On Trend: Bold Dyed, Dried, and Painted Flower Arrangements

Floral designer Kelsea Olivia knows how to make a statement with stems.

Kelsea Olivia's New York-based boutique floral design company, East Olivia, is known for over-the-top installations for events. However when the pandemic put a pause on gatherings, Kelsea pivoted and launched The Forever Floral Shop to sell dried and preserved bouquets. Browse through her new online storefront, and you'll find the latest floral design trends reflected in the stunning handcrafted collections.

Their fashion-forward lines tend to mirror the season of their release, with Autumn seeing "a real focus on nature's seasonal ingredients for inspiration." So much so, that this new aesthetic direction has started showing up in their event installations as well. "Artistic, hand-painted materials are definitely big this Fall," Kelsea says, with 'nature being the ultimate inspiration of unique color stories."

Here she shares some of the secrets behind her signature style so you can enjoy trendy dyed, dried, and wildly painted flowers in your own arrangements.

floral designer Kelsea Olivia white dress pastels arrangements
Atarah Atkinson

Trend Alert: Painted and Dyed Flowers

Who says gilding the lily is a bad thing? Flowers in metallic or super-saturated colors instantly make for a modern arrangement. Offering a lot of visual excitement, East Olivia has spent years working with fine artists to develop this unique touch of hand to their installations and arrangements. When wanting to add a bit of the unexpected to your own arrangements, tryout this trend yourself by splurging on opulent, hand-painted Irithiums from hausofstems.com These fresh blooms can last weeks, when the water is changed regularly, carrying your arrangement through multiple festivities.

painted dyed flowers iridescent anthuriums peonies ranunculus mums
Atarah Atkinson

Above, Kelsea tucked iridescent Irithiriums amid peonies, ranunculus, carnations, tulips, and chrysanthemums. Some flowers are dyed; others are natural. "I love combining special flowers with blooms you could find in any grocery store," she says, "It doesn't all have to be caviar." For large arrangements like this one, she suggests clustering flowers more tightly at the center of the arrangement and building out from there, keeping taller ones loose and airy for movement and dimension.

pastel bud vases tulip carnations roses peonies poppies ranunculus
Atarah Atkinson

The Art of Simplicity

"If you love flowers but arranging seems overwhelming, bud vases are a great option," Kelsea says. "Even a little cluster of three vessels will make a big impact on an entryway table." Try this with fuller flowers like carnations, roses, or peonies, or ones with especially graceful shapes like poppies or ranunculus.

In the above collection, Kelsea added a special touch to the tulip toward the top of the photo. She carefully inverted each petal, a technique known as reflexing, to reveal the tulip's citron center. "Make sure the flower is well-hydrated before you bend the petals, and if they resist, don't push it."

wild place setting pastel baby's breath grasses ranunculus lisianthus
Atarah Atkinson

A Little Wild

"I wanted this installation to feel like wildflowers growing down the middle of the table," Kelsea says. She started by filling a long, low trough with three small metal flower frogs, alternating with clusters of chicken wire. Then she "planted" her arrangement by building a base of baby's breath and pink-dyed grasses, tucking in ranunculus and lisianthus. Many stems were trimmed down, creating a delicate look, while making conversing between dinner guests easy.

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dried soft earthy arrangement thistles alliums miscanthus protea anthurium vase
Atarah Atkinson

Mixed Media: Fresh and Dried Florals

Kelsea mixed a variety of richly textured dried flowers, including skeletal alliums, feathery miscanthus plumes, and pink protea, with a fresh, painted Irithirum for contrast. If you're mixing dried elements with fresh flowers, keep the dried stems out of water as much as possible. Between uses, make sure they're completely dry and store in an airtight container.

"A balance of textures makes a dried arrangement look modern," Kelsea says. Of course, the vintage look can also be a draw. "Ever see The Golden Girls? The pampas grass in their living room is so chic!" You can dry your own flowers or buy them from afloral.com, Kelsea's favorite source.

floral designer Kelsea Olivia pink jumpsuit neckerchief
Atarah Atkinson

Meet Kelsea Olivia

A self-described "visual story-teller with a passion for genuine connection," Kelsea is motivated by her lifelong dream of "creating beauty in the world" believing that access to the ephemeral, and to beauty itself, is not a luxury but rather a human right, and that nature itself is our strongest evidence of this truth. When we are able to enjoy visually stimulating environments, often they allow us to be at ease and therefore connect more with ourselves and one another. Kelsea is not afraid to take risks and experiment in order to create this environment, reimagining the traditional into the contemporary whenever possible.

Where do you find inspiration?

Fashion is my number one source of design inspiration, after all, fashion is typically where you see people taking the biggest risks with color and texture. I absolutely love looking to NY street style or even fine art, interior design, street art, really any type of visual expression for unexpected color stories, unique uses of texture and new treatments of materials.

What are your favorite flowers to work with?

My favorite flowers to work with are roses, baby's breath and carnations. While these are some of the most traditional floral ingredients, oftentimes even the most overlooked, they are my go-to stems to use. Not only do they come in an array of colors, sizes and scents but they are tremendously resilient during arranging, making them ideal for installations.

Easy way to fancy up a grocery store bouquet?

If the flowers you're working with are really on the more simple side, make a point of playing with shape or color to make an impact. Try an arrangement that's half carnations and half roses, for example, and reflex some of the rose petals to reimagine the shape and highlight their beauty.

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