Inspired by the natural beauty of hedgerows and the countryside and the realisation that an interior can be enhanced by flowers, Alice Strange made the decision to leave behind her interior design role and follow her passion to become a florist.
After working for one of London's most prolific florists, she took the leap and set up Alice Strange Flowers. We caught up with Alice to find out what makes her tick and see what the future holds for the blooming Alice Strange Flowers.
Have you always longed to work with flowers?
I have always had a real love of flowers and my own vision as to how they should look. Growing up in the countryside was always an unconscious influence – my mother has always worked with flowers and is a keen gardener, taking advantage of the surrounding natural habitat and using flowers to style her house so there has always been a natural pathway here!
Tell us about your background
I am 27 years old. My background is firmly entrenched in art and design having also been to Florence to pursue my love of art history. Inspired by my mother who was a keen local artist and photographer, my appreciation of design and colour started here.
I started working as an EA for one of the world’s leading VC firms. New to London, this opportunity felt like a sensible decision to find my feet! It was the fast paced environment, building trusting relationships with the Partners and working closely in a small team that I loved. The importance of good working relationships and trust in achieving everyone’s success is a core principle that I took with me and has become one of the key building blocks of the Alice Strange Flowers brand.
I landed my first interior design internship as a Junior Designer at Alexander Waterworth Interiors and then went on to work for Martin. I have always been obsessed with interiors but often felt there is a sense of actual life missing from the ‘picture’. Naturally, so much time and energy is spent on creating dream spaces - why not give it soul and enhance the sensory experience through flowers. This is where I had my first craving to create something special with flowers to complement the interior.
CV in hand, I chose my favourite London florists and literally tramped the pavements looking for work. I was offered a job at one of London’s top florists - Wild at Heart at Liberty of London. Having done various diplomas in Floristry through University holidays and in my spare time, I already had an understanding, but it was here that I trained on the job, working long hours and taking a huge salary cut! I loved it.
I’d be making the most beautiful bouquet, without really knowing any context of where it was to go. It seemed that there was real value being lost in the customer transaction. Typically the customer would come in not knowing what they wanted, taking advice from florists who also didn’t know the complete context of where the flowers were to go or how the room looked. I could never understand why people would spend a significant amount of money for a service entirely impersonal. Why would you choose an off the shelf arrangement when you could have something entirely bespoke and tailored to your home?
Coming from an interior design background, I found this one of the most frustrating things working as a florist. It was the lack of flexibility and personalisation of service that really urged me to start Alice Strange Flowers.
How did you find setting up your own business?
Rewarding and at times, stressful. It has transformed from a job into a lifestyle change for me. In many ways it makes you more creative with your ideas because you never switch off from it. You have a real sense of pride in your brand, so everything has to sit perfectly. I’m often asked if I wish I was employed and the answer is quite definitely no! We are surrounded by influences in our everyday life but it’s what you absorb yourself that makes you the creative person. Having my own business allows me to have complete creative license over my own work, allowing me to use my influences in the way that I want, so that I can develop my own style.
What are your tips for styling the home with flowers?
Simple is always best. Flowers, for me, should never be viewed in isolation; instead, they are part of an interior or a setting, part of a lifestyle. Use them to enhance an interior, not dictate it. Like a picture on a wall complements a room, and is itself made up of layers of colour and texture that give impact, house flowers should be treated no differently. Always try to find the freshest seasonal flowers at a particular time of year, to ensure they last the longest. Avoid continually buying your ‘usual’ favourite flower - look outside at the trees and the hedgerows – keep it seasonal, and bring the outside in.
Fresh or faux?
Always fresh! I don’t understand why people still have faux. There are some amazing, very realistic silk flowers on the market now, but you can always tell they are not the real thing and for me they always defeat the whole point of having flowers in the first place. The beauty of fresh flowers is that they are living and keep growing even after they are cut. They constantly change in a vase of water; the buds come out, the petals open and the fragrance fills the room. Artificial flowers can never bring the life into a space that fresh flowers can, so what’s the point?
What style of floristry inspires you?
I have never liked flowers to be too compact or regular. Nature inspires me the most. It sounds very clichéd but I get most of my inspiration from the hedgerows and from the countryside where I grew up. You only have to look at the colours and textures to know what works. I always like to make my arrangements look luscious and natural, typically using romantic and soft muted tones. Nature is good at arranging itself and this should be an inspiration for anyone. It’s no coincidence that many great artists have been inspired by garden and landscapes. Floristry is instant and spontaneous; I liken it to painting.
How would you describe your style?
My style has a sense of freedom to it, and I always make sure there’s lots of texture. Texture keeps it interesting and creates more impact in the arrangement. I like to use lots of herbs, different types of foliage and branches in my arrangements, that maybe other florists wouldn’t typically use. Fragrance is also important to me and I think should be used wherever possible. Working with some of London’s top florists has allowed me to experience different styles and from these I have created my own signature style.
If you could create a floral display anywhere/in any home, where would it be?
It’s not a question of having a particular home, it’s the space and creative brief that I’m given which allows me the license to create something truly extraordinary for the customer. I’ve dressed many London townhouses but very recently, I created floral displays for the launch of three fragrances in one of my favourite Georgian townhouses; 68 Dean Street. I loved this job because the installations that I created in each room were very dramatic, and I had to describe the perfumes through the use of flowers so that each room told a different story.
What are your future plans for Alice Strange Flowers?
To keep expanding my client base for weekly flowers and work with more interior designers and interior brands that I love.