Kiana Underwood of Tulipina Design travels the globe teaching workshops that focus on her old-world-style arrangements, which she shares on Instagram @tulipinadesign. Her first book, Color Me Floral (Chronicle Books, 2018), with images by her husband, Nate, focuses on seasonal, monochromatic creations. Underwood answers our Flower questionnaire, giving us a peek at her personality and her world.
Flower: In three words, describe your floral aesthetic. Kiana Underwood: Abundant, colorful, and complex.
What flower best represents your personality, and why? I love ranunculus, and I think it represents my personality due to its variation and resilience.
Is there a floral trend that you like right now? I love that the old-world style of floral design has returned.
Name three people who inspire you. I am inspired by Bach—I love his music and the enormous complexity that comes through as rather effortless. Bach’s music is a work of genius. Oprah Winfrey also inspires me because she is strong and has achieved so much in her lifetime despite a very challenging childhood, and Julia Child because she started her career in a later stage of life yet still made an amazing impact and a lasting legacy.
Did you ever have one of those aha moments that changed your life in a meaningful way? I went to graduate school and obtained my master’s degree from a prestigious school for international studies and wanted to become a diplomat and travel the world. Once I graduated, I found a job as a research assistant—writing and running errands at a California think tank, and it was nothing like I had hoped. After I became pregnant with my first child, I left that job and spent the next several years as a stay-at-home mother with three children.
While staying at home with my children was wonderful, I yearned for something more. When our last child entered kindergarten, my husband suggested floral design as a business idea. While I had been around flowers my whole life and made arrangements for the home, I had never imagined myself as a floral designer. However, once I got started, it was clear that there was no going back, and a true passion for flowers was ignited in me.
What do you feel is your greatest achievement so far? I think my greatest achievement is that I have been able to grow my business from nothing to something in a rather short period of time.
Your favorite travel destinations are… I love Japan and Europe, and I will travel to either of those destinations in a heartbeat.
If you could live anywhere in the world, it would be… Florence, Italy. I lived in Italy as both an undergraduate and graduate student, and I loved everything about it. Europe (and the Old World in general) is a place where I feel most at home and in my element.
If you could take only three books with you on a journey into space, what would they be, and why? I’d take Claire by Dorothea Malm, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, and The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. For me, the common theme of all these books is the strength of the heroines, and of course I enjoy the love stories behind them.
If you weren’t a floral designer, you might be a… Musician—a classical pianist. Playing the piano is what I do to relax and recharge, and classical music inspires me.
What are your three favorite movies of all time, and why? The Godfather because I love the emotions highlighted around family, loyalty, togetherness, culture, and conviction— not to mention that I am a huge fan of Al Pacino. Gone with the Wind: I have only two words—Scarlett O’Hara. The Shawshank Redemption because I’m inspired by the perseverance and patience that Andy Dufresne displays, and I absolutely love the human aspect of the relationships and friendships among the main characters.
What is your go-to attire? I like my Japanese vintage kimonos a lot.
Name a couple of things that you dread being discontinued. I would be very upset if they quit making kenzan floral pin frogs, and I would be most unhappy if they discontinued my perfume, Laila, which is made in Norway. It has a soft floral scent.
Watch the Trailer for Color Me Floral
Photography by Nate Underwood