City Life

Floral Design 101 with Studio 539

Studio 539 takes us from centerpiece zero to flower design hero.


When I was younger and deciding what I wanted to make a career of, I had three equally tempting options: I wanted to be an editor, I wanted to be a pastry chef, and I wanted to be a florist.

Weird, right? I know.

But when I wasn’t busy pushing myself to be creative with words, I really loved (and still do) being creative with my hands. It feels like I’m using different pathways in my brain. So while some people relax by going for a run or zoning out in front of the TV, my preferred method of relaxation is throwing dinner parties. I love immersing myself in an entire day of chopping, stirring and simmering. I listen to music. I fill my house with amazing smells. And at the end of it, I have friends over to enjoy it all.

Arranging flowers has always felt like the same kind of “creative relaxation.” I love the meditative element of choosing blooms and putting them in aesthetically pleasing combinations. When I’m feeling particularly blue, I’ll head to Whole Foods and leave with an armful of stems. The only problem is, I’m terrible at arranging flowers. Like, the worst. I don’t know which flowers to pick, and the result is always a little bit lopsided and a little bit clashing and nothing like my Martha Stewart dreams.

That’s why, when I found out about the Flower College at Studio 539 Flowers, I was (probably way too) excited. The studio is known for its creative arrangements of untraditional blooms. I signed up for Michelle Lariviere’s Intro to Floral Design, a three-hour course on a rainy Sunday. Michelle greeted the full class with a smile, buckets of roses, hydrangeas and orchids, and cheesecake. I was already in heaven.

A writing instructor at Salve Regina, Michelle had a clear and engaging way of teaching us. She lead us through how to construct the base of an arrangement – who knew proportion and height mattered? Oh right. Everyone but me – and how to properly prep and maintain stems. Her creativity and encouragement clicked in my brain: all of a sudden I had created a boutonniere, a main table arrangement and two complementing smaller arrangements. And you know what? They were all gorgeous. I couldn’t believe the difference between my sorry home attempts and what I made in the class.

The next time I needed some botanical therapy, I created three matching arrangements of purple tulips and spray roses that were simple, elegant and –dare I say – magazine worthy. Take that, Martha. Studio 539 offers intro, beginner and intermediate courses in floral design. 174 Wickenden Street. 454-4400