Asked if she has any bridezilla stories she can share, Nicolette Owen, owner of Nicolette Camille Floral Design, knocked on wood and said, “No!” Surrounded by beautiful flowers in her Williamsburg studio—white peonies, blue and purple hydrangea, velvety lambs ears, young blueberries, columbine, sweet peas and antique roses—one must deduct that floral design is among the most coveted jobs in the world, especially when you have your own company and can bring your creative visions to fruition.
“A lot people say they would love to have my job,” says the young designer, “but I remind them of all the hard work that goes into it, like getting up at five in the morning to get to the flower market. Doing deliveries. There are times when I’m so tired after working on a big wedding, that immediately after the flowers are delivered all I want to do is to go to sleep,” she says.
As a Fine Arts major at Sarah Lawrence, Nicolette had wanted to be a photographer, but after college she discovered it really wasn’t her calling, so she cast about for another career that would put her fine arts training to good use.
“My family has a beautiful garden upstate. Growing up, I really loved flowers, so I thought, maybe I could be a floral designer.” In early 2000, she moved to Oakland, California, where she noticed a help wanted sign on a flower shop window while biking around. “The shop was owned by two women, and they hired me. I made bouquets for birthday parties, bridal showers, all kinds of events. They gave me a lot of freedom to do my own designs. Looking back, I realize how unusual that was.”
She recalls her art training gave her a good sense of color and proportion, and she was able to make some beautiful bouquets. She never looked back.
By 2006, Nicolette was back in New York and settling down in Williamsburg. She quickly landed a job at the newly launched interior design magazine Domino as a photo researcher. “I learned so much there. There were so many great designers and editors, and from time to time they would ask me do flower arrangements for the shoots.”
While working at Domino, Nicolette also started to build her floral design business, doing weddings for her girlfriends, and special occasion bouquets for family and friends. “I remember at one wedding, I had to do all the arrangements in my hotel room, and I was there all day, working away while all my friends were partying and having fun. From time to time, someone would drift in and offer me a glass of champagne or something,” she says, remembering those salad days. She also started to teach flower arranging with her friend Sarah Ryhanen—a side business she continues to this day, charging $250 for a three-hour session, which includes tools and flowers. “Students get to take home the arrangement and a set of tools,” she explains.
When Domino folded in 2008, Nicolette’s business took off, mostly, she says, by word of mouth. Today, just about every weekend from spring to autumn she is booked for weddings and special events. But she can still design special occasion boutiques on the fly if you call and give her a few days notice. Her studio is always stocked full with beautiful flowers and rare foliage.
Nicolette likes designs that look wild and free, with an abundance of unique floras like antique roses, young blueberries, and delicate flowers you’d find in an English garden. She explains that her inspiration is famed designer Ariella Chazar, who is known for designs that capture nature’s grace. The trick, Nicolette says, is to let the arrangement mimic nature, to appear as random flowers gathered from the field, yet still find a way to make the final product elegant and beautiful. Her advice to her clients is to allow the designer the freedom to do their best creative work. “Just trust in your choice of designers,” she says.