Neill Strain is a name synonymous with luxury in the world of flowers. Operating from a stunning floral boutique in the Belgravia neighborhood of London and offering his creations through partnerships with Harrod’s Knightsbridge amongst others, you can count on Neill and his team to assemble some of the most stunning flower arrangements on the planet.
On a recent trip to London, Neill created a few arrangements for our team’s beautiful space in a rented flat through Sotheby’s International Realty in Belgravia. We spoke to Neill about his brand, inspiration and ethos behind what has become a true icon in London and worldwide.
IC: When did you first realize flowers were your passion, and why did you fall in love with designing floral arrangements?
NS: I realized flowers were my passion when I was very young. I used to work in the garden in Ireland with my grandmother and at age 12, I took on a Saturday job at the local flower shop. I fell in love with designing floral arrangements because I believe fresh flowers are the most extraordinary material for creating emotive art. Whether one is working on an event, a wedding, or decorating the front of my own Belgravia boutique, I see that floral designs give people an extraordinary feeling. The ephemeral beauty of flowers is unique.
IC: What is your favorite flower to work with and why?
NS: It is impossible to have one single favorite flower, however, I often have a favorite flower of the season, such as Tulips in the spring, Roses in the summer and Dahlias in the Autumn. The number of different varieties of these flowers available today, thanks to the exceptional work of our Dutch breeders, means with one single flower type we can work with many different styles and colors. I like to work with seasonal flowers yet I also have a passion for Orchids and almost always include this large family of flowers in my work: long trails of Phalaenopsis, giant stems of Cymbidium and the exotic colors of Vanda, to name a few. Every May, during the Chelsea Flower Show, we host an exhibit of one single flower and showcase old, new and rare varieties that I source from Holland. These exhibits have included Hydrangeas, Peonies, Roses and Orchids, all of which are on occasion my favorite flowers.
IC: Where does your greatest design inspiration come from?
NS: I have many sources of inspiration. I have an eye for architecture and the buildings and garden squares of Belgravia, where I have the boutique are always inspirational. Nature in general is extremely inspirational for a floral artist and I visit London and Richmond parks for this, or go out to the countryside for the weekend. I am a fan of fashion and haute couture; the materials, the colors, textures and the lines of fashion are particularly inspirational for our hand-tied bouquets. Finally, since a lot of my work includes designing flowers for interiors, the interior design, the colors and textures, the style and personal character of a home, are both inspirational and influential for my designs.
IC: What has been your greatest career achievement to date?
NS: My greatest career achievement occurred this summer and was something my team and I have been working towards for a long time. We opened the flower concession at Harrods. Over the past 10 years, since I first opened my boutique in Belgravia, I have created a network of the very best growers in Holland from whom I source flowers of absolutely exceptional quality. This, combined with the high level of design we create for our discerning clientele, means that Harrods is the perfect place to showcase our flowers and our work.
IC: What is the best advice you can give people who might be designing their own floral arrangements at home? Any tips?
NS: My advice is to first look at the colors, the textures, the lines and the proportion of the the room in which you wish to design your flowers. Consider the overall style, if the interiors are traditional or contemporary. Then select your flowers accordingly. Tall flowers and big arrangements for large proportions and small bouquets or arrangements or even a single flower for a small room. Making a mood board can sometimes help to make sure you don’t wander from your theme. Choosing the right container is also important. Glass vases expose stems so make sure the stems are attractive, or you can place large leaves inside the vase, such as Monstera leaves, to cover the stems and this creates an interesting look. A ceramic or porcelain vase must not compete but complement the flowers so take care choosing either the vase or the flowers first so you can select the other accordingly.