By Renee Tomell | MySuburbanlife.com | June 26, 2015 | While Thomas Jefferson’s passion for horticulture didn’t get him elected president, a shared zeal for the subject regularly lands Michael Skaff in the White House. With flowers as his artistic medium, he recently launched Skaff Floral Creations in Hinsdale.
“It’s been a real honor to be able to work on three inaugurations,” Skaff said of the presidential events in 1993, 2001 and 2005. “I still go to the White House when they have larger parties. In March, I went to help design flowers for the Governors Ball.”
It all started with an interest in horticulture developed in high school, and nurtured with a degree at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he went on to teach classes in advanced design. It was shortly after graduating that he opened his first floral business in an 1826 house he still owns out east.
True to form, this Midwestern transplant has found similarly historic digs for his second-story studio in Hinsdale, where he meets with individuals and corporate clients by appointment in what he calls a great old Victorian home.
“I have my degree in plant breeding,” he said of the evolution of his career. “I had taken one floral design class and I was pretty much hooked. It merged my greenhouse background with my love of art, and so it became really the right mix for me.”
And following in the footsteps of his father, who was a visual merchandiser for high-end men’s clothing stores, Skaff has done his own share of merchandising, as well as interior design.
“I used to style these big sets for Polaroid so they could make posters to show how precise the color is,” he recalls. “[I recreated Baroque] Flemish paintings with all real flowers. One even had a live monkey.”
Skaff is the former vice president of design for FTD, where he worked on product development with Vera Wang, Better Homes and Gardens, and the Smithsonian. He’s studied floral design in Japan and Europe, and his articles have been featured in numerous publications.
“I’m so honored to have worked for the Shrivers, and done the 75th Academy Awards … and especially the inaugurations,” Skaff said. “It’s very rewarding to be chosen to do those high-profile events.”
Skaff works with direct growers around the world who ship just-picked product overnight, still in its budded state, giving free rein to the creative urge.
“I love the process – whether it’s sitting with a bride or customer or corporate business,” he said, noting his focus with a bride is to find ways to reflect her personality. “At that point, it’s not about me. It’s about me guiding her and giving her choices. The wedding should be everything she’s dreamt about since she was a little girl.”