There are floral arrangements, and then there’s next level floral design—and the minute you step into one of Ovando’s New York boutiques the difference is apparent. Unexpected arrangements in bold colors pop within a sleek, all-black space—the combination of simple and extraordinary is an Ovando signature on any scale.
Since opening her first storefront in the West Village in 2003, Sandra de Ovando’s sophisticated, artistic floral compositions have become highly sought after in the luxury realm, and she’s since opened several boutiques around the city and expanded into full-scale event production company. She also has a line of luxury candles (sold at Barneys in-store and online), and their sumptuous scents welcomed us to Ovando’s Upper East Side location for a visit last week. We went to meet the master herself, who was generous enough to offer Ally Huynh, Barneys New York’s Digital Project Coordinator, a private lesson in floral design. Ally, who volunteers with a florist on weekends, has long admired Ovando’s eye-catching arrangements and jumped at the opportunity to learn from the best.
Below, Sandra offers a step-by-step lesson in making an Ovando floral design with yellow roses, yellow calla lilies, and white orchids—and answers some of Ally’s questions about the industry along the way.
Sandra de Ovando’s Floral Design Tips:
Always use a sharp knife and clippers in order to get clean cuts and sharp edges.
Stems should be cut at a 45° angle.
When designing the structure of an arrangement, always plan to use the largest flowers fist and build from there. This is the easiest way to make certain that there will be enough room in the vase for all of the flowers you are hoping to use.
The standard height suggestion for arrangements in low containers is that the tallest stem should equal 1 to 2 times the length or diameter of the vase or bowl. This, however, is hugely based on personal preference. It’s also important to trust your own sense of scale.
Different flowers require different kinds of conditioning. Be sure to research the kinds of flowers you plan on using in your floral arrangement.
Many flowers prefer room temperature water, not cold water. Roses actually prefer lukewarm water.
Woody flowers like hydrangeas or branches need to have their stems crushed (preferably using a hammer) in order to properly absorb water. If the stems are visible within the vase, a cleaner alternative to crushed stems involves cutting thin, vertical slits into the stem.
Enjoy yourself! Remember that design, like any other art, is subjective.
Ally Huynh: You come from both Spanish and Russian roots—do you think those cultures influence your taste and vision?
Sandra de Ovando: My grandmother was Russian and lived in Paris. She had this very elegant and tastefully appointed flat. She taught me to have an appreciation for quality, which is why I only work with the best materials for all that we design and create. Meanwhile, growing up in Mexico City inspired my love of vivid colors and my affinity for certain flowers. The vibrancy of the Mexican culture really influences everything we create and brings a subtle sensuality.
AH: How did you take a love of flowers and translate it into a career?
SO: I was lucky enough to travel significantly when I was young and was greatly influenced by my travels. I was inspired by Asian design. The shapes, the lines, and overall cleanness of arrangements spoke to me. While living in Paris, I was surrounded by artist of all mediums and this exposure opened my eyes to a sophisticated level of restraint and simplicity in design. I brought all of this into Ovando and its aesthetic.
AH: Ovando does such amazing large-scale production for events. How do use flowers specifically to alter or enhance a space?
SO: Flowers are one of our favorite elements to use when recreating a space because they breathe life into any room. They can be the star of the room or they can be added strategically to highlight and finish the space. When incorporating any design element—whether it’s flowers, lighting, or custom furniture—we like to visualize what the final space will look like from the beginning. We brainstorm taking inspiration from things like fashion and make sure to highlight the great areas of the space, whether it’s amazing ceiling height or lovely natural light.
AH: You have expanded so far beyond flowers, including into your line of candles. What was the inspiration behind launching those?
SO: I wanted to create a sensorial journey inspired by various chapters of my life, starting with Mexico and continuing into my time spent in Paris. Each scent is actually a personal fragrance memory, captured in fragrance and it’s so amazing that I can share my memories of these beloved, magical places. Happily, the candles are also a great way for our clients to prolong the beauty of the flowers they receive as well, since many times the candles are given with our arrangements.
Textural Expressions: Yellow roses, yellow calla lilies and white orchids, as prepared above.
Vivacious Vanda: Pink vanda orchids.
Lindo Dia: Green cymbidium orchids, eggplant calla lilies.