Behind the Scenes: In Bloom

Growing up in Miami, Alex Vaughan never saw flowers other than tropical varieties and grocery store bouquets. She was 18 years old and living in Boston when she finally experienced the arrival of spring and saw her first peony. She was captivated and set out on a path that eventually brought her here, where she opened FLWR Shop with her husband and business partner Quinn Kiesow in March 2016. In no time, people were flocking to the East Nashville store to buy flowers and plants for every occasion, and her steadfast dedication to doing beautiful work caused her reputation to soar. Word even spread to Beyoncé and Jay-Z, who ordered from FLWR Shop when they performed here in 2018. Alex’s unique and inspiring creations are showing up more frequently at weddings and high-profile events, including the 2019 Symphony Ball. Before springtime arrives, she and Quinn will have a second store in Belle Meade Galleria, which will offer a rotating selection of gifts and home goods in addition to flowers and plants. We caught up with the in-demand Alex to learn more about her favorite things — including flowers, of course.

Name: Alex Vaughan

Profession/Title: Co-owner and creative director of FLWR Shop

Hometown: Miami, Florida

Zip code: 37206

Number of years in Nashville: 6

Most flowers used in a design: 10,000

What’s in your vases and pots at home? My vases usually have something particularly lovely that Quinn found while at the wholesaler and thought I would enjoy. Usually something rare and expensive that would be impractical to try to sell in the shop. He knows my tastes well! Our pots have a lot of rare begonias that are prized more for their foliage than their flowers.

Do you have a “pet peeve” flower? I do not. I really love them all in their own ways. I do have pet peeves about design, however — one of which is peeling off all the guard petals on a rose. I think it makes the roses look naked and strange. Another pet peeve of mine is the dismissal of carnations. Carnations can be absolutely gorgeous; it’s all in the color and how it’s used.

What can you tell us about the order from Beyoncé? Not much, just that it happened. It was from both Beyoncé and Jay-Z and they requested all white. I can also tell you that I freaked out and did a happy dance. I wasn’t designing that day, but I changed my plans so that I could be the one to make it.

What person has influenced your life the most? My husband and business partner, Quinn. He’s been a steady rock of unconditional love. He believes in me so wholeheartedly that it helps me to believe in myself.

What’s the best new Nashville restaurant? Redheaded Stranger is great. It’s cheap and not fussy, but it’s absolutely delicious. I haven’t really tried any other new restaurants lately. Quinn and I get few date nights, so we tend to go where we know we’re gonna be happy with the meal.

What’s the best shop for buying a gift? FLWR Shop, of course! We’re not just flowers. Our new Belle Meade shop will be full of vases, home goods, handmade ceramics, and all kinds of rotating unique gifts inspired by design and the natural world. We’re working hard to make it a retail experience that our customers will want to come back to over and over again.

What’s the one thing you hope never changes in Nashville? I hope climate change doesn’t change our hardiness zone to where winter is warmer and spring is less impressive. I love that the seasons here are not so harsh, but they still fully exist.

Where do you find inspiration? From experiencing other forms of art and design. I also get inspiration for specific projects from the clients themselves. When a client presents things that inspire them for their event, it inspires me to find new and interesting ways of implementing their vision.

What are your favorite flowers for each season? Winter: hellebore. Spring: peonies and sweet peas — I can’t choose. Summer: garden roses — fat, saucer-shaped ones whose heads make their thin stems bow. Fall: dahlias. But honestly, I’m sure it’s different every year. I have a serious passion for flowers!

If season and cost were no object, what would be in your dream arrangement? Cherry blossom branches with fall foliage, spirea and young blueberry branches. I love large-scale branch arrangements.

What’s the most challenging job you’ve done so far? When I worked for another shop in LA we had to do Christmas decorations for two large hotels that both wanted their guests to wake up to Christmas the day after Thanksgiving. This meant we had to work overnight to make it all happen. It wasn’t planned well, so Quinn and I both ended up working a full 25 hours straight with no sleep and barely any food. I had breathed in so much glitter that my throat was coated in it. It was awful and I will absolutely never put my employees in a situation like that.

What’s one thing you want to cross off your bucket list? One thing?! Impossible. Here’s a (very) short list: Cherry season in Japan, live in Paris for six months or more, hike Lake Malawi, chase total eclipses around the world, experience a Holi festival in India, spend Día de los Muertos in Mexico City, design a window at Bergdorf’s, go to medical school ... I have so many more.

What’s your favorite coffee shop? I don’t spend too much time in coffee shops these days. I will say I love Restoration Hardware’s restaurant for a lunch meeting.

What’s your favorite locally made product? Nisolo! Their shoes are not made here, but the company was founded and is based here. Their shoes are so well made and gorgeous. And the best part is that they are environmentally conscious and pay verifiable living wages to all their employees, including their factory workers. I own at least six pairs of their shoes.

Where do you like to go to unwind?My lovely living room with a full glass of Kermit Lynch Côtes du Rhône and some Great British Baking Show. I also love to go home to Miami whenever I can. I feel relaxed as soon as I feel that humid air and smell the ocean mixed with car exhaust. I know that sounds crazy, but it smells like home!

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned about Nashville since moving here? The most interesting thing I’ve learned about Nashville is my familial relationship to it. So I am Venezuelan on my mom’s side, but my dad’s family is actually from here. My grandparents were born and raised here, but they moved away before my dad was even born, so they didn’t talk about it much. When I moved here, I discovered that my granddaddy went to East High, which is right down the street from the shop. I also learned that I’m related to [former] Mayor Briley. When I did a DNA test, our families were connected. Third cousins or something like that. The original Mayor Briley was my granddaddy’s cousin. I didn’t really know any of this until moving here. I knew my grandparents were from here, but I didn’t appreciate how small Nashville was and still is and therefore how much Nashville was a part of my family’s history.