Flowering in the Low Desert

Flowering in the Low Desert

As is true with so many floral designers, Kate Minelian followed a long and winding path that eventually led her to Palm Springs, Calif., where she put down roots and founded Studio Kate Floral. Today, Kate designs weddings and events against a stunning Low Desert landscape, and all the while, she’s honoring the legacy of her beloved mum’s passion for flowers and gardening, which laid the foundation for her own love of flowers.

Where and when did your love of flowers begin?

My family left the United States and moved to England when I was a kid. My mother, who was a well-known actress [Lee Remick], loved to garden in her private time. She would spend hours ordering bulbs from catalogs, pouring over seed lists and cruising local nurseries. She grew roses the size of dessert plates! I remember thinking it was all very boring, which cracks me up today.

When my beloved mum passed away, her passion for all-things garden and floral seemed to pass to me, and it has been with me ever since. I was a Beverly Hills kid as a very young child, but I spent the rest of my life in New York, Massachusetts, and England. Moving back to L.A. in 1991, after she passed, I was delighted to see how well things grew here in the sunshine and have been making gardens here ever since. I even cut from my own garden for my designs sometimes.

When did you officially start your floral design business?

Originally, I entered the industry through a career as a garden designer in Los Angeles, where I created residential, commercial and school gardens, focusing on the “sanctuary” aesthetic with my company Kaleco Garden Design. Having come from the East Coast and, before that, Europe, I found gardening in Los Angeles to be so satisfying. I could grow all year, and I began to give flowers from my garden to friends. Soon I was asked to do weddings for a couple of them, so I started experimenting and reading and studying, and I realized I had much to learn. I decided I should study with the best, which I did. Then, in 2010, I started my floral design business out of my home near Venice Beach. I rebranded to Studio Kate Floral in 2013, and opened a permanent studio in Palm Springs.

Flowering in the Low Desert

Flowering in the Low Desert

What services do you provide?

We are an event design floral studio, with 70 percent of our business being weddings and the rest being corporate or special events. We cater to a lot of L.A. couples and event designers, as the Palm Springs market is destination oriented.

How has running a business in and around L.A. affected your design aesthetic?

I think environment, geographics and culture affect design a lot. What I fell in love with in California was the smell of Eucalyptus and orange blossoms, the bright colors of Bougainvillea, the full gardens, and the local flora in the mountains and valleys. It’s a very Mediterranean vibe. I use a lot of various strains of Eucalyptus, citrus leaf, actual citrus fruit, roses, Dahlias, lavender, poppies, palm, succulents, cacti and some Australian flowers, primarily. I also love adding large grasses and wild desert branches to my work. Clients also request glamour for wedding and event work here, and in those instances, I use a lot of European high-end blooms such as special Hydrangeas, dutch tulips, peonies, Clematis, garden roses, etc. That evokes my childhood spent in English gardens with Mum.

Do any recent Studio Kate Floral events stand out in your mind?

Yes, the past year brought us some interesting, challenging and fun projects. Last fall, I was approached by Viktor & Rolf Fragrances and Vanity Fair regarding a creative event for the Flowerbomb fragrance during Emmy Week in Los Angeles. The event was to create a floral hotel suite for four of the most prominent “social influencer” fashion bloggers, who have Instagram followers in the hundreds of thousands. Each was to have her own floral vignette in the suite. Viktor & Rolf’s brand was very specific with the flower list, which made it a challenge to secure all the fresh product (Mayesh Wholesale Florist sourced a lot of this for us). We created a floral wall, a headboard, a window frame and a vanity mirror.

Another event we created recently was the wedding of two gentlemen with very specific taste. They began their consultation with me by stating they hated flowers because they die! Hah, I almost choked! But then, as they described their vision, I was totally on board. Their dream was a wedding with a Southwestern feel, mixed with an industrial edge and a bit of disco thrown in. We created a large event in a fabulous local photography-and-event venue called Snapshot Palm Springs, an industrial space with a whitewashed interior, which proved to be the perfect backdrop for many cacti, cholla skeletons (some filled with twinkle lights for great shadows), cow skulls, sand, stones, and huge tumbleweeds. I commissioned Sand+Suede, a wonderful Joshua Tree artist, to make a beautiful tumbleweed chandelier under which they married. Dinner was filled with potted cacti, succulents and candles of all sizes under a starry night, followed by a disco indoors until the wee morning hours.

How would you describe the quintessential Southern California floral design aesthetic?

I would describe it as fresh, fresh, fresh. Most of the dinners and private events I do are filled with either white or bright flowers and either soft grayish greens or bright tropical greens. A new term I have heard lately is “tropical nouveau”– or as I call it here, “desert tropics.” Palm leaves, Monstera, hot pink and orange flowers with succulents, air plants and sometimes even paddle cactus. We are loving this look right now.