Flower Tools from Charlotte Moss
Are your thumbs less than green? New York City-based design powerhouse Charlotte Moss shares tips on how to incorporate flowers’ ephemeral beauty into any room, any day of the year
Long before she traded her successful Wall Street career to ascend to the top of the design monarchy, Charlotte Moss was just another flower-obsessed child.
One of her favorite early floral memories? “Walking down a Virginia country road near my grandmother’s riverside house, the honeysuckle grabbed you,” says Moss. “You couldn’t go anywhere without smelling it at a certain time of year—it was pretty intoxicating.”
Moss is still intoxicated by flowers, as a glance at her Instagram account will attest: More than 80,000 followers await her next gossamer shot of narcissus or ranunculus.
All those pictures made for a perfect book (her 11th!): Charlotte Moss Flowers (Rizzoli, April 2021).
Here, we chat with Moss about which flowers help her relax, how to turn grocery store posies into magnificent bouquets, and more.
Before we get into flowers, I want to talk about designing for Colorado. What works here?
I think it depends on where you are. I’ve done houses in Aspen and Vail, and they’re generally secondary or tertiary houses. It’s about relaxing. It’s about comfort. It’s about ease. Nothing high maintenance.
You remember back in the old days when they were doing Herculon fabrics and all those finishes that were totally kid-proof? They were the nastiest fabrics you’ve ever seen. Now, you have incredible, incredible outdoor fabrics from companies like Pierre Frey and Michael Smith being used inside—we definitely use those. I want my clients to enjoy their houses, not to be cursing me behind my back going, “Why did she use that?!”
Speaking of making life better…flowers definitely help with what. But why do a whole book on them?
I already had it photographed. Usually, you decide to do a book and you go, “Oh, my God! We need the next nine months for photography!” I already had years and years of photographs, because I photograph everything … I catalog everything. It’s my way of planning for retirement: One day, I’ll actually sit around and look at the past.
“At home, flowers at my bedside are a must. All of us have our priorities and idiosyncrasies— this is one of mine.”
— Charlotte Moss, in her new book, “Flowers”
What’s your favorite flower for a bedside table?
That’s an impossible question! It really depends on the season and what’s available. I always like a little note of gentle fragrance beside a bed. And there are some flowers that are just a lot more ephemeral, you know, like Lily of the Valley. I also love Casa Blanca lilies; all you need is one stem. I have one in my bedroom now, and it has six blossoms on it. You walk in, and it just gets you—you smell that fragrance and, somehow, it makes you feel at ease.
What do you grab if you have to go to the grocery store for a quick bit of flowers?
Look, it’s a supermarket, so they have things that are readily available. I’d get masses of carnations, or masses of Persian lilies. In tulip season, you can’t go wrong. The most important thing is to not be stingy with them, because you can make even a little vase look generous.
Any advice for making flowers last longer?
Wash the stems when you get them from the supermarket, because you want to get rid of any sand or debris. Then trim the stems, and keep them in fresh water, changing it every couple of days. Always.
What’s your favorite, unexpected vase?
I had this glass vase that was a Michael Kors perfume bottle—a solid chunk of glass—and it was so fabulous for a couple small little blossoms, because it had no logo on it. Obviously, you’re not going to put something that’s got a logo in your living room!
“The most important thing is to not be stingy with them.”
— Charlotte Moss
If you’re not a gardener, what’s an easy, practically unkillable plant?
I’ve always told people to make friends with somebody at the local nursery. They’ll guide you in the right way. Select plants that don’t require a lot of haircuts, like myrtle topiaries. And pick things that you can water once every 10 days, like an orchid. An orchid is beautiful and thrives on benign neglect. Flush it out, make sure it’s got good drainage, and see ya next week! Same with grape ivy—they like to be flushed, then you leave them alone, come back, and do it again. Get something you don’t have to talk to or play classical music for.
“White flowers, whatever they are, have a quiet, obliging way of suiting any container that holds them. I find them very pleasing in vessels ranging from humble baskets to sterling silver.” — Charlotte Moss
Why a book on flowers now?
Over time, I have heard clients say that they just can’t do flowers the way the women at the garden club do them. If it makes people feel comfortable that someone like Charlotte Moss is just doing Queen Anne’s lace in a big bucket—if that makes them think, “Well, I could do that!, ” then that would be the best possible outcome.