Hans Christian Andersen once said, “Just living is not enough…one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.” Captured in that phrase is the heart’s flutter that comes from filling your life with flora.
Something about a beautiful bouquet just opens your soul.
Maybe that’s why we write poems about flowers, using them as metaphors for love, joy, and companionship. I recall e.e. cummings saying,
(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands
We paint flowers. We photograph them. We put them into patterns and prints. We wear them in our hair, in our buttonholes, and on our wrists.
And we arrange them in our celebrations, our remembrances and in our homes.
If our hearts flutter for flowers, Julie James knows how to design arrangements that make them soar.
Julie James Floral Design
Although her business centers on weddings and events, Julie James is a flower-whisperer. As her website explains, “Her designs are never the same twice and incorporate non-traditional and unique elements with classic and timeless styling.” That creative passion stems from an unlikely, yet inspired, connection with the theatre and extends to the personal relationships that she develops with clients.
Just living is not enough…one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower. – Hans Christian Andersen
Understanding how Julie crafts such inspired designs starts with her artistic roots. So I asked Julie a little about her background and how she puts together the perfect bouquet.
Below is our conversation, lightly edited for clarity.
Danielle: How did you get started in floral design?
Julie: My background in floral design began when I was a teenager with a summer and weekend job in a small flower shop in NJ. This job gave me the basic knowledge about flowers and floral design. From there as friends began to get married on a budget out of college, a side business started.
I worked as a designer in technical theatre after I graduated from college, so it was a great off-season job. Once I began having my kids, I knew I couldn’t go back to the theatre and that I had full-time wedding work waiting for me with the reputation I’d made for myself while only doing it part-time.
D: Tell me about your creative process.
J: My creative process begins with everything but flowers. When I sit down with a bride, I first want to HEAR everything she is trying to accomplish with the look and feel of her wedding. I ask couples to describe what they want before giving me visuals. This helps me to create my own visuals that I can then pair with the inspiration images the couples THEN SHOW me.
Things change on a dime so I know that I can’t be 100% locked into any exact plan or process.
From there, I build everything in my head, write it down, and make tweaks and adjustments (often for budget or changes of venue, look, etc.). Once the flowers arrive I begin the physical work of building bouquets, centerpieces, etc. Many times I have to make last minute substitutions for seasonal or wholesale issues. The constant need for flexibility in every regard is vital to the wedding industry. Things change on a dime so I know that I can’t be 100% locked into any exact plan or process.
D: Describe your workspace.
J: My workspace is an all-white studio in my garage. My husband built me a cold room (large walk-in fridge); I have lots of footage of countertops and overhead storage. I like a blank space!
D: Where do you get your inspiration?
J: I gain a lot of inspiration from other worlds of design. Interior design, fashion, plating a gorgeous display of food — it’s all connected. All worlds of design influence each other.
I also find a ton of inspiration in the personalities of the people I meet. If I sit down with a super-fun bride with an interesting job — who describes her perfect wedding as being a fun party with lots of laughter — I know instantly that I’m putting in more of the happy, unusual flowers.
Beyond personalities and other forms of design: nature is an obvious one. Just driving around and seeing what’s in season growing on the side of the road, what’s growing next to each other and what looks great blowing in the wind inspires me more then I can understand.
D: What is a project that makes you proud?
J: My style is best represented when I have more freedom and creative control. This happens often with clients who know me personally. I had the pleasure of designing my husband’s sister and cousin’s wedding. These are easily some of my favorite projects. Specifically, my sister-in-law’s bridal bouquet is a stand-out over time.
I literally thought of every single cool, romantic and color-palette-appropriate flower I possibly could. Once everything came in, instead of being overwhelmed by the mass quantity of colors and textures, I just started putting each stem together. What ultimately happened was that the HEAVIEST bouquet I have made to date was born to the point that her arms were shaking from the weight of it as she came down the aisle. It was truly an arm workout.
I loved it because it was bold, incredibly textural (the true secret to gorgeous, magazine-worthy bouquets), and it was personal. My sister in law completely trusted me, didn’t set any parameters on the design and let me go full force. I was proud to stand up as her maid of honor and wanted to make every detail of her wedding flawless. It was an honor on all fronts.
D: Take us inside your home. What flowers deserve a place in your space?
J: The flowers that make it into my home are often the flowers that are either cut too short, broken off or not quality enough to make it into someone’s wedding. Others would fall under the “Julie’s Garden” category: lots of different flowers from each season are cut (often with my children), and either arranged for fun or quickly stuck into a single stem vase.
The “at-home” floral style for me is a thousand times more simple than any wedding I’ve ever done!
I took a stab at growing a full field of flowers this past summer and was very pleased with the never-ending amount of late summer flowers I never run out of. The “at-home” floral style for me is a thousand times more simple than any wedding I’ve ever done!
Make Your Own Bouquet
To finish our conversation, I asked Julie to share her best advice for making a beautiful bouquet in your own home. For the perfect bouquet, Julie recommends, “A strong hand, focus, the flowers, the greenery, always floral tape or a rubber band (if it’s not going in a vase), and then ribbon.”
She recommended that you start with a mixed bunch from the grocery store. If you pick something with variety, you’ll have more to work with.
- Pick flowers that are not quite all the way bloomed! This will help you to get more up close time with them. If you see a daffodil in your garden that hasn’t opened all the way, it’s go-time!
- Add Texture! The more variety, the more interested and expensive an arrangement will look.
- Invest in a nice pair of pruners if you aren’t comfortable with a floral knife.
- Change your flowers’ water out every other day with a fresh cut.
- Use a mirror to look at it from all angles!
- Limit yourself to your garden. You can also pick some weedy looking flowers from the side of the road. Just beware of the poisonous ones!
- Overthink it. Perfection is so boring!
- Leave your arrangement in the sun.
Whatever your personal style, you can elevate your bouquets with these tips and tricks.
Stay Inspired with Julie James Floral Design
If you enjoyed Julie’s work in this article, make sure you check out her other designs. Her accounts are full of amazing arrangements that can inspire your next bouquet.
Explore Julie’s Work
- 35 Under 35, Florist’s Review
- 5 Ideas for Decorating with Books – Guilt Free, Washington Post
- It’s a Hockey Wedding in Pittsburg, Pittsburg Magazine
Tell us about your favorite flowers, florists and where you get your inspiration. Maybe you have a rose bush that you transplanted from a family estate. Maybe you have a local farmer that grows the best sunflowers. Perhaps you always pick wildflowers from a secret spot. I’d love to hear about any memories you have of a special bouquet or flower.
Join the conversation by commenting below or on Instagram.