Three years ago, Doan Ly left her design job to branch out (pun intended) and start her own floral design company.
“My design aesthetic has evolved as the industry has evolved,” says Ly, who now runs A.P. Bio Designs in New York. “I didn’t know what my voice was yet, but I started falling in love with the organic garden feel—lots of foliage, a really romantic design—which has remained a staple part of my aesthetic because it goes well with weddings.”
Recently though, Ly has made a name for herself exploring the more modern, minimalist side of the industry. The new age of florals is here; it’s simple, colorful, and even (in Ly’s words) psychedelic. She is an expert in uber-cool contemporary designs—seriously, check out her Instagram—which is why we were thrilled to host a workshop with her at our recent Hamptons pop-up with American Express Platinum. Guests learned how to make local wildflowers feel a bit more modern and contained by using colorblocking and grouping methods to create beautiful arrangements.
We caught up with Ly to get her tips on everything floral, from making the most of our late summer blooms to creating a stunning centerpiece when you’re pressed for time.
Can you share your top tips for easy floral arranging?
I love using really bright colors and a bunch with one singular element. If you like using a couple different colors, do a tall group of one type of flower, and a shorter group of a different type of flower for some contrast. In general, I like to keep it simple and opt for one type of flower—it’s super easy.
What is not as intuitive for people is the vessel. People don’t think about the shape of the vase that they use, but it really dictates a lot. If you’re using a flower that’s tall and lean, it won’t work in a short, wide vase. Being aware of how tall you want the arrangement to be and how you’d like the flower to fall is important.
What’s the easiest way to make a flower arrangement look high-end?
Choose very similar colors, and arrange them in an ombré—it’s an easy way to make it instantly elegant. So, of you have a peach-toned flower as a base, go from a softer peach to a darker peach to maybe a coral.
Also, don’t mix vibrant warm and cool colors together, like bright purple with yellow or red. Pastels, on the other hand, will blend nicely.
How about using flowers from a farmers market or farmstand—how can people make those look fancier?
To make farm flowers look amazing, you need to stick to one type. Don’t mix them together or overthink it, which sounds boring but it’s true.
It’s also nice to invest in one really amazing colored glass vase. As long as you’re keeping it clean, you can put anything in a statement vase and instantly have a statement arrangement.
Any tips for making your farmstand flowers last longer?
What are the best florals for late summer?
Are there any trends in floral right now we should know about?
Painted or manipulated elements are also popular. Larger, heartier plants—especially leaves—are great for this. It’s almost turning floral arranging into art with hand-painting, which is really fun and interesting.
How can you throw together a chic arrangement when you’re short on time?
Go for really big bold pieces. If I want to make a statement, I’d go for large tropical leaves. It’s fun to just get one thing that’s humongous. Something a huge monstera leaf or palm leaf can do so much and you don’t need anything else.
However, if you’re strapped for time without the luxury of going out to find a monstera leaf, just go to your local supermarket or bodega and see what they have; they’ll usually have tulips or alstroemeria. Just keep it simple, and you can’t go wrong. If you want to try a couple different flowers, buy three bunches of the same flower in different colors and stagger them at different heights. So get a shorter, simple glass cylinder vase, a medium-sized one, and a taller one. This looks very intentional and thought out when actually it was super easy.
Also, don’t forget about fruit. It is so beautiful to have fruit in the same color palette as your flowers. I can’t resist an apricot, but pomegranates cut open are always great.