Best friends Mary Wood and Lil Caldwell co-founded floral design studio Grandirosa five years ago, leaving corporate careers to pursue their passion for flowers. The pair have since established an impressive client list from weekly contracts with The Ned hotel and Kettner’s to events for the likes of Annabel’s and Burberry. Here we meet Mary to get some Christmassy tips and find out about life at their East London studio:
What led you to set up Grandirosa?
After Lil got married and loved the experience of choosing the flowers we started working together on weekends to supply flowers for friend’s weddings. It was all very informal and we were living together at the time so it was often quite the jungle! We were both happy in our careers but as the jobs started to grow, both in size and frequency, it all became a bit much to balance – so we made the leap – and have never looked back.
Where’s your studio?
Why did you want to be in that area?
It’s so interesting, creative and vibrant. The amazing things going on in the independent studios and shops around us make you feel like anything is possible! I love the industrial feel of it but also the beautiful parks, open spaces and markets which make Hackney feel like a village. The DIY Art Shop a few doors down from our studio on Shacklewell Lane is a haven for finding unusual gifts, it stocks ceramics, prints, books and sculptures by an eclectic mix of local artists.
What’s been your most exciting project of 2019?
Heading to St Tropez for a private party… with a lorry full of enormous blousy red roses! It wasn’t our first international job but the sheer scale and volume made it our biggest to date.
Which contract do you particularly love and why?
The Ned! It was previously the Midland Bank, so providing opulent floral displays to complement the 1920s ‘faded glamour’ aesthetic throughout the hotel each week is just a creative’s dream. Themed brunches on the roof keep us constantly on our toes too – from tablescapes befitting of a Tiki Takeover to colourful blooms designed to transport guests to a Mexican fiesta!
What are your favourite flowers at this time of year?
Oh so many… but delicate anemones with their jet black centres and papery petals look fabulous in any kind of arrangement over the winter months.
Any tips for decorating your home for Christmas on a budget?
If you’re lucky enough to have your own garden in London – start there, or in the local woods or marshes. Hardy herbs such as rosemary look stunning in a wintery wreath, as does heather and berries of all kinds. Making garlands and wreaths with any off cuts from your Christmas tree is always a winner – and ensures nothing goes to waste either.
You installed an 18-foot Christmas tree at the Ned. Do you have to work through the night?
We do! We’re like real life elves as we creep into the hotel before midnight and work steadfastly through the night to have ‘Christmas’ in situ by sunrise. It takes a herculean effort from the team… and a hell of a lot of coffee but it’s brilliant fun too. Nothing quite beats the moment you see guests come down for breakfast amidst a full festive display – having seen no sign of Christmas the night before – as if by magic! It’s such a special thing to be a part of and never fails to get me in the festive spirit.
Best place for a Christmas tipple?
I love all ye olde pubs around east London and the city, cosying up for a red wine by the fire somewhere like the Ten Bells in Shoreditch.
What do you listen to whilst you work?
The radio in the studio is on non-stop and fair game for all, so we’ve been known to blast through hip hop, show tunes, 90s floorfillers and Classic FM all in a day’s work.
And finally…. what’s your favourite Christmas song?
Chris Rea’s Driving Home for Christmas – you can’t beat it!