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The New Look of Floral Design

Meet Instagram it-girl, floral designer Kiana Underwood

Written by Sally Finder Weepie

Yes, that’s Kiana Underwood’s heart on her sleeve. Flowers have been her passion since the honeyed scent of wintersweet first wafted her way in her grandfather’s Tehran garden. Now her twists on traditional arrangements, crushing on color and alive with asymmetry, are transporting floral design to beautiful new places.

Kiana owns Tulipina, a premium floral design studio that does flowers for weddings and events all over the world. She also conducts floral design workshops, is the author of the new book Color Me Floral (which reveals her secrets to designing show-stopping monochromatic arrangements for each season), and is an Instagram it girl with more than 370,000 followers.

“I stepped out of the traditional thoughts on color in floral design, and people love it,” Kiana says. “A lot of people are afraid of color, but it’s one of my signatures.”

She also known for incorporating fruits and other unique elements in her abundant arrangements. “Even though a lot of thought and effort goes into a design, I want it to seem effortless,” she says, “to look natural.”

Her look is sought-after, with floral fans clamoring to get into her workshops—and get into her head. “People ask about my rules for floral design,” she says. “I don’t have any rules. At my workshops I tell everyone that there are no rules for the next three days. Step out of your comfort zone. Be creative. Be original.”

For Kiana, formulas don’t matter. “People ask me how many stems to put into a floral arrangement. I don’t even count them,” she says. “When it looks beautiful enough to me, I stop.”

Trained as a pianist, Kiana finds a muse in classical music and art. But she also sees the wonder just outside her door. “Don’t overlook the inspiration right in front of you,” she says. “I’m often inspired by the everyday beauty I see on a walk down my street.”

In the last decade, Kiana has seen—and led—a shift from perfectly symmetrical arrangements to natural, asymmetrical, garden-style designs that are a little more wild and filled with unexpected movement.

She has also observed a rise in concerns about sustainability. “People care more now about where their flowers come from,” Kiana says. “They’re concerned about floral foam and whether designs are environmentally friendly.”

When it comes to flowers, old favorites are re-emerging. “I’ve seen a comeback of baby’s breath and heirloom-color carnations, which had fallen out of favor, but are now being rediscovered,” she says.

Kiana’s own path is also evolving. She’ll still be doing destination weddings, but she and her family (husband Nathan and three teen-age children) will have a new home base in New York state. They had been dividing their time between San Francisco and New York, but this month they’ll begin living full-time in New York, where they’re also building a greenhouse.

“I want to surround myself with beauty,” she says, “to build something beautiful.”