There is a certain fantasy that lies in a flower. The best arrangements carry a story within them. Whether it’s in composition – the way your eye travels across a flower, from left to right – or the color variations within a petal. A story full of whimsy is hard to ignore, and that’s exactly what the floral designer Therese Johnson brings to his (beloved) table.
“We are located in the sleepy and charming little town of Sumner, WA. Our home, which we affectionately named Mayberry House, was built in 1918 and we were part of its timeline for seven of those years,” shares Teressa.
A studio of her own
With over 20 years of floral design under her belt, Teressa’s initial setup was in a basement with 6.5 feet of clearance, followed by a garage with no running water or insulation. “To say I’ve been given an upgrade is a bold understatement, and knowing the sacrifice it took my husband to give up his workspace – as well as hand-build this entire studio – it’s a endearing love letter to me.”
by Therese vision came to life when she introduced herself to the designer Katie LeClerq. “We met several times through mutual friends, but then we started working together and sparked a very dear friendship.” The charming studio was apparently built around a table conducive to storytelling and fantasy. And it’s the perfect place for Teressa to imbue her designs with a passion that goes beyond flowers, centered on the person sitting at the table.
“Why are they here? What relationship do they represent? How can I make them feel honoured? What would it be like to be one of these planned guests? deeply meaningful to everyone who has a seat at the table.
Ahead, Teressa invites us on her journey and her charming floral studio. Plus, the designer shares three invaluable tips for arranging your own flowers like a pro.
How long have you been drawing flowers?
For my thirteenth birthday, I was given three carnations from the grocery store. They quickly found their home on my bedside table and I reveled in how “extra” they were; how much they transformed my early 90s sponge painted bedroom. I have a distinct memory of promising myself that when I grew up there would always be fresh flowers in my house.
Where is the most surprising place where you find inspiration?
Inspiration seems to be everywhere when I have the luxury of taking the time to look around me. I spend a lot of time in the car and most sparks start to fly when I see weeds in ditches, tumbling vines overhanging fences, and sun-bleached dead things bending in the wind.
I come from a childhood (and still in my life now) where we had to get creative to make ends meet, so I have eyes that are always tuned to look at the ordinary through imaginative lenses. It almost always enhances and inspires my work.
It also helps me to let the natural material dictate what it wants to be, and allows me to let go and dance with it, instead of forcing it to fit into a calculated idea. This kind of layered inspiration not only informs my approach to working with flowers, but it’s a common thread woven throughout my life. It’s a philosophy that manifests through cooking, relating to others, and the simple truth that we really don’t have much control over life.
What was your vision of this space?
I wanted to stop the charade of going up and down stairs with rose vines getting tangled in my compositions. I wanted to stop hearing my lovely but busy kids upstairs and have no quiet place for customer phone calls. I wanted natural light and ceilings where I could lift an urn and not drive the top of a delicate branch into the low ceiling above.
My vision for this space was a reprieve from it all, and then I fell head-first into the creative genius of Katie LeClercq. I think it was just a render and I could see what she saw – it was perfect. She is the real deal and understands space and aesthetics like no one I know.
Describe your home studio in three words
Timeless, authentic, charming. The main farmhouse table here is like a sacred space – host to many deep and meaningful conversations that sweeten the studio all the more for me.
Do you have a favorite room or feature in your studio?
The farmhouse sink and table. Both come with a history of restoration, which is a very high priority for me and my husband.
The sink came with the 1918 house, but it was covered in paint and hidden in the basement. After waiting two years to find a house we could see ourselves building our lives in, we walked around this one. The bones were enticing, but the kitchen was way too small and kind of dampened my hopes. Disheartened, we went down to the basement and I spotted the sink! This was the tipping point.
I dropped my kitchen reservations and put an offer on the house. Seven years later, that blessed sink has finally taken center stage and emerged from the basement to the studio’s focal point, and we’re still getting by in our tiny kitchen. I would say it was worth it.
The table was part of a client’s family property and they never paid too much attention to it. After the project, they generously gave it to me, seeing that I was fainting, and they didn’t care. We strapped it to the van, sanded it down and oiled it. It has become a cornerstone of the studio ever since.
I’m happy to report that I currently know more neighbors with a wide range of diversity, thanks to my endless need to prune and prune and enjoy the foliage and flowers around us.
3 simple tips for creating flower arrangements
Know your essentials
Hands are the most essential tools for all of us. However, I have a special extension on my right hand, and it’s called a pair of bypass shears. I feel absolutely the most skilled with this in my hand, maybe even more so than with a pen, cellphone, or chef’s knife. Sure, there are many levels of quality in this category of scissors, but as long as they’re sharp and strong, I’m a happy camper. I’ve planted them all around me…in the car, on the deck, in my studio, in the toolbox. I still need those scissors.
Support all farmers! I cannot say enough about the dear people who dedicate their lives to cultivating beauty for us. If you can grow your own flowers, do it. If you can’t, go and support the small farms and the winegrowers who do all the work, in all seasons, to bring us their offerings. I’m in the northwest and we’re lucky to have so many amazing growers, who go out of their way to show up for us, consider our colors and the shades we each tend towards, and sometimes even grow new varieties with specific designers in mind.
Practice sustainability (there’s a surprising benefit!)
When it comes to plants, it’s important to know how and when to prune in order to create a symbiotic relationship with the plants. If one knows how to cut and prune, the plant is encouraged to grow and thrive, and it becomes a win/win situation for all. I’m not a professional gardener, but the basic instruction is to cut (using the aforementioned bypass shears, NOT SCISSORS) at an angle, just above the node. This will encourage further growth of the plant and of course provide you with the desired cut flower or branch for home arrangements.
When it comes to relationships, I’m a big proponent of meeting your neighbors. If a neighbor has something growing in her garden that I love, I knock on the door and introduce myself. A compliment to a garden is never unwanted, and an offer to buy cuttings from it is even better. However, I usually end up with a new friend, flowers that I adore, and a batch of warm cookies left in their hands because so far no neighbor has ever wanted money. Thus begins a new relationship that otherwise might never have happened. I’m happy to report that I currently know more neighbors with a wide range of diversity, thanks to my endless need to prune and prune and enjoy the foliage and flowers around us.
photography: Kara Mercer
styling/interior design: Katie Le Clercq
painting open cabinets: Benjamin Moore Gray Edgecumbe
painting of fitted wardrobes: Benjamin Moore Street Chic
faucet: Chicago Faucets
area rugs: Woven Abode and John Palmer Home
lighting above the large table: 1st Dibs
wall lights: Ramsey Conder
suspension above a small round table: Home Jayson
plaster work on the wall: Julianne Johnson
concrete counters: Concrete project
lower shelves: Casual Surveying Co.