STYLIST, AUTHOR, AND ROVING CREATIVE DIRECTOR HILARY ROBERTSON BRINGS HER IRREVERENT ENGLISH EYE AND GENIUS TO A NATURE-INSPIRED COLLECTION FOR BLOOMIST.
Story by Diana Keeler
Photography by Kate Mathis
Her latest project is a collection for Bloomist, created in collaboration with co-founder Alex Bates, whom she met after a fortuitous Instagram post. “Alex posted a picture from The Stuff of Life on Instagram — I didn’t know her at that point, but I had been following her,” Hilary says. “I sent her a message, we met up, and since then we’ve been waiting for an opportunity to work together.” Alex says they were well matched from the start: “We met over a coffee, and immediately started finishing each other’s sentences,” she says.
“When I started working on this project, she was the first person I thought of — I love how she incorporates flowers and natural elements in her work, as well as the rich textures and gently worn elements. I also have a huge appreciation for her eye for irreverent mixes and unexpected details.”
“IN THE PAST 5 OR 6 YEARS PEOPLE HAVE BECOME INCREASINGLY IN LOVE WITH PLANTS, NOT JUST FLOWERS. PLANTS ARE AN ANTIDOTE TO THE DIGITAL WORLD. PEOPLE NEED THINGS THAT ARE IMPERFECT, AND WILD, TOO.”
Here, we talk with Hilary about her earliest days in the garden, how minimalists can exploit the potential of “rowdy, blowsy, statementy” flowers, and her favorite piece from the collection.
Why do you think that flowers feel so vital right now?
I’ve always used flowers and plants in my work — it’s a huge part of being a stylist. With my commercial clients, they’ve become more and more the big statement in the room. More generally, I think in the past five or six years, people have become increasingly in love with plants, not just flowers. They’re an antidote to the digital world. It’s like, do you know anyone who hasn’t done a pottery class? People need things that are imperfect, and wild, too.
Has this natural world always been a big part of your life?
I grew up in London, but sort of a suburb of the city, and my grandfather was a head gardener. When I went to elementary school, we had a wild forest as our playground, and we spent all our time arranging leaves and acorns, making walls with leaves and stones and branches, and making leaf beds for our teddies. We grew some fruit and some roses — I grew up with that stuff, grinding rose petals into potions and mucking around and experimenting.
How do you incorporate flowers into your life now?
Even when I was super young and broke, I’d always buy flowers — even better to steal them out of someone’s gardens. I love amaryllis — I think they’re fantastic, and you can get away with buying one or three if you’re really lucky. A big, statement-y flower like that is value for money. In daffodil season, it’s great to get a great bunch of them. I love hyacinths, even though my husband loathes the scent. I just don’t think rooms, or tables, or anything is finished unless it has flowers. I’m a big fan of big — I like things to be big. Especially in photographs, when scale is so important, you need everything to be slightly larger than life.
These simple recycled glass jars are exactly right container for big tropical leaves or heavy Spring branches. Combining each size with a different variety of foliage makes a statement; a micro tropical jungle.
Do you have a go-to piece now?
Branches. I have a garden in Connecticut with all these fantastic trees. As soon as we get in for the weekend, we pull in whatever’s blooming — quince, cherry, apple. Sometimes I just drag in the bare branches — we’ve got some forest, and we’ll find fallen sculptural branches with no leaves. They’re nice to have in the winter.
What’s a great container for branches?
They need to be big, and they need to have weight — or you can weigh them down with pebbles. I like these galvanized buckets with handles, or concrete vases with handles. I also have some smelting pots for liquifying metal — they’re super heavy. Everyone should have one, just in case you get a big branch, especially after a storm or on a walk. I just can’t bear to throw any branches away — my assistant calls it my “No branch left behind” policy.
Are you a minimalist? Or more a believer in the idea that more is more?
Like I said, I like big, and big can work either way. If you’re a minimalist, you can have some big, sculptural leaves, or one statement-y bloom or something super delicate. Sometimes in a minimalist interior, you might want one kind of rowdy, blowsy, statement-y thing, and flowers are perfect for that — maybe just in one color.
In a “more is more” environment, you might have the opportunity to do something really over the top, more of a Dutch still-life arrangement where you’re mixing colors and doing something kind of oversize. I think everyone has their own color palette — I have my own color palette, and it goes around with me.
Your weekend home in Connecticut is featured in Bloomist’s first collection, and it seems to reflect a seamless way of living with nature. Was that a conscious part of why you chose it?
My husband comes from the countryside, and we decided this was his house to choose — it was his turn. He always wants to be somewhere he can garden, where he has his own compound. I wanted somewhere where you’re in and out, in and out — that’s what you need when you want to get away from New York, that indoor-outdoor feel. The house is small, but the outside is big.
What are your favorite pieces from your collection?
I particularly love the chain. I’ve collected chains for years, from rusted iron chains to ceramic chains — I’ve even got one that’s made of some kind of acrylic. I have a wooden one in my house in Connecticut that everyone always loves, and I thought I’d like to make one for the collection. So Alex got these made in Honduras, in three sizes. They’re just a sculptural, fun thing — you can hang it, you can pile it up. We have it in a white-washed, pale wood. It’s very tactile. I haven’t got my own yet, and I’m dying to get one.
Hilary’s books include Monochrome Home: Elegant Interiors in Black and White and the upcoming reprint of the popular Stuff of Life: Arranging Things Ordinary & Extraordinary, which will be released in February 2019.