In Conversation with Kitten Grayson

Written on 21st May 2019

The appearance of our nine new colours at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show (more on that at the end of the week!) isn’t just cause for celebration, it’s also given us some food for thought. We’ve long been taking a leaf out of HRH the Duchess of Cambridge’s book when it comes to thinking about the link between the spaces we create and the way we feel, but as research on the important role plants can play in our wellbeing continues to emerge, we thought it was high time for some expert advice on how we can all start bringing our indoor spaces to life with greenery.

That’s where luxury florist Kitten Grayson Flowers comes in. When she’s not joining us for special events like our Chelsea colour talk, Kitten is busy earning much-deserved acclaim with her wild installations, elegant arrangements and dedication to sustainability – we caught up with her to talk current trends, eternal gardens, and the enduring magic of plants and flowers.

We’re very excited for your appearance at our Chelsea showroom alongside F&B Colour Curator Joa Studholme. Have you been exchanging any tips in the lead up to the event?

I’ve known Joa since I was little. She is a wonderful source of inspiration and we’ve always chatted about creative ideas together. Some of my fondest memories are of sitting around the table in her gloriously warm and fun kitchen, batting around paint names. I’ve just moved house and am decorating a room for our new baby, so am very much using Joa as a sounding board.

One of the greatest similarities between Farrow & Ball and Kitten Grayson Flowers (besides a love of colour!) is our shared dedication to reducing our environmental impact. Can you tell us a little bit about how you keep sustainability at the forefront of your projects?

Our work is informed by an almost synesthetic relationship with nature and a commitment to sustainability. We try very hard to work as respectfully and responsibly as possible with the trees, flowers, plants and foliage that we incorporate into our designs, always using seasonal varieties, and English-grown wherever possible.

Much of our work at the moment is focused at Heckfield Place in Hampshire. We’ve been working with the team there to cultivate a biodynamic cuttings garden filled with varieties local to the area. We supply the house with truly seasonal, sustainably grown flowers and, once over, they’re returned to the soil as compost. Right now, we’re replanting the tulip bulbs from this spring ready for next year – we’re actively trying to buy less and buy better.

We also regularly use naturally preserved ingredients to create dried arrangements and installations that are low-maintenance and longer-lasting, and reduce waste. They’re a wonderful way of bringing nature and the seasons into the home in a stylish, practical and sustainable way. People often think of dried flowers in muted tones, but often they’re brilliant and jewel-like, having been captured in their prime through the preservation process.

We also use plants rather than cut flowers wherever we can. At last year’s Chelsea Flower Show, we created an Eternal Garden installation at the London Gate that was made entirely from trees and plants that were then replanted afterwards. Sustainability really is a central theme of the Chelsea Flower Show, and it’s fantastic to see so many inspiring creative ideas there year after year.

We also love designing living planters that can be moved around the home for a different look in each room, evolving in line with the changing seasons outside.

What role does colour play in your arrangements? Are there any favourite combinations you always come back to?

Our arrangements are always colourful and varied, inspired by the seasons. The warm, mellow tones of autumn flowers instil a sense of comfort while the cool, bright hues of spring flowers are always refreshing.

We always seem to come back to rich and vibrant colour combinations. Pinks, reds and oranges together work well for a pop of energy within a room, but it really depends on other influences too – the people who live there, a particular picture, even the music that’s playing in the background. It all comes together to create an overall style and mood.

Your floral style has been described as ‘refined yet wild’ – does this extend to your interior style, too?

Our style is considered but natural, abundant yet artful; we put our trust in Nature’s eye. We select flowers that are in season, usually one or two varieties that would naturally grow together in the wild. We don’t aim for perfect symmetry in our arrangements but rather a balance, a sense of harmony, a natural fit.

This is absolutely something that extends to our interior style. We very much see flowers as one part of the story, an ingredient in a broader picture. We match the flowers to their environment, choosing colours, textures and shapes that complement the interior setting – the colour palette, materials, furniture and art within a room – while also reflecting the changing seasons outside.

When devising our selection of varieties for indoor arrangements, we always take cues from the colours and forms in the views from the window and the landscape beyond, so that there’s a continuation from the outside in and from the inside out.

Does seasonality come into your decorating decisions in the same way that it features in your work? Do you cycle home accessories and textiles with the seasons or does everything stay relatively static?

With flowers as a simple ingredient in the overall style of a room, creating seasonal arrangements is a way of keeping things fresh and in tune with the changing seasons, of maintaining a conversation from indoors to out. Using different varieties of flowers in a range of hues and heights, and in a selection of vessels, gives a completely different look to a room as the light changes throughout the year. We might choose a heavier ceramic jug in the winter and more delicate glass vases in the summer.

We find home accessories and textiles naturally rotate within a room according to their usefulness – cosy, textured rugs for winter are hidden away on warmer days; blinds and curtains are thrown open and tied back as the days get longer. It’s not always a conscious shift, but nevertheless a nod to the natural cycle.

We’re seeing a lot of spaces right now that are designed to nurture, comfort, and foster a sense of wellbeing. Where do you think plants and floral arrangements fit into this?

Flowers and plants have an enormously calming and uplifting effect. We find the evolving cycles and rhythmic certainty of the seasons and the natural order to be incredibly comforting. Unaffected by our daily pressures and deadlines, flowers and plants continue to bloom and grow in a way that is, for us at least, inspiring and delightful, miraculous yet simple, timeless and innocent.

More tangibly, they breathe life and energy into a room, enveloping you in their fresh scent and vibrant colour. There is inherent beauty in every unique stem and in every state – from root to tip, from unfurling bud to drooping swan song. Ever evolving, never static, they are an endless source of pleasure.

There are some wonderful gardens at Chelsea this year promoting the restorative, regenerative powers of nature and its ability to provide space for reflection and a sense of perspective.

What kind of arrangements do you think we’re going to see this summer?

There is very much a focus on natural, organic materials, sustainability and provenance, craftsmanship and quality in the briefs we’re receiving at the moment, so I think we’ll be seeing responsibly grown, seasonal ingredients in delicate and considered arrangements, sensitive to the surroundings they’re placed in. The intriguing quirks and charming individuality of English flowers is what we love most about working with them – every branch, every stem has a story of its own.

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