New York is known for having spectacular weddings of all shapes and sizes at every venue imaginable. Aside from the bride, the groom and the dress, flowers are often the center of attention at these affairs. And if you have attended one such wedding, Lilli Wright’s centerpieces may have graced your table. As the owner of Mimosa Floral Design Studio based in Crown Heights, Lilli has become one of the city’s most sought after florists. She recently did the flowers for a ceremony at the New York Public Library, and on another weekend she found herself designing flowers for five different weddings.
Lilli—whose full name is Lillian—has always had a flower in her name, but it wasn’t until a friend asked the then-actress to handle flowers at a wedding that she found her true calling. After a slew of floral-related adventures throughout the city, in 2010 Lilli became a bonafide Brooklyn entrepreneur when she started a flower business right out of her apartment. In June of this year, Lilli opened up a brand new storefront studio on Kingston Avenue.
6sqft recently caught up will Lilli at her Brooklyn studio to find out more about her new shop, Crown Heights’ renaissance, and why the New York wedding scene is like no other.
One of Lilli’s floral arrangements
Why the name Mimosa?
Lilli: I was looking through names of flowers and saw that Mimosa was actually a flower. It’s also a tree and one of my favorite drinks. I thought that it was a very cute name for a wedding boutique. It’s celebratory and fun. We’ve started to offer complimentary Mimosas with consultations.
Your studio is located in Crown Heights. What attracted you to the neighborhood?
Lilli: I actually moved to the neighborhood eight years ago. I find it to be a really up and coming neighborhood. There are a lot of awesome people here, and it feels very community oriented. There is a lot of gorgeous architecture, the streets are wide, and it does not have that hectic feel of other parts of Brooklyn—it has a slow space.
I started the company in 2010 out of my apartment in this neighborhood. Then when I needed more space, I rented a very tiny studio in the flower market in Chelsea on 28th street between 7th and 8th and worked there for seven months. But I wanted to work close to where I live, so I opened this space in June 2014.
Do a lot of your neighbors stop by the studio?
Lilli: When I first moved in, I thought I would hang curtains and say, “by appointment only,” and just stay with weddings. As we were moving in and doing small projects to prepare, so many people stopped in and asked, “What’s it going to be?” They were so excited. The whole neighborhood was really encouraging. We thought rather than being a buzz door entry, it would be fun to offer a small selection of fresh flowers.
When did you realize you wanted to be a wedding florist?
Lilli: Actually, a friend of mine asked me to help her do flowers for a friend’s wedding and I said sure. I was an actress at the time. We went to the flower market and got a bunch of flowers, placed them in her bathtub and we did our friend’s wedding. It was really fun. At the time, I was looking for something to do besides acting. I thought, well, I always said if found something that I enjoyed as much as acting that I would at least try it. So, I went and applied to a couple of jobs at flower shops because I knew nothing. I was very lucky. I got a job on the Upper West Side at a really cute shop and they taught me everything I know. Then I started my own business. It sort of snowballed really naturally.
At shop in the Chelsea flower district. Image by What We Like NYC
What’s the New York flower market like?
Lilli: I get all my flowers from the New York flower market in Chelsea. It’s fantastic. I actually worked in the market for about a year. It was the best decision I ever made. I got to see first hand the rotation of flowers. I got to meet a lot of amazing people. It’s really a fantastic environment. Getting up that early is brutal, but really fun. You get to see the city at a whole different time. My favorite thing to do is to drive into the flower market at 5 a.m. The drive from Brooklyn to Manhattan at that hour is gorgeous. There is not a lot of traffic either. Sometimes with clients, I like to take them on a tour of the flower market if they are wavering on flower decisions.
When working with a couple, do you ever visit the venue first for inspiration?
Lilli: If I haven’t been to the venue, I will visit. I just drove up to the Boscobel House, in Garrison. It’s a historical house.
You have the chance to work in venues all over Brooklyn and Manhattan. What’s it like to work in these spaces?
Lilli: It’s fabulous. I love the different venues. We work on a lot of different scales with a lot of different types of clients. People ask if we have a style and I don’t think we do. It’s really whatever the couples’ style is, and that gives us an opportunity to do a lot of different weddings.
We have venues we work with often. Some of our favorite venues are The Liberty Warehouse in Red Hook, the Green Building, and 501 Union. We don’t do as many in Manhattan, although, this summer we got to do the New York Public Library. It was just amazing to be in that architecture surrounded by the white marble. It was a steppingstone for us.
We’ll go anywhere honestly. I even did a friend of a friend’s wedding in LA, a friend’s wedding in Texas, and of course, my sister’s wedding in Vermont.
How many weddings do you work on each year?
Lilli: Our first year in 2010, I did three weddings. In 2011, we did maybe six or seven. In 2012, we did about 20 weddings. Last year, we jumped up and did 60 weddings.
New York and Brooklyn couples are very cool. There is not that wedding season that you get in other places. We have weddings every single month including December. Personally, I think a winter wedding in New York is stunning. I think the whole theory that it’s a seasonal industry doesn’t exist anymore.
The biggest weekend we’ve had to date was a couple of weekends ago. We did five weddings in one weekend, which was intense but a really amazing experience. It was actually the most organized and put together our staff has been thus far. It was quite an accomplishment. We had five extremely happy customers.
Are there wedding centerpieces that are considered classic and timeless?
Lilli: You definitely have styles of centerpieces. You have the popular low garden arrangements in whatever color you want in varying degrees of wildness. You also have taller, branchier centerpieces. People sometimes want a little drama. If you have a big space to fill it’s nice to go a little bit more vertical.
Really, I think the most important thing when trying to figure out what to do for a wedding is to take in the architecture of the space you are working in. And then really look at a couple’s style. I love Pinterest because a couple will come in and have a lot of images. It’s a very visual medium. I like looking at not only your wedding Pinterest, but if it’s public, I tend to look at your style and home boards. What you like for food. It’s very informative as to what is at the core of who you are. When you go to a wedding, it’s a very personal event. My goal as a designer is that when your guests show up they say, “Oh, this is so Tina and John.”
What about centerpiece trends?
Lilli: There are trends that honestly—and I’m sure a lot of florists will laugh—while beautiful and charming, I would like to move beyond. A trend becomes very popular if it’s cost effective. Vintage bottles and mason jars are popular still. They’ve been popular for a long time.
I would love to see a trend of a little big bolder, bigger, a little over the top. Not just because of cost, but because I miss the grandness. We still have grand weddings dresses. You never wear a dress like that ever except for once in your life. The event should also reflect that as well. I’m not into spending exorbitant amounts of money. There are a lot of better ways to use your money in this day and age. Perhaps we could come up with some different, cool, big ideas.
You also design chalkboards for wedding seating charts, menus and programs. When did you discover your talent with chalk?
Lilli: I did the flowers for a wedding at the Green Building, which has a chalkboard on location. The couple asked me if I was talented enough to do a seating chart. I said, “I’ve never done one, but I do have good penmanship.” I did it, and fortunately it got photographed and picked up by the right blog. It was pinned and blogged along the way.
Through the Green Building, I ended up doing a lot of the menu and artwork at Mexicue. They are a young Brooklyn company that just opened a restaurant in Times Square. The fact that these Brooklyn boys were able to open something in Times Square is amazing. As a Brooklyn entrepreneur, it just makes me giddy inside.
When you attend weddings, do you find yourself focusing on the flowers?
Lilli: Honestly, I haven’t been to a wedding that I did not do the flowers at. If anyone has any invites, I’ll be sure to go. I do remember the flowers when I was a kid going to weddings in the 80s. Flowers were in that very over the top phase. I remember them being insane.
If you could select a flower that epitomizes New York, which one would it be?
Lilli: I have two answers. I think that New York City is an orchid, like a Vanda orchid. They are very exotic and modern and sleek, but different and unique. They are also extremely strong and hardy.
I think that Brooklyn is something else, something really cool. This is my new favorite and it’s called a Pokeberry. It lasts a long time. It’s kind of wild looking. It has a real interesting sculptural quality t it and as it ages, it turns from green into this deep plum berry. It just has interesting texture that to me, feels very Brooklyn. I think also Ranunculus. It’s a flower that quite possibly could have the highest petal count of any flower. They come in all different colors and they start out as very small buds and they expand. They are one of the showiest flowers I have ever seen. They are very delicate.
What’s the best part of being a wedding florist?
Lilli: I love hearing people’s stories. I’m not married, so every time I meet a couple who really truly are very much in love, it totally gives you hope that there is somebody for everybody out there.
It’s really wonderful to be part of people’s lives at that key moment. A lot of the time, I feel like I’m not just doing their flowers. I’m more of their therapist because it’s really hard to throw a big party. Most of the time, you need flowers, but more than anything you need someone to say it’s going to be ok. The number of choices and decisions that a couple will have to make in that period is overwhelming. It’s very comforting to have someone who does it professionally.
Mimosa Floral Design Studio
Crown Heights, Brooklyn
Photos courtesy of Mimosa unless otherwise noted
[This interview has been edited]
Neighborhoods : Crown Heights