endless pink things on Instagram (from clouds to Cuisinarts), I succumbed to the soothing, palatable shade. It’s like the tempurpedic of pinks, your pupils just sink into its fleshy glow and relax. I decided to build a photo shoot around the popular color this month using beautifully graphic vessels by the talented ceramicist Matthew Ward. (To see the complete portfolio of images go to the Florals section of my website.) Ward uses the color in a sparing and subtle way, carefully carving pink polka dots into his milky white bud vases. I used peonies, Japanese ranunculus, clematis, orchids amongst other flowers and a pink wall for a full-blown pink on pink effect.


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While making my floral still lifes, I began to think of the myriad of diverse artists ranging from Magritte to Lady Gaga, who are as enamored with the color as I am, and how the color inspired them to create works of art. But nothing can last forever, even though millennial pink is putting up a good fight, it will eventually code red and another color will rise from the color wheel and take its place. I wonder what that shade will be….


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Paying It Forward

Spring Cleaning came early this year for LMD. In the hopes of getting a jumpstart on being organized for 2017, my staff and I began taking stock of our inventory in January. LMD amasses a lot of ephemera. Every kind of wedding linen you can imagine, throw pillows and colorful blankets from a Coachella inspired Bat Mitzvah, even hundreds of Converse from a custom made sneaker chandelier.  Our storage space was busting at the seams with lampshades, moss covered pots and votives in every shape and color under the rainbow


 


In past years, we’ve organized fire sales inviting friends and some industry folk to drive over to our studio and fill their cars and vans with treasure. But with the current administration cutting funding to the Arts, we decided to donate LMD’s unwanted inventory to Materials for the Arts. It was my colleague Rebecca who found the organization and donating to MFTA was the best thing we could have done with our supplies and hard goods.


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Materials for the Arts collects unneeded items from businesses and individuals, and make these donations available for free to its recipients: nonprofit organizations with arts programming, government agencies, and public schools. It felt good to purge and declutter but my team and I had no idea that the do-good feeling was only just about to begin.

When someone donates to MFTA, you receive thank you letters from every organization that has taken your wares. It was very rewarding for the LMD staff and I to read about where our things landed and how the items were used. We received letters from The Lowell School, a not for profit coed special education school that has a visual arts and theater program, The Church of Saint Luke in the Fields conducts a Saturday evening performance art class for LGBTQA homeless teenagers, and Housing Works thanked us on behalf of their Adult Day Healthcare facility, serving clients who have HIV/AIDS. There were many other letters, varying from charter schools focused on special needs children to Senior programs in under resourced communities but the one thing they all have in common is a shoe string budget for Arts programming.  If you are able to donate to this amazing organization, I encourage you to do so, the timing couldn’t be more right.


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The MFTA warehouse is operated by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs with additional support from the City’s Departments of Sanitation and of Education.

http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcla/mfta/html/home/home.shtml

Home for the Holidays

T’was the week before Christmas, when I had the LMD staff up to the country.  Bay leaf garlands and wreaths were hung by the mantels with care,  in hopes of ending the work year with some holiday cheer. It was the perfect day…

11:00 AM A balmy 19 degree day in Staatsburgh, New York.  The LMD crew arrived and we promptly made 4 warm fires, 3 indoors and a giant campfire blazing bright and hot.  There was new-fallen snow and the sun and warm flames from the fireplace gave everyones cheeks a beautiful glow.


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Tawana went straight to the kitchen and made us a hearty lunch of homemade meatballs in a red sauce with plenty of crusty bread.  Lizz began rolling out buttery dough and setting up colorful icing stations for a decorating cookie session, that was made extra special using her aunt’s vintage cookie cutters.  Rebecca, John and Felipe headed to the artists studio to hang colorful pinatas for some late night merriment.  There were lots of creatures stirring, but thankfully no mice!


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12:00 PM Fizzy champagne cocktails with a sugar cube laced in angostura bitters were lovingly made by Tawana and Mike and passed around as we all got into the Christmas decorating spirit.  It’s a lot of fun to dream up elaborately themes parties for my clients but at home, this Christmas was all about simplicity and the raw beauty of a wintery landscape.  We hung garland made out of magnolia leaves and jute rope, dotted several rooms with tons of paperwhites and clear lights.  Keeping things simple, chic and wild.  I cut down my own fir trees.  Potted and mulched them in giant pinecones and besides some clear twinkly lights, they were left almost as naked as the day they were grown.


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1:30 PM We ate, drank and decorated and then settled down for a long winter’s nap.  Rebecca dozed off on the coyote blanket, the men curled up next to a crackling fire and I fell asleep watching Charlie Brown Christmas.


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6:00 PM Taxis arrive and dashed us away to Gigi’s, a cozy Italian restaurant in Rhinebeck.  We relaxed, laughed and toasted to each other, to a great work year and to friendship.  Back home, we sipped a few Sazeracs in the library, by far the coziest room in the house and then found our way to the artist’s studio, by far the most raucous space on the property! Blindfolded and bundled up (there is no heat in the studio!) we all gave 2016 a good whack.  Pinatas filled with money, candy and souvenirs spilled out as we swung for the fences!  Watching everyone exorcise some stress provided endless entertainment into the wee hours of the night.


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12:30 AM Back in the main house, Madonna trumped Bing Crosby and a late night dance party sprang up in the main hallway.  At LMD we work hard and play hard and my children were not nestled all snug in their beds, they were too busy Vogueing the night away.  And that’s the way we like it…


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Christmas at the Crosby Street Hotel

LMD began decking the lobby, suites and every other nook and cranny of the Crosby Street Hotel in 2009, when it first opened its doors. This year marks its 8th anniversary and to celebrate the dog-friendly and dog-centric hotel, what better gift is there to give your two-legged and four-legged patrons than a 12-foot long cat!


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Crosby the Cat is the handiwork of Colombian Sculptor Fernando Botero. The bronze feline is plump and beautiful and sure to make friends with every guest that visits the SoHo hotspot. We began with 5-foot wreaths made of magnolia leaves that are mounted outside the hotel and perfectly frame Crosby’s cherubic silhouette. They are dotted with curled pieces of birch and oversized sugar pinecones. As visitors enter the hotel, they are met with a multi-tiered plant stand holding a variety of delicate lady slipper orchids in tall, glass-domed terrariums and colossal pinecones. A stunning display of contrasting texture and form.


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The Crosby Hotel’s roots are deeply embedded in all things British so LMD strove to create an over the top English Christmas tree but at the same time, we kept true to our love of natural elements. Using raw jute rope as garland and mixing bundles of cinnamon sticks and dried orange slices with organic owl ornaments, the end result is joyful and rustic. There are wicker baskets at the base of the tree filled with lichen branches and a clutch of presents wrapped in LMD’s signature wrapping paper! It’s these little details that make my staff one in a million. Instead of buying conventional wrapping paper, Tawana and Jess hand-painted differing textiles on to canvas to create unique prints, giving Santa’s little helpers some major competition.


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With every amaryllis, mini spruce tree and grape ivy that we carefully place in the hotel, it is always our intent to share the joy and spirit of the holiday season and not just with the visitors but also with the wonderful staff at the Crosby Hotel. They feel like family.


 

Tulipalooza

We held the first annual LMD retreat at my country house this week and I invited my staff to partake in the festivities.  We planted nearly 3000 tulips of all varieties, from Apricot Beauties to Zurel. I chose only tulips with very distinctive characteristics. Parrot tulips, fringed tulips, double tulips and a bounty of others with gorgeous contrasting streaks and color variations. There will be no “eggs on a stick” or boring single tulips to be found on the Camp LMD grounds!


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I am very fortunate to have a team that is hardworking and multi-talented. Tawana, our head designer is also a gifted cook. So as my production managers John and Eddie made a roaring camp fire, and Felipe, my other production manager, helped me organize the bulbs, Tawana headed straight to the kitchen to whip up a delicious lunch.


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Trenching and burying this many bulbs takes a handful of hours and works up a serious appetite. We settled into a feast of grilled rosemary shrimp and local pork sausages from the farmer’s market with Israeli tomato and orzo salads. We then headed to the artist’s studio to map out our next big event…beer pong! I have never played this ancient gaming ritual but thanks to my associate producer Lizz, my learning curve was swift and steep!


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When I first purchased this home, I could immediatley visualize where the pool would be, how I would layout each room of the main house but the artist’s studio was always a question mark. I didn’t know exactly what its purpose would be, it had a 10 foot long wooden table at the center of the main room and not much else, but as beer pong turned into flip cup and the space filled with loud, drunken laughter, I quickly realized it would be where all of our late night parties and louche happenings would occur. We work extremely hard at LMD so to witness my team play and interact together in such a carefree way was a lot of fun. The night ended with homemade family style lasagna and s’mores by the campfire. I couldn’t tell what was warming my heart more, the roaring fire or seeing all the smiling faces surrounding me.


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Flowers for the People

Gifting flowers to the people of New York City. It’s a simple idea that I have been knocking around in my brain for years. I love my job and what we do at LMD. We have created many lavish and memorable events for our wonderful clients that not only stay with them and their guests for years to come but have also left a smile and an impression on us over the years. We are in the business of fantasy and flowers; transforming key life moments in our client’s lives into magical, everlasting memories. My desire yesterday was to recreate just a sliver of that sentiment and offer it up to the city dwellers and tourists of this great city. So at 5:45 AM, my team and I filled the LMD van with 2,000 flowers and descended on the John Lennon Memorial in Central Park, a circular mosaic resembling a mandala with one word in the center: IMAGINE.


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Quickly working in the dark, my team and I created a psychedelic halo of day-glo yellow, pink, purple and orange dahlias and carnations. So bright and joyful, John and Yoko and every Seventies loving hippie would have approved. By the time the flower installation was complete, dawn had begun to take shape and the curious Parks & Services crew appeared. We all held our breath and wondered if our “Flowers for the People” project was about to live and die in under an hour and the only audience that would have seen it was a squirrel and two early morning joggers. But that was not the case. Outfitted with leaf blowers and a broom, they began to gingerly sweep away the falling leaves  around our flowers and gave us their approval and blessing with a quick thumbs up.


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As we were packing up and leaving the park, I was amazed at how quickly a crowd had formed. We had hoped for smiles, the ones that happen when you witness a random act of kindness. That was my goal, my vision. Create an emotional response through flowers. And in this age of social media, we saw the fruits of our labor and were instantly rewarded via Instagram! We got to see how our idea translated in real time with hundreds of selflies and photographs documenting the flowers throughout the course of the day. It was one of the most rewarding and gratifying “events” I have produced and I can not wait to plan the next one. Keep your eyes peeled New York, these flowers are for you….


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Sweet Decay

I recently bought a country home in Staatsburg, New York. Anyone who has bought a home knows the elation and fear that comes along with such a meaningful purchase. On my very first run this past winter after purchasing my house, I ran down Old Post Road and through a pair of magnificent gates, up a hill and into the grounds of the Ogden Mills Mansion. I was thrilled to discover this incredible stately home above me. It was the most exciting discovery and I remember clearly looking at this breathtaking mansion and feeling a sense of validation and contentment.

Looking at the Ogden Mills Mansion made me realize I had done the right thing in purchasing my country home and that I was right where I was supposed to be.

I had run the estate many times since that first serendipitous run but had yet to visit the interior. This past weekend, I  finally made it inside and was again over the moon to have found such a treasure in my own backyard. I certainly was not expecting the rooms to be fully furnished, complete with art and tapestries as they were. It really felt like I was immersed in Hudson Valley’s version of Downton Abbey. This particular style happens to be one of my most cherished aesthetics and one that I continue to draw inspiration from in my own work. I was lucky enough to gain access to all the private rooms that visitors do not have entry to and I was delighted to see the sweet decay of some of the interiors. With every turn, I could sense a house that was well-lived in and truly loved. Unlike the Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park, just 5 miles south on the Hudson which receives federal funding, the Ogden Mills Mansion is funded by the state and has an incredible amount of charm and personality. Rooms are filled with distressed silk furniture beautifully faded from years in the sunlight, paint and fabric peeling from the walls where gorgeous oil paintings and tapestries hang. In every way, I prefer the beautifully worn conditions of some of the interiors at the Mills mansion as compared to the Vanderbilt which is meticulously “done”. During my private tour at Ogden Mills, I could truly feel the life and love of a real home. I could easily imagine the house bustling with servants, guests and family in its heyday. Today, that same aura is present as the grounds and estate are being taken care of and conserved by friends and patrons who really cherish the mansion. I can not wait to become a patron and with any luck and persistence find a way to photograph my designs in this stunning location.

To learn more about Mrs. Ruth Ogden Mills and the Staatsburgh State Historic Site visit: http://millsmansion.org/visitor-information/

 

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