Being a die-hard bloom lover myself, I was instantly drawn to Natalie Bowen Brookshire’s flair for floral design, her special eye for style and the concept behind her thriving business. I met the lovely and talented Natalie in her floral studio as part of a monthly “meet-up” for creative women living in San Francisco. From weddings and social events, to interior design and styling, she works with a range of clients both grand and intimate to serve up the flowers and curate the spaces. I’m so happy to feature Natalie on the site, and here she shares some insights into her life as an entrepreneur, advice for budding floral designers and some of her best travel tips for San Francisco, and beyond.
DID YOU ALWAYS KNOW FLORISTRY WAS PART OF YOUR PATH?
My Grandmother owned a flower shop in San Francisco in the 40’s. She always said it was a lot of hard work, which I now understand. She was born in California in 1910 and felt a lot of love for the state and it’s natural beauty. She was an avid gardener and instilled this love in all of us. My mother was a garden designer and my first job was working in her garden’s. Even with this being my obvious path I always thought I would grow up to work in a corporate job and wear a power-suit. Yet, I felt the draw at a certain point and I guess it was my birthright.
WHAT DOES A DAY IN THE LIFE OF NATALIE LOOK LIKE?
A day in my life is usually a very full day that moves non-stop and every day looks a little different. I thrive on variety. I try and retain some sort of routine, which helps ground me in between my travelling. Two to three days a week I go to the market which means I rise at 5am in order to arrive at 6:30am. On the days that I don’t go to the market I exercise in the morning. I usually spend the middle of the day doing flowers in my studio, answering emails and meeting with clients. I always eat a home-made early lunch (you get hungry early when you start work so early). When we are working as a group on a large project, we sit down as a team for a big pot-luck style lunch. This is one of our secrets to success! Evenings consist of lots of social time with friends and on the nights we aren’t out and about my husband and I cook dinner together in our home.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL STYLE?
My personal style and design style reflect one another. My style is a combination of eclectic bohemian and tailored ease. I love a clean and put together look while still adding one unexpected element to every outfit. I love to accessorize and am never afraid of layering it on. I adore pattern and don’t feel myself without red lipstick on.
WHAT INSPIRES YOUR DESIGN STYLE?
I am most inspired by the beauty and individuality of each season. I am also very taken with color and interesting combinations of colors. It is from this point that most of my design inspiration launches. However, I am always gathering inspiration and applying when it feels fitting. Fashion and art are probably the biggest contributors to my stock of ongoing inspiration.
OWNING YOUR OWN BUSINESS IS A 24/7 GIG – HOW DO YOU FIND A WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
Like so many self-employed people, I am still mastering the art of work-life balance. I am a virgo and thrive with boundaries and rules so I have set up a few to obtain a more balanced life. I stop working after dinner and don’t stay up emailing or working after that time is over. I have also started a strong meditation practice which really helps ground me. I can do it anywhere, and especially make sure that I do when I am on the road!
MOST CHALLENGING THING ABOUT BEING AN ENTREPRENEUR?
Managing people. I just want to be everyone’s friend.
MOST REWARDING THING ABOUT BEING AN ENTREPRENEUR?
Feeling like I created something that is more than just about my visual craft. I feel that I have a strong team that really likes to come to the workplace that I have created and this feels really great!
ADVICE FOR ANY CREATIVES LOOKING TO MOVE INTO THE WORLD OF FLORAL DESIGN?
Make sure you like to get up early and realize that working with flowers is 10% of the actual job.
AND FOR US AMATEURS WHO LOVE FLOWERS IN THE HOME – ANY ADVICE FOR CREATING THE PERFECT FLORAL ARRANGEMENT?
My top 3 tips are:
1. For a maximum lifespan buy blooms that do not feel soft or blown out.
2. Clean all the leaves off of the stems below the vase line.
3. Give your flowers water and change it every day.
YOU ENJOY ORGANIZING EVENTS AND EVEN YOUR OWN DINNER PARTIES – WHAT MAKES A DINNER PARTY OF YOURS UNIQUE?
I have always loved hosting dinner parties and I feel fortunate that my husband and I live in a house that was made for entertaining. I almost always assign seating, even if there are only four of us for dinner. I just can’t let go of this formality.
WHAT ACCOMPLISHMENT IN YOUR LIFE ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?
Building a business on my own with no financial help.
WHO HAS BEEN A ROLE MODEL TO YOU IN YOUR LIFE AND WHY?
I have a life coach that I have been going to for eight years. She really is a mentor to me and I know that I am truly who I am today because of her guidance.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE SAN FRANCISCO TO SOMEONE WHO HAS NEVER BEEN?
I’d say it is a city that grows on people. I have lived here for eighteen years and I have seen so many people fall in love after a couple of years. San Franciscans love good coffee, great food and a pretty view.
IF YOU GAVE SOMEONE A ONE-DAY ITINERARY FOR SAN FRANCISCO WHAT WOULD IT LOOK LIKE?
You better be an early riser because there is a lot to see in one day! This is seriously a great itinerary and takes you in one big circle of the City and shows you eight iconic neighborhoods!
Go to the flower market and walk around (obviously!)
Walk three blocks to Site-glass for a delicious coffee and pastry
Go to the Ferry Building and enjoy local purveyors and nibble some more
Drive the Embarcadero from the Ferry Building to the Golden Gate Bridge. If it is not foggy, drive over and up to the Headlands and see the remarkable view
Come back over the GG Bridge and drive Fillmore from end to end. Enjoy upper fillmore and then head to Hayes Valley
Walk Hayes Valley, shop, get more coffee at the original Blue Bottle and head to Zuni (a SF Classic for 30 years) for lunch
Walk Valencia from end to end. Stop in every fantastic store and be sure to go to Voyager, Taylor Stich and Aggregate Supply.
Go to Bi-Rite and get a bottle of wine and next door go to Tartine and get a pastry for tomorrow’s breakfast. Then, go to the top of Dolores Park and people watch and enjoy your bottle of wine. Rose preferred.
Go to Foreign Cinema in the Mission for dinner. Be sure to request a table outside.
Sleep. Wake-up and eat the pastry you got from Tartine.
MOST UNFORGETTABLE TRAVEL MEMORY?
I have so many! I feel so fortunate to have a job that has brought more travel into my life. Being a travelling florist is a pretty amazing job, if I do say so myself. When I start to get overwhelmed I remind myself that this is the life I designed! I’ve had some real adventures! Almost being pulled over outside of Tulum, Mexico for foraging flowers is one moment I will not forget. Going to Holland to see the tulips and getting there three days after they had finished blooming was a good lesson in learning to let go and let flow. Oh, and staying with a friend in her yurt on the top of the Haleakala national forest in Maui and playing soccer with Woody Harrelson who was her neighbor. The best part of travelling is never knowing what adventures wait for you.
WHAT CAN’T YOU TRAVEL WITHOUT?
Stamps! I love to send post-cards.