Your name: Adria Sparhawk
Your Business name: Lavish
Your Location: Portland, Oregon
How did you start your business?
My mother always kept the most amazing gardens so I was enchanted by flora early on. I worked at a fantastic flower shop in Seattle in the early 90’s – Urban Flowers, and afterwards I had gone on to various projects and career paths but I always seem to come back to flowers. In 2004 I was moving to Portland and I decided it was time to take a leap and open my own studio.
How many years have you been in business?
I opened Lavish in 2004 here in Portland Oregon and before that I started an event floral company – Isabel Flora in Leavenworth Washington. So I have been in business for about 10 years now.
What is your design aesthetic?
My personal aesthetic is a very simple and natural approach to floral design. I love playing with new combinations and bringing together unexpected elements in a way that highlights the subtle charms of individual blooms. You know that feeling, when you find the perfect shade of coral peony that is absolutely stunning against the yellow throat of columbine and the parrot tulips you have chosen have exactly the same delicate coloring along their edge.Those sorts of color and textural combinations just make me want to giggle out loud. I think I am most satisfied with my work when it comes across as effortless, almost as if the blooms have been growing next to one another all along and I just happened to place them neatly in a beautiful vase. I guess I would describe my aesthetic as an uncontrived approach with lots of room for play.
How do you create your style and where do you draw your inspiration?
The wilds are always my first inspiration, nothing makes me happier than walking in the woods or in a thoughtfully designed garden. Form, line, color – it’s all right there. But we can find inspiration anywhere. I’ve been influenced by house paint combinations and even a box of cereal. Fashion magazines and blogs are usually my first approach especially vintage publications because they generally have wonderful color combinations that deserve to be resurrected. I recently did a photo shoot where I tried to create the look of a sepia toned photograph. I used all subdued colors like amnesia roses mixed with brown and beige foliage – it was lovely! But my all time favorite inspiration is Holland. The Dutch know flowers!
What are the trends, flowers & colors that are unique to your region?
Portland has a very special vibe, one of my favorite bumper stickers says “Keep Portland Weird” and it is a weird and wonderful place to live. Funky and vintage or repurposed items are still very hot here. Being a politically progressive place we have a very strong demand for all things green, organic, hand made and locally produced. The northwest is such a magical place in terms of our beautiful forests and love of those places really comes out in our floral trends. We do a lot of mossy, ferny, twiggy creations that look as if some wood nymphs were throwing a party. Unfortunately the greenery comes with a price and the rain here is always a possibility so tents and umbrellas usually get an invite to our events.
Are you a retail shop, studio/warehouse or home based?
I opened Lavish as a retail space but have since evolved into an event flower studio. I love having a little more freedom for travel so having a business that is open by appointment has worked out much better for my lifestyle.
Do you offer any services in addition to floral designs?
Flowers are my first love but we also provide styling for events and photo shoots. We have a fun collection of vintage and modern props and details available for rental too.
How do you balance the desires a modern bride when purse strings rest on the shoulders of traditional parents?
This is such a common issue, sometimes I feel I should be charging double for my therapy services. Mothers want the best for their daughters, the problem is that “best” doesn’t always mean the same thing to everyone.
For a lot of Mothers this is an opportunity to have a second chance at creating the perfect wedding. For their daughters, planning a wedding is often the first opportunity to curate something that speaks to their own personal style. If I can find a way to make each one realize what is motivating the other it can really ease the situation.
Creating a comfortable space that allows for positive communication is key. If I feel that the dialog is turning toward a major conflict I steer it toward something they agree on and then ease back into making tricky decisions together.
I can usually find creative ways to incorporate different ideas into a single event. We can use less traditional floral designs in more formal vessels to create a casual but elegant look. If one person is set on a certain feel for centerpieces we can bring in some larger more traditional accent pieces to make a statement for the entire room that will still honor the style of the table settings. We have even gone so far as to create completely different looks for the ceremony and the reception so that each person got what they wanted.
If I have a total impasse, my last resort is to ask the groom to decide because nobody wants that!
What tool in your toolbox can’t you live without?
Two years ago I found these beautiful brass and steel clippers at an import store. They were made by hand in India and they are a work of art in and of themselves. You can see all the little dings and imperfections created in forging process. And those things will cut anything! I can go through wire and woody stems and then cut a perfect line through silk ribbon.
What’s your favorite flower?
I think it’s impossible to have just one. And besides each new season when a whole new crop of flowers begin to show up at the market I forget about my last favorite flower and whole heartedly swear that this is my new FAVORITE. When my husband proposed to me he knew that I loved peonies but since it was December they are not really very available. So he got a hold of a florist friend of mine and ordered a whole case of peonies from Holland. It was so beautiful – all those blooms – I was blown away. But the very next week we were walking down the street and I exclaimed “oh linten rose – these are my favorites” and my husband gasped “what! – you could have told me that last week”.
Anything else you’d like to share with Flirty Fleurs followers?
We really are so very lucky to work in this industry, when you are dealing with that next bridezilla or begging for someone, anyone to order some flowers, or taking out the mounds of compost that has accumulated in your studio just remember – we are so very lucky!