The drive to be more environmental has hit the flower industry thanks to some canny florists making foraged finds – even weeds – look chic. Today’s flower displays of lust include beautiful wreaths and hanging planks, but they utilise the sort of wild grasses that are making our rooms look more fun, and less formal than they used to. Stoke Newington duo Katie Smyth and Terri Chandler of Worm London have played their part in this rising trend. Their naturalistic work has been displayed in various fine venues, including the Hampstead branch of Toast, and they’ve penned their first book WREATHS: Fresh, Foraged & Dried Florals Arrangements to encourage us all to follow their thinking.
With the festive period upon us, it’s the perfect moment to explore their ideas and hear more about how to decorate our own tables and mantelpieces in the coming weeks. Below, Terri talks us through their ethos, inspirations and valuable tips.
Your floral style is beautifully naturalistic looking and also seems environmentally aware – can you tell us why this is important to you?
“Our main inspiration comes from the landscape that we grew up in on the coast of the south of Ireland, grassy, wild textures with small surprises. I think the pressure is on at the moment to be as sustainable as possible in most industries but we find ours to be particularly damaging. The water waste, the use of floral foam that takes more than 100 years to break down, flying flowers across the world, the waste of flowers in event floristry, the use of plastic to contain water etc.
We are always trying to find more environmentally friendly ways to do things. We find it important to use British flowers where possible so most of our Summer weddings will be British flowers only and we always check to see where the flowers are coming from now and will pick the ones that are more locally grown. It feels crazy when you see that your roses came from Ecuador. For event floristry, we have started discussing options with the client about waste, trying to use flowers that dry out so that they can be reused. The dried flower trend is one we are really happy about because it gives flowers a second life. We are only using Biodegradable floral foam when we really need to use it, but most of the time finding ways to remove it altogether.”
What do you have in store for your own Christmases this year in terms of decorating with flowers around the home, on doors and mantels etc?
“Katie goes all out with the decorating. She lives in a warehouse apartment and has a huge windowsill pretty much running the length of it. This year her ideas are quite pagan so she is planning to decorate the whole windowsill in wild thyme and twigs, candles and dried flowers. I am less into decorating my home because by the time Christmas comes I’m happy to not see another piece of pine for a year! Where I come from in Cork there is a tradition of placing pieces of berried holly on top of all the picture frames in the house. It’s such a sweet nostalgic way of decorating.”
Your weddings and supper clubs have looked fantastic – what do you recommend when it comes to setting the Christmas dinner table?
“We will keep it simple. Stem jars of seasonal flowers or garden foliage at different heights with some nice place settings like a chestnut or a fig with the person’s name on the the napkin. There tends to be lots of items to be placed on the table at Christmas so we don’t want to complicate it too much with too much fuss – stem jars can be moved so easily if necessary.”
It feels as though the hanging plank has become a big thing in floral decorating – what type of flowers would you suggest in this format to make sure it feels especially Christmassy?
“It’s an easy way of doing installations as you can put vases of water up there if it is sturdy enough, which is good because it take the floral foam aspect away. We usually do it a bit differently – not so symmetrical and rectangular in shape. We use a lot of chicken wire and have been using it for most of our Festive floral installations in shop windows. If doing your own, at this time of year local flower shops will be selling ilex berries, anemones and ranunculus. All beautiful flowers in season at the moment so perfect for using on the plank with some flowing, long lasting foliage such as asparagus fern or luscious pines.”
Where are you both spending Christmas and do you have any traditions surrounding it?
“Katie will be in Dublin with her family and I will be travelling around Sri Lanka with my boyfriend. As we are both Irish we have a big pub culture around Christmas (even though they all close on Christmas day) and it’s lovely to see everyone that lives abroad that you haven’t seen in ages coming home and having a drink and a dance. We also love that it’s the one week a year that pretty much no one tries to get in touch so we feel truly out of office.
What’s coming up for you in terms of events and jobs that you can talk about?
“We just installed Simone Rocha’s festive window on Mount street. That was a big one for us because we have admired her for so long and really adore her aesthetic. We chose one of the prints from her current collection to take inspiration from.
We have lots of different festive things coming up and are already planning some events for January and beyond, including some lovely workshops at our studio, which is one of our favourite things to do.”
Do you have any gardens or even landscape designers whose work you find inspiring for your own creative process?
We follow lots of landscapers and photographers on Instagram. It’s interesting because you get to learn the names of flowers that you would not necessarily see at the flower market or with growers. People who work at Kew or Great Dixter. We are always so drawn in by wild looking gardens with secret passages. Charlie McCormick has the most incredible Dahlia beds in September each year that are very inspiring.
Where do you like to go in London for nature and an escape from daily urban life?
“We love the conservatory at the Barbican. It’s so unexpected and wonderful to have a wander through. Across from our studio is Springfield park, which leads onto the Hackney canal network. The further you walk along it the harder it is to believe that minutes before, you were surrounded by concrete. It’s peaceful and beautiful and in Springtime is full of beautiful blossom trees, we feel so lucky to be a few minutes walk from it all.”
Are you involved in growing your own flowers and if so what sort of thing are you growing just now?
“I have a small garden but as I am renting I mainly have things growing in pots and just find them impossible to cut. I have some fuchsia pots to remind me of Cork and Lily of the valley because the smell is so nostalgic to me. This year I bought some really tall geraniums and the foliage is so beautiful and scented that we do sometimes cut stems of it for buttonholes. I have a very big list of things that I would plant if I had a garden of my own though. Number one would be a mimosa tree and some really special rose varieties.”
How did you find writing the book?
“It was our first book and the process was enjoyable but also very difficult as we were still fairly young as a business so were still wearing all the hats, and running the business as usual whilst working to writing and shooting deadlines. It definitely made us think more about our style and why we were doing it. We really enjoyed putting it into words.”
What would be the ideal brief / job that you’ve not done yet?
“We have started to spread our wings a bit more and accepting jobs abroad. It would be really nice to get to travel a bit more and find flowers to use that we wouldn’t find here. We have so many ideas that we need to find homes for!”