Decorating tips from the Hampshire florist to the stars
PUBLISHED: 15:58 12 December 2019 | UPDATED: 15:58 12 December 2019
Upton Grey’s florist to the stars Paula Rooney is looking forward to Christmas
From working with luxury brands to masterminding showstopping floral installations for a plethora of events, it's easy to see how Paula Rooney has earned her well-deserved reputation amongst an elite world of floral designers.
An exquisite eye for detail and her down to earth nature amongst other attributes have made her the 'go-to' designer when it comes to weddings and events in some of the most luxurious venues and locations across the globe. Boasting an impressive list of corporate clients as well as celebrities from former England rugby captain Chris Robshaw and his soprano star wife Camilla Kerslake who tied the knot in Provence last year through to none other than Her Majesty The Queen, Paula's standout designs have seen her named as one of the top ten floral designers by not only Hello! Magazine but Country Life, Harper's Bazaar and Tatler too. She has even dipped her toes into the world of couture, creating a dress made entirely from cascading shades of roses inspired by the pink bubbles of sponsors, Taittinger Champagne, for the Fleurs de Villes Mannequin series.
Paula's longstanding love affair with flowers started when she went to college. Finishing her studies at the Welsh College of Horticulture, she went on to travel the world working on the QE2. There she learned a thing or two about the importance of precision and delivering consistent high quality, something which is a cornerstone of her own business. Paula even did a stint working for a bespoke Christmas company, dressing homes of the rich and famous ready for the festive season. "Every little thing had to be just right. It made me really think about how I did things - made me elevate my skills," says Paula. "It's that sleek execution which I've adopted as part of my own business motto now."
Moving to Hampshire, she set up from the kitchen table and began with wedding flowers as well as creating her own bespoke in-house flower service which quickly led to her being snapped up by clients such as the exclusive members only Queenwood Golf Club. Fast forward a year or two and Paula's business had gained such momentum that the kitchen table simply wasn't big enough any longer.
It isn't about having a trademark style as such. In fact, whether it's sleek contemporary, opulent romance or a more natural look of silver birch and meadow flowers, Paula seems to be able to turn her hand to anything. Clients choose her because they know that she will not only meet their expectations but she will also deliver the 'wow' factor. "My aim is for people to walk into the room and feel blown away. When you've really nailed their vision or even better than that, when it's more than they could have imagined, it's just the best feeling.
"All my designs are so different. It's about mirroring each client. I want to find what makes their style unique and create something based on that." Ombré columns, floral walls, sumptuous chandeliers and burgeoning archways, her creations aren't just about the flowers themselves, they are works of art designed to make a statement. "Nowadays it's not just about making it look pretty or using expensive flowers. You have to design pieces that are going to get attention. That's the key to being a good designer," she smiles. "Everything needs to be picture perfect."
Her installations are no stranger to a camera lens or two. Working on the wedding of Japanese supermodel Kiko Matsuyama, Paula and her team found themselves being filmed by a Channel Four film crew busy shooting a behind-the-scenes documentary at Cliveden House, one of the world's most exclusive country house hotels and notorious playground of the aristocracy and super-rich. Paula laughs as she tells of how the crew had been due to leave the same day as she and her team began setting up canopies of roses, orchids and crystals and a grand statement piece for Cliveden's stunning staircase.
"We had such a quick turnaround for that wedding. When the crew saw the scale of what we were doing, they decided not to leave and ended up filming us doing the whole wedding. I love that bride or client who wants something different. The ones who like to think outside the box - that's what keeps my creativity flowing. It's about coming out of your comfort zone every single job. I love the excitement that brings."
Not only does Paula's design vision seem limitless but her love for the industry she has worked in for more than 25 years does too. At her new studio in Upton Grey, she realised a longheld dream of starting her own Floral Design Academy, helping others develop their floristry skills. "It's hard to balance being a creative and being business minded. I've learnt that from experience," Paula admits. "I wanted to create more of a coaching atmosphere. It's so easy to burn out. Investing in yourself along the way is the key to helping up-scale your business whatever stage you're at."
The academy has been a huge success and Paula now offers a Floral Concierge and bespoke Seasonal Floral Decoration service for private homes too. When it comes to festive décor, she knows a thing or two about getting it right - her 15ft Christmas tree design for Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square was named as one of the top 13 hotel Christmas trees in the world by The Telegraph. This month will see her launch a new line in her floral boutique - two of her favourite wreath designs available to order, bringing her luxurious style to homes over the festive period as well as a one-off series of wreath-making workshops followed by a cocktail masterclass in neighbouring Gorilla Spirits Co's very own Distillery Bar next door.
Who better to ask for those top tips for showstopping festive decoration than this dynamic award-winning floral designer? "Christmas is my favourite time of year. It's about keeping it simple. Choose one flower or berry for your vase and then go out into the garden and forage for a bit of foliage.
"Create little pockets of Christmas around the house. It doesn't have to be fancy - it's about how you put it all together. The tree should be about memories. Put the things on the tree that mean something to you. Those are the best decorations of all," she beams.