A Q&A with Jeremiah Brent and Claire Watson: How to Expertly Incorporate Flowers into Home Décor

We recently caught up with interior designer Jeremiah Brent and flower connoisseur Claire Watson at The Wave Petunias Luncheon, which took place at the sumptuous BLT Fish in New York City’s Flatiron District.

Dianthus in a Vase
Dianthus bouquet in a vase

The expert duo dished on the fundamentals and tricks to artfully incorporating blossoms in home décor, including how to achieve a neutral—or dare I say, masculine—look with florals, and revealed popular mistakes people often make when using blooms to liven their living spaces.

What are the best blossoms to use in a home décor arrangement? What are the worst?

Claire: Lisianthus, dianthus (e.g., Green Ball, Amazon, Sweet), alstroemeria, and limonium do fairly well, and all have decent vase life. Others such as snapdragon, sunflowers, tulips, and stocks also have impressive vase life and can be used in home décor arrangements. Cut flowers such as sweet peas, asters, and phlox may look pretty, but they all have a very short vase life and need to be constantly replaced.

Choy's Ikebana Roses
Photo courtesy of Choy’s Ikebana

Jeremiah: In my opinion, there’s not really a “worst” flower; however, you do have to do some research based on the people whose space will hold the flowers. For instance, there are some flowers that are poisonous to have around kids or pets. I personally think that a bouquet of white roses is simple, chic, and surprisingly long-lasting.

Where are the best places to showcase floral arrangements in a home? Which room(s) do you believe benefit(s) the most from floral accents?

Claire: Generally any place in a house can showcase floral arrangements; just avoid areas that are too hot or sunny. Common gathering areas of the house—such as living and dining rooms—can benefit the most from [them]. Surprise your visitors with a fresh floral arrangement in a guest bathroom—it’s unexpected, but welcoming.

Jeremiah: I also believe that every room benefits from a natural touch. In my own home I have trees in every room including the kitchen, where I have an olive tree potted on the counter. Break the rules—put a plant or a floral arrangement in a room that you wouldn’t expect!

Jeremiah Brent Design Closet
Interior space designed by Jeremiah Brent

What are some spots in a home you recommend be adorned with flowers, that many don’t typically think to spruce up in that manner (and how do you suggest they go about doing it)?

Claire: Home office spaces are underused for floral arrangements. When you place fresh flowers near your workspace, they become a soothing influence… [not to mention] they can help purify the air, [which promotes] clearer thinking. [You can also] cheer up your laundry room with flowers—and music—to make the space more inviting!

Jeremiah: I think that people overlook bathrooms and closets. I personally love mini bouquets randomly throughout my bathroom and my dressing room. I’ll put a small bouquet on a dresser or on a round marble table in my bathroom next to the sink.

Jeremiah Brent - Photo by Douglas Friedman
Jeremiah Brent and Nate Berkus’ bathroom – Photo by Douglas Friedman

Name a common mistake—or two—that people make when using flowers to decorate their homes.

Claire: Thinking that fresh flowers are just for special events or that they cost too much are both common misconceptions. Also, many times people don’t make a fresh cut at the bottom of the flower bunches before putting them in vases. This shortens the lifespan of the arrangement. Placing the flowers in a very hot and sunny spot of the house is not recommended if you want to keep the flowers fresh for longer periods. A common design mistake: creating over-complicated floral arrangements with colors that don’t match well together. Sometimes “more” is too much.

Valeaston Arrangement
The interior designer and bloom expert dish useful bits of gen on how to best utilize florals in home décor this summer.

Jeremiah: I also think that people often overcomplicate things. Especially with design, and especially with natural elements, the simpler the better: stick to one color palette, don’t incorporate every flower type available, etcetera. Also, be cognizant of your lifestyle—if you can’t keep a succulent alive, then maybe you shouldn’t get difficult flower arrangements. Start simple, and work your way up.

Flowers typically give off a very feminine vibe—that said what are a few ways to incorporate them into a home’s décor, while still maintaining an overall neutral (or even masculine) feel?

Claire: One can still maintain a neutral feeling by using flowers/colors that are gender neutral; flowers such as sunflowers are best for that. Also, floral arrangements that are bold and big tend to create a masculine look. The vase or bowl you select can also reflect a more masculine or geometric style aesthetic. I would use one simple vase with one variety of flowers—any color goes. A grey room with pink or yellow flowers looks masculine and chic!

Jeremiah Brent Interior Design
Living space designed by Jeremiah Brent

Jeremiah: Again—the simpler, the better. If you don’t want the flowers to overshadow the rest of your décor, stick to a simple, single color palette. I love nothing more than a chic arrangement of white flowers with just a little bit of green.

What flowers are “in” this summer season? Name a few blossoms that are great to use year-round.

Claire: We’re seeing sunflowers and roses are quite popular this year, and both can be found year-round. They can also be tinted to match the season. Dianthus Green Ball offers great texture, and Brassicas (flowering kale, broccoli, and cabbage) make for great bouquet centerpieces.

What are your personal all-time favorites (which do you like to use the most to brighten up your home)?

Jeremiah: I tend to stick to white roses all year-round, and peonies whenever I can get them. I love trees year-round as well, and tend to use those in decorating more than anything else—they last, they’re beautiful, and they’re simultaneously sculptural and natural.

Would you ever recommend the use of artificial floral arrangements for home decor (or is the real deal strictly the way to go)?  

Jeremiah: Personally I prefer real, natural elements over anything artificial.

Claire: No!! That’s like [displaying] artificial fruit on your table. Though these days the artificial arrangements look very similar to the real ones, they come nowhere close to giving the same level of satisfaction you get from using real, fresh cut flowers… especially when you are gifting a bouquet to someone you love!