By Kimberly Fornek | Chicago Tribune | June 24, 2015 |
Michael Skaff, a floral designer whose resumé includes presidential inaugurations and the Academy Awards, has opened a studio in Hinsdale.
My background is pretty diverse,” Skaff said, from knowing how flower breeding and production is done to owning his own floral shop in Connecticut for 16 years.
Skaff, who grew up in Massachusetts and worked in greenhouses as a teenager, planned to study horticulture and plant breeding at University of Massachusetts, Amherst. But after taking a design course, he was hooked on floral design and graduated with a bachelor of science in horticulture, floriculture and design.
He said doing floral arrangements was a perfect merging of his interest in botany and his love of design.
While operating his flower shop in Shrewsbury, Conn., a suburb of Boston, in the 1980s and ’90s, Skaff had worked as a subcontractor for FTD. After selling his flower shop, he worked strictly as a subcontractor, until he accepted a full-time position with FTD in 2006.
During that time, he worked on floral arrangements for galas celebrating Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration and George W. Bush’s inaugurations in 2001 and 2005.
Working at a presidential inauguration is not like any other event, he said.
“The entire country comes together at an inauguration,” Skaff said. “You really do have a sense of patriotism.”
The scope is also impressive. For the last inauguration, growers donated 100,000 stems of roses, Skaff said.
He also worked on flower arrangements for the 75th Academy Awards in 2003.
“It’s always nice to be able to achieve such high profile events,” Skaff said. “I still actually freelance for the White House when they have large parties.”
He recently left his job as vice president of design for FTD to return to his roots as a sole proprietor and focus on his own creative vision.
In May, he opened a studio on the second floor of the Victorian home converted to office building at 19 N. Grant St. He likes the charm of Hinsdale and its location relative to his home in Glen Ellyn and events in downtown Chicago, Burr Ridge and Naperville.
The business does fresh flowers for weddings, baby showers, corporate offices, funerals, holiday decorating, dinner parties and weekly deliveries to homes and businesses.
From 30 years in the floral industry, Skaff has contacts with growers all over the world, including Ecuador, Columbia, Holland, Israel and Africa.
“Africa is turning into a huge distributor of roses because the climate and labor is ideal for growing roses,” Skaff said.
In most cases, the flowers are grown in greenhouses, so almost any flower can be had during any season.
“I can get peonies or lily of the valley in the dead of winter,” he said.
He and his team receive the flowers and prepare the arrangements at a warehouse in Itasca.
“From the time the flower is cut to when it’s at your doorstep is less than 24 hours,” Skaff said.
Despite his impressive credentials, Skaff, who creates silk flower arrangements, too, said he works within any budget.
“I honor all customers’ budgets. It’s about having affordable luxury,” he said.
Skaff also is a member of the Color Marketing Group, an international association with about 1,000 members, that forecasts color trends.
Representatives come from a wide range of industries, including fashion, rug makers, paint companies and car manufacturers.
“We establish colors two years out,” based on preferences industry representatives have seen and what they anticipate, Skaff said. He calls the group “the color mafia.”
“We talk about technology and the millennial group” and how those influences affect color choices, Skaff said, noting the economy also plays a part. “People are feeling more confident, so we are starting to see brighter and more complex colors,”
Once the group decides what colors are trending, they enhance them in all their lines,” Skaff said. So whether the item comes from Crate & Barrel, Ralph Lauren or Calvin Klein, you’ll see the same colors for the season, Skaff said.
For 2016, that will be any shade of copper, Skaff advises.
“We’ve had gold, which is always a safe color,” he said. “Copper is a little more trend forward.”