Design New England

Fresh or faux, spring has sprung at Boston’s West Elm


Look again. These flowers from West Elm are paper made to look like (from left) red roses, paper whites, hellebores.

It might be the dead of winter, but Boston’s West Elm knows how to keep our sights on spring. The Fenway store was recently transformed into a lush greenhouse — of sorts. The flora of the hour was paper, an intriguing alternative to plastic, silk, or other faux flower material. West Elm stocks a variety of the species — roses, paper whites, hellebores — and in a demonstration of ingenious mixing and matching, floral and event designers Rose Mattos and Erin Heath of Forêt Bespoke Floral & Installation of Somerville, Massachusetts, created arrangements that combined paper stems with their own fresh-cut blooms. Talk about the best of both worlds, we’ll definitely try this at home.


After gaining experience assisting artists and florists as well as designing store and window displays at Anthropologie, Mattos and Heath formed Forêt last summer. The next step, they say, is to open a space selling their hand-tied bouquets, special order arrangements (with deliveries), plants, and terrariums within the retail store Bee’s Knees Supply Company, a gourmet grocery store set to open this spring in Boston’s Fort Point Channel.


Forêt Bespoke Floral & Installation’s founders Rose Mattos (left) and Erin Heath surrounded by flowers, both fresh and paper.

Afterward, we asked Heath to share some of her tips on making magic with flowers. Her top three pointers were:
* For a nice composition, start with greens such as lemon leaf, eucalyptus, and ferns to create fullness. Then add one, two, or three “narrator” pieces to ground the arrangement. Depending on the season, peonies, dahlias, and roses are good choices. Berries are great fillers, but ranunculus and tulips are also wonderful supporting elements and their windy stems can create movement in the composition with bends and curves.
* Texture is just as important as color. Mix little buds in with bigger, softer, leafier pieces.
* To get out of the winter doldrums, choose flowers with scent. Sweet peas and freesia awaken with their energizing smell.



John LaRoche (left) for blueGuava and one of his senior designers, Jason Goodall.

Also demonstrating how to use the paper flowers in unexpected ways were John LaRoche, owner and creative director, and Jason Goodall, senior designer, of blueGuava, a floral and event design studio in Boston. They turned to the store’s collection of live succulents and pretty terrariums to concoct lush, but carefree, scenes under glass.
Demonstrations over, we were drawn to West Elm’s recently introduced pieces such as the mid-century inspired Saddle Office Chair with its gray stripes and wood legs and the funky luxuriousness of the Kasbah Rug made with New Zealand wool. They made us want to feather our nest just a bit more. There’s still plenty of winter ahead.


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