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Room-by-Room Bloom

Flower expert Margot Shaw shares her tips for entertaining and decorating with floral flair



Photo by Becky Luigart-Stayner

Margot Shaw is one with flowers. A lifetime of knowledge of all things petal and stem springs from her lips in her signature Southern lilt. The editor-in-chief of Flower magazine has loved flowers since she was old enough to line her pocket full of posies. 


Lilies, peonies and roses fill white, faux-bois ornamental cachepots from New York ceramicist Christopher Spitzmiller, which echo the white of the painted chairs and china. Spitzmiller’s own floral-patterned dinnerware mixes flawlessly with iconic Dodie Thayer Lettuce Ware. Photo by Erik Kvalsvik.

In her new book, Living Floral (Rizzoli, 2019), Shaw showcases the creative sensibilities of a group of artists, designers and tastemakers in full bloom. The lushly photographed book is as colorful as it is versatile, featuring everything from wood paintings to vintage pillows with botanical motifs to magnolias on the vine. Its unifying theme: a passion for flowers. Here, Shaw offers her proven tips on how to weave flora into your home décor, as well a few thoughts on entertaining.


Virginia designer Barry Dixon wraps these walls with a Robert Kime-fabric tree-of-life print that flows seamlessly into the curtains. Photo by Edward Addeo.

EASY DOES IT
“A floral arrangement does not need to be over the top. It only needs to be seasonal and fresh. I love an interesting container, although not one that upstages the flowers.”

AMAZING GRACE
“Accidents will happen. Glasses will break. Wine will be spilled. Be gracious. That’s the heart of hospitality.”


Designer Sybil Sylvester arranged marigolds, black-eyed Susans, zinnias and pyracantha in an Alabama bedroom. Photo by David Hillegas.

BURLAP CHIC
“I love wrapping herbs in burlap. Cut fresh rosemary and other herbs, lay the bunches on a work surface, and bind them with floral tape. Wrap the burlap like a cone. I’ll do one with each herb and alternate them on a table.” 

HAPPY HOST, HAPPY PARTY
“Three is not better than two. I know people who won’t do anything with even numbers. It’s your party. Do whatever makes you happy.”


Low and Lush. Flowers should invite eye contact and conversation, not obstruct them. Photo by Becky Luigart-Stayner.
“Working with flowers is not brain surgery, and it is not world peace. But it is important. Everybody needs beauty.” — Margot Shaw

Farm flowers and woodsy greenery enliven an antique wagon. Photo by Monica Buck. 

IF YOU’VE GOT IT, MIX IT
“If you own china in different patterns, mix them all. It works better than trying to pick a couple that match exactly. It also looks more interesting.”

BUT RESPECT HISTORY
“It’s fine to mix and match. But if you have 12 identical plates you inherited from your mother, use them. That’s your history on the table!”


Los Angeles designer Schuyler Samperton chose a de Gournay blue-painted chinoiserie wallpaper for actor Yeardley Smith’s dining room. Photo by Lisa Romerein.

COLORADO CONSULT
“I would recommend wild grasses and gaillardias; they are native wildflowers and wonderfully colorful, too. Both are low to the ground, need little water and live longer.”

A JULEP CUP & THOU
“The other day I picked some Lenten roses. I then found a silver julep cup, trimmed the bottoms, poured water inside the cup and realized I didn’t need anything else.”

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