Natural Design with Kelly Marie Thompson of Chicago's Fleur Inc.
Photo: Clary Pfeiffer
From its humble beginnings as a bucket flower shop, Chicago’s Fleur Inc. has become one of the city’s hottest destinations for exquisite, American-made gifts, home-decor goodies, and—most of all—stunning custom floral design. The artist behind Fleur’s fame is Kelly Marie Thompson, who takes her inspiration from Nature’s own effusive elegance…and who, after 14 years in business, still gets teary-eyed at the proposal tales of new wedding clients. In this exclusive Weddings in Houston feature, we find out how Thompson has cultivated her love of flowers, and how she brings clients’ floral fantasies into full bloom.
Weddings in Houston: When and how did you discover your love of floral design?
Kelly Marie Thompson: Flowers were a huge part of my life growing up because of my mother. We always kept a garden in our yard. In college I worked in the floral department of a grocery store, where I learned the basics of flower design. After graduating college I taught myself wedding design and opened Fleur when I was 22 years old.
WIH: What was your big break into weddings?
KMT: We always did weddings from day one, but in 2009, after going through a difficult time in my personal life, I really threw myself into the work and started to study flowers in a different way. My work became more organic and airy as I practiced and rebuilt my portfolio. From that point on, it came very naturally to me.
WIH: What do you like to know about a wedding couple before envisioning their floral design?
KMT: I love to know little bit about their background and the things they like to do as a couple. Their stories help me gather inspiration when it comes to thinking up new ideas for the wedding.
WIH: You’re known for creating unique, one-of-a-kind floral designs. How would you describe your design process and creations?
KMT: I think our style lends itself to uniqueness because it is a lot more airy and windswept. Rather than trying to manipulate the stems into a bouquet form, I prefer to let the stems guide the shape of my arrangements. Working with the natural shape and form, including negative space and light, helps to make the flowers look and feel different.
WIH: With Houston’s notoriously hot, humid climate, outdoor weddings are often not an option. What do you recommend for infusing a hotel ballroom with a lush, fresh, garden-y feel?
KMT: Don't be afraid to allow a little more greenery into your centerpieces. Tall table designs can be dreamy, with ferns gently cascading down. Low centerpieces can spill out onto the table with a few sprigs of vine. Focal blooms at different heights make the centerpieces look like a true garden. Negative space in general in floral design brings you straight to nature.
WIH: What should a bride be asking/looking for when selecting her floral designer?
KMT: I think personality is always important. You want to connect with your designer so you can really understand each other. This can be achieved through drawings, mockups or sometimes just a description. If you’re looking at a florist’s portfolio and you see that modern designs are their specialty, but you’re looking for something more garden-inspired, that designer might not be the right fit. Don’t force a design onto someone if it isn’t his or her specialty.
WIH: What do you love most about designing flowers for weddings, and why?
KMT: Honestly, it’s our couples. I can’t even think of how many times I begin to tear up listening to their proposal stories. I love when I connect with our couples on ideas and they give me a little extra room to be creative and come up with something original for their wedding. It’s incredibly satisfying to be a part of a business that is all about love.