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Friends of faux: Designers embrace fake flowers

| Thursday, April 12, 2018, 8:55 p.m.
A spring paper flower garland by Lia Griffith
A spring paper flower garland by Lia Griffith
Faux flowers have come back into style.
Faux flowers have come back into style.

When then-first lady Michelle Obama wanted hibiscus garlands for a Korean state dinner, the fresh blossoms proved too fragile to string together. So artist Livia Cetti was tapped to create gorgeous garlands of paper blooms to adorn the White House. No longer the pariahs of decor, fake flowers are showing up at some of the best addresses.

“There is a place for faux flowers today,” says Whitney Robinson, editor in chief of Elle Decor. “They are essentially copies of what you would buy fresh.”

Although beautiful arrangements such as the bowl of 400 fresh lavender roses at a Zurich restaurant star in his Instagram feed (@whowhatwhit), Robinson recognizes that “not everyone has the time or budget to be able to buy fresh consistently. We are entering a new era in faux flowers as well, toward a new generation of paper flowers that takes the artistry to the next level.”

Not your grandmother's silk arrangements

In the past few years, consumers have embraced artificial flowers, unapologetically welcoming the silk, polyester or poly-blend version of succulents, orchid plants and hydrangea bouquets into their homes. Although they might have once carried a stigma, perhaps harking back to a dusty arrangement on a grandmother's coffee table, the tide has turned, thanks to modern materials and more sophisticated designs. Decorators and design bloggers feature faux flowers in their projects and on social media. Retailers are selling individual faux blooms as well as prearranged mixed bouquets and planters. On Etsy, roses and poppies spring forth in polyester and in tissue paper.

Mix it up

Monica Bhargava, Pottery Barn's executive vice president of design, often mixes real blooms, such as fragrant roses, along with faux on her office desk in San Francisco. Pottery Barn has created flower shops for its faux line and created videos about how to design with them. “All of us are living crazy lives,” she says. “It's nice to come home to things like these faux botanicals, which are effortless and fun.”

Paper blooms

The charm of handcrafted paper flowers is captured by artisans such as Cetti, a paper-flower artist working in the Bronx who was once a stylist for Martha Stewart. She has written two how-two books on paper flowers and sells her wares at high-end shops such as John Derian in New York and on her website, the Green Vase ( Her blooms start at $35 each.

“People like the fact that paper flowers stay around for a while,” Cetti says. “My objective isn't to be as realistic as possible; it's to find the character and feeling of each flower and interpret that.”

Design bloggers, who are always photographing their own spaces and looking for ways to add color and interest, have hastened the flowering of faux. “I don't have the money for fresh flowers in every corner,” says blogger Emily A. Clark. “This gives the look and feel of it. I have five kids to water and feed. I don't need anything with more maintenance right now.” Incorporating faux flowers hasn't stirred her readers. “I hardly have anyone call me out on it,” she says. “Some people are still against it, but I'm over it.”

“People want to have the fresh-flower look in their home,” says Donna Garlough, style director for Joss & Main. “These let them get the look without the expense or the maintenance.” Garlough says.

Jura Koncius is a writer for The Washington Post.

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