There’s more to colour than meets the eye. Floral designer Ruby Barber harnesses the peoetry of natural hues in her arrangements. We talk about how colour influences our mood, trends and why the bathroom is the perfect place for flowers.
The name Mary Lennox is borrowed from a literary figure, a young orphan who discovers a secret garden on the estate of her uncle in the eponymous children’s book. The Secret Garden is also one of the all-time favourite stories since childhood of the Australian floral designer Ruby Barber, who named her studio after the young secret gardener. “The book celebrates the beauty, the mystery and the rejuvenating power of nature,” says Barber. “My first flower studio was on the corner of Mary and Lennox Streets in Sydney, and the name for this studio let me combine two wonderful things: the geographic location and ‘The Secret Garden’ ”.
Ruby Barber, aka Mary Lennox, has since relocated to Berlin, where she works for a select portfolio of international clients. Her luxurious, poetic flower arrangements add a beautiful final touch to high-calibre interior and fashion shoots.
“The primary colours have a very emotional appeal. Reds, for example, are passionate and fiery; blues are calming and add depth, while yellow stands for freshness and cheerfulness. White neutralises and clarifies. And in between these shades there are numerous gradations and potential combinations.” Barber personally prefers muted, harmonious shades: “They keep my head clear.”
A great place for a show-stopping arrangement is the bathroom. “It’s a real five-star sensation,” says Barber. “The place where you retreat to relax and unwind can be elevated to a higher plane by the addition of fresh flowers.” Eye-catching arrangements in a favourite colour can help to underscore the personality of both the space and the owner. “We tend to associate our favourite colours with sensuous memories, people or smells. Or music. Everyone feels something different, it is very personal.”
“We tend to associate our
favourite colours with
sensuous memories, people
or smells. Or music.”
The decisive factor is how the colours work together. “For instance, if you have a collection of pretty perfume bottles displayed in your bathroom or other special items on the shelves, then you should pick muted, neutral-coloured blooms that harmonise with the colours of your bathroom furniture, the walls and the floors. White bouquets are also a good choice.”
Ruby Barber usually choses three different shapes for the basic structure of her arrangements: first, blossoms with a “face”, like orchids, amaryllis or anthuriums; to these she adds long, slim exotic blooms, such as milkweed, foxtail lilies or miniature pineapples, and branches of blossom, like magnolia or tassel flowers. She then starts fleshing out this eye-catching structure with fine details. Highly concentrated and with serene calm, the slim Australian assembles the bouquet, tries out different colours and shapes, occasionally removing sprays and putting them back in almost imperceptibly different position. Wholly engrossed in her work, her only visible emotion is a smile when something pleases her. One doesn’t like to disturb her except to silently offer a cup of tea.
In the spring, she likes to use yellow as the base colour, working with several shades all the way through to the lightest pastel. “Yellow stands for new beginnings, for freshness, for the sun,” she explains.
And although she prefers light, muted colours herself, she sometimes lets herself be carried away by the sheer energy of bright yellow, incorporating it harmoniously in her bouquets, letting it shine but never dazzle
Pantone’s current trend colours have inspired her to create very distinctive arrangements. The US colour specialist has focused on shades of red and orange as its key colours for the year: Fiesta, Jester Red, Turmeric and Living Coral, accented by Pink Peacock and Pressed Rose. This palette is broadened by two unusual shades of yellow: Lemon Verbena and Mango Mojito. Neutral trend shades like Soy Bean, Sweet Corn and Brown Granite create a base for beautiful contrasts.
Splashes of colour that herald the arrival of spring harmonise beautifully with the natural colours of the KALDEWEI Collection. An individual bathroom with a coloured washbasin, shower tray or bathtub is already very special, and a matching bouquet in your own favourite colour adds a personal and very luxurious touch.
If you pick a career that you love you’ll never have to work again: Ruby Barber is the best possible example of this saying. As a young girl, she would go to Flemington Market in Sydney with her friend and hunt for exotic flowers, branches and grasses. The girls would use them to make magnificent bouquets for their friends and families – simply for the fun of it. Ruby Barber decided to make a career of this passion, became assistant to several renowned floral designers; she learned to create flower arrangements for photo and film productions and then opened her own studio in Sydney. In 2014, she relocated to Berlin in 2014 and joined forces with Olivia Beattie. Mary Lennox continues to work primarily for clients in Europe, Australia and the US.
Barber’s work has very little in common with conventional floristry. None of her commissions could be described as “ordinary”, explains the 30-year-old; in fact, each and every one represents a new challenge.
“Last summer, we did the flowers for a wedding in Italy where we had to build sculptures of mud, straw and wilted flowers,” she says. And, naturally, the arrangements still had to look arrestingly beautiful. Another bride wanted the tables at her wedding decorated only with weeds. “The research was great fun, but sourcing the actual plants proved to be slightly more difficult.”
A sense of lightness and playfulness is characteristic of Ruby Barber’s creativity. She is constantly searching for special plants to use as centrepieces. “Nature has so many different varieties, and I am perpetually discovering something new. It just never gets dull.”
If there’s one place where colour truly comes into its own, it’s the bathroom. Every item that isn’t the traditional white stands out and is a clear statement of personality. The elegant, matt shades of our COORDINATED COLOURS COLLECTION put the integrative and expressive power of colour at your fingertips. With bathroom objects that harmonise with your personal colour scheme or create arresting visual highlights. Like, for example, the washbasins from our MIENA range.