As Atlanta’s Buckhead Village was preparing for their Bodacious Blooms flower festival to blanket the neighborhood in stunning floral creations by the nation’s most innovative, talented, and buzz-worthy floral designers, we got to catch up with Carlos Franqui of Floratorium.
Bodacious Blooms features inspiring installations festooning shop exteriors, grand arrangements taking center stage inside boutiques, design secrets divulged by the pros behind the eye-catching creations, and exclusive promotions and countless photo-ready moments throughout the village. The event kicked off April 28 with a reveal of awe-inspiring installations by Floratorium, Canaan Marshall Designs, Pinker Times, and a new botanical-themed mural by local artist Niki Zarabi.
Renowned floral designer Carlos Franqui’s Floratorium studio visited Buckhead from its base in New York to create a larger-than-life installation using his trademark mix of live and silk botanicals. The firm specializes in adorning boutiques, restaurants, and even construction scaffolding (which it has dubbed “glamffolding”) in lush floral installations that climb and drape dramatically.
Floratorium’s installations have graced exteriors all over New York and have been crucial at driving business, especially during sparse pandemic times, thanks to their eye-catching beauty and weather-resistant, long-lasting make-up. Franqui is thrilled to bring his work to Buckhead Village. “We are always excited to bring Floratorium magic to new markets and new people to spread joy and share our passion of flowers with others,” he says.
The week before the Buckhead work, Carlos made a splash in Manhattan. Floratorium was invited to decorate the entrance to St. Patrick’s Cathedral for Easter Sunday. Flowers in bold, Easter-egg colors flanked the entrance walk and towering doorway.
Floratorium’s Bodacious Blooms installation, called “Psychedelic Dreams” drew inspiration from the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Thousands of blossoms hang from the building’s awning projection in great swaths of color. The willow and wisteria vine structure make the piece feel like it grew in place.
The NYC-based designer and founder of Floratorium shares what keeps his creativity alive and how he makes such stunning arrangements with silk flowers.
Flower Magazine: What sparked your interest in the world of flowers and floral design?
Carlos Franqui: I grew up surrounded by tropical flowers in my hometown in Puerto Rico. When I moved to New York, I once ordered flowers for my son’s birthday and was so unimpressed by the execution of the studio that I hired that I decided to enroll myself into the FlowerSchool New York. There I met master florist Oscar Mora and learned the real challenges and logistics of operating your own flower studio.
“Flowers have always had the power to spark joy and happiness to everyone standing in their presence. But unfortunately, if you’re not invited to a big wedding or special event (like the Met Gala), you aren’t able to experience this feeling. Creating unexpected floral moments throughout public places has changed that.” –Carlos Franqui
FM: You use a mixture of silk flowers and organic materials in your installations, which feels very innovative considering the bad rap silk florals have gotten through the years. How do you make this medium work so beautifully?
CF: The reason why silk flowers have such a bad reputation is because they look “FAKE.” I always try to stay as real as possible, like the way Mother Nature would have arranged them herself. I use willow branches to create structures and wisteria vines to create movement and a more organic feel.
FM: What do you hope your installations bring to people and communities?
CF: Flowers have always had the power to spark joy and happiness to everyone standing in their presence. But unfortunately, if you’re not invited to a big wedding or special event (like the Met Gala), you aren’t able to experience this feeling. Creating unexpected floral moments throughout public places has changed that.
FM: What has been your favorite floral installation you’ve created so far and why?
CF: My favorite installation to date would have to be “Pincushion,” a tribute to the Garment District Alliance of NYC. I transformed the old information booth into a giant tomato pincushion made entirely of branches, red roses, hydrangeas, and custom carnation needle pins. As we were installing, a lot of people from the garment district stopped by to thank us for the tribute.
FM: Can you give us a high-level sense of the amount of work that goes into an installation?
CF: The process begins with a concept, usually inspired by my travels or fond childhood memories. Then I try to re-create that nostalgic memory by selecting the flowers and color palette, followed by sketches and renderings. During installation day, we have two phases—Structure Day and Floral Day. Fifty percent of the time gets consumed by creating a structure made entirely of branches (willow, laurel, wisteria), followed with foliage and flowers.
FM: What helps you fuel your creativity on a personal level?
CF: Traveling is a key factor that sparks my creativity, and I always keep an open and curious mind. I often find myself wanting to take the less traveled road approach, which is why I ended up focused on this “silk flower” niche.
FM: What is next for you and Floratorium? What are you excited about?
CF: I love transforming spaces and creating magical experiences for all of those who visit. It’s always been a dream of mine to merge hospitality with what we do. I want to create a place where you can feel transported and love so much that you wouldn’t want to leave.
By Susan Hall Mahon