Determining a color palette is one of my favourite things to do as a floral designer. Colors really get me going! I love finding one stem that inspires me and then building off of that one color to make a palette. The underside of a leaf, the centre of a flower that’s a different color; when I’m making a centerpiece, finding those little moments is when I get really lost in the design.
One thing I always like to do with colors is think about them as having “sweet and sour” shades. I may be using a very soft, dusty pink, but by throwing in a slightly peachier version of that pink, I can really give the color palette some depth. This applies to greens as well. If I’m using a really subtle blue-green like dusty miller, I’ll throw in something a bit more sour as an accent (like a yellow-green) to create interest in the palette. It creates so much dimension.
I also think about a florals as having shadows and highlights. Think about cumulus clouds. They have shadows on the undersides of the really big fluffs, which is what gives them so much dimension, and showcases their billowy shape. On the top, they’re glowing white from the light of the sun, which gives them such a soft, welcoming look. With flowers, I like to leave the darker blooms underneath as the “shadows” and keep the lighter colors above coming out as “highlights.” Then, I tuck transitional colors into the arrangement so they act as a blending element between the dark and the light. Being progressive with your colors makes the transition softer for the eyes.
It’s really nice for your eye to know where to go when it looks at a floral arrangement. I want my viewer’s to go on a visual adventure; to focus on one spot, stay there for a moment, and then move across the arrangement, traveling along lines of color and texture. I want their eye to follow a winding path, opening them up to explore all of the complexities of the floral elements I’ve chosen.
I tend to call these paths “rivers” and I imagine them as meandering bodies of flowing color and texture, weaving in and out; back and forth, cutting through the arrangement like a river cuts through the mountains. To form these rivers, I use clusters of flowers, textures, and lines to create movement.
I could talk about color all day! But if nothing else, I encourage you to think about making your centrepieces an experience for the people sitting beside them. Create something that encourages guests to spend time with it, noticing each moment, and appreciating the different shapes and color gradients woven throughout the design. If the guests are sitting in front of a centerpiece for two hours at dinner, let’s give them something beautiful and interesting to look at!
An in-depth exploration of Sarah Winward’s floral philosophy, design, and execution.