wedding insights

Press | Expertise Top 21 Best Floral Designers in San Francisco

What does it take to be one of the top experts in the field? What does it take to be one of the top floral designers in the Bay Area - San Francisco?  And what does it mean to be on the list?

Today,  a conversation with Nancy Liu Chin, founder of NLC Designs as she answers these important questions.

What does it take, Nancy, to be one of the top experts in the field?

NLC:  I would say(while laughing) that it takes a lot of hard work.  You can't be on top with just luck.  It's gotta take more than that.  I would say hard work for sure plus a great love for flowers and weddings, an eye for editing, consistency, and certainly a dedication to be relevant.  Part of that is always changing and learning.  You can't stop ever learning to be a better designer.  

Of course, giving your clients wonderful service that is genuine with heartfelt honesty is equally key to staying for the long haul.   I've believed in that for so long.  

To be a top expert means to pay your dues and also when you get there to share good advice as it's important to help others including your clients, your followers, your team, and your industry. 

Putting it out there is important though some still don't feel comfortable being transparent. I think leaders aren't afraid to be all that. 

What does it take to be one of the top floral designers in the Bay Area - San Francisco? 

NLC: The Bay Area is an AMAZING place where talent is overwhelming.  To stay or even be considered a top floral designer, that's an honor.  Reallly!

San Francisco is such a creative area, there is so much energy.  And that translates to all the floral artists in this area.  We are enter such a golden age for floral designs and floral styling. It's rather daunting and to be at the top means that you are one of the trendsetters, one of the best in the entire nation as SF is a creative hub. 

We also have this incredible floral market in our backyard, one of the best in the nation if not the world.  So in this town, where everyone buys flowers from the same source, you have got to know your stuff to stay relevant. You have to be one step ahead to be considered good because when everyone has assess to wonderful products, how do you stand out if not for your creative eye and attention to the details.  

This might sound funny (as this is our 16 or 17th year) but I still always think of myself as the newbie as I'm still learning names of exotic flowers and rare foliage(this week I found out what Lace Tree is), and still working on designs. You could say practice makes perfect.  Yes, I practice my design skills because there are always new shapes, new combinations that I've never tried.  Though I tease that I should be slowing down, I am crazy excited about how people are embracing floral design.  Yippee!

And what does it mean to be on the list?

This list from Expertise is totally humbling. I didn't realize there were 200+ designers that were looked at and 100 were vetted. Wow. That's quite a list and to weed it down to just 10%.  Well, what can I say.  I'm so delighted to be in the company of Natalie Bowen who I adore, Natasha of Waterlily Pond who I went to floral school with, Svenja of Chestnut and Vine who I think is amazing at what she does, Alicia K of Alicia K who is extraordinary and does planner(whatever? c'mon Alicia, throw us a bone! You are too talented), and of course Sharla of Sharla Flock. I freakin' love that girl, Sharla with her infectious smile.  These people are true artists, thanks for just throwing me in with the best.  This is a wonderful list. Of course, I would add even more names to the list because there are so many designers that I admire.  

To find out what are the criteria for a top expert, here you have it based on! Now --- If you are shopping (a term that we hate around here) these are things to look for. We couldn't agree more.




Newsworthy | What's Your Style Part II

In a previous post, I spoke about floral styles.  We talked about the 4 different styles that are the prevailing floral styles that you see in the majority of weddings.  To reiterate, these are the four styles

structured + architectural + minimalism 

lush garden style

formal traditional 

relaxed + organic + rustic + natural 


We covered Structured + Minimalism in a previous post so I thought I would cover the second Floral style today.  What is lush garden style?  I would describe garden style as romantic with beautiful lush garden style flowers.  Flowers that evoke this style could include the following  garden roses, roses, spray roses, dahlias, peonies, poppies, anemones, astilbe, ruffled tulips, sweet peas, lisianthus, hellebores, viburnum, lilac, spirea, hyacinth, scabiosa, stock, larkspur, wax flower, and so many more.  Within garden you will find lots of layers, movement, textural elements.  There is movement with in and out airiness in the design.  Some may be more tailored but the trend is more bountiful and filled with natural elements.   You will see elements like  garlands incorporated in the design.   I wouldn't be surprised if the vessels were ceramic urns or silver compotes.   And don't count out the use of wonderful green foliage and even some flower branches.  

Venue | Viansa Winery Photography | Jen Phillips

This is merely one example of garden style.  Of course there are many variations.  Let's talk a look at garden style expressed in a different way.  Shall we?

Venue | Ramekins Canopy | Encore Event Rentals Photography | Kevin Chin

This wonderful look with pastel hues which was created at the Oh So Inspired retreat at Ramekins is another example of garden style.   The image of the wonderful long table with wisteria hanging over is the quintessential definition of garden.  Recreating the feel of sitting outside on a veranda sipping lavender lemonade was the inspiration for this design.   It's relaxing, soothing, full of what you would imagine what it would be like to have a wedding under a garden of flowers.  Am I right?

Not all of us will agree on where a wedding will fall as many have two styles incorporated but I certainly hope these examples help you to determine if this style suits you.  After all that's the important thing to answer.  Does this style evoke what you are looking for?    Look for Part 3 of What's Your Style in the week to come. 

Newsworthy | What's Your Style Part I

I've been reading the latest wedding planning book by Mindy Weiss and in her floral section she pinpoints that there are mainly four different style of florals.  


structured + architectural + minimalism 

lush garden style

formal traditional 

relaxed + organic + rustic + natural 

I imagine that she is right though some weddings are more eclectic and possibly a blend of multiple styles.    

Simple structured style can be grand and formal as in the work of Jeff Leatham(far left image below).  But it can be as easy breeze is floating gardenia in a big white low bowl.   Within the lush garden style you can go in the path of a more English garden look while another direction could be more neoclassical which is the style du jour(think Sarah Winward).  One of my favorite style as it often looks like a gathering of things from a walk through garden park(see second image from the left) A garden style can be traditional and work for a formal wedding as well as informal.  It's all how you mix the container within the space.  

Most importantly, within each style there are variations so the formal traditional can be romantic, it can classic, it can be neoclassical, it can be metropolitan grand style of Preston Bailey as seen below(third image from the left).  Often reserved for indoor hall, ballroom spaces, and could include formal tented weddings.  Rustic and natural is so popular and you can see it often in the work of barn and outdoor informal weddings.  Most of the time, use of jars, wood containers, fall fruits(like the far right image courtesy of Martha Stewart Wedding website), Tuscany urns evoke that feeling of relaxed and organic. 

Credit: Jeff Leathan, Sarah Winward, Preston Bailey, Martha Stewart Wedding ( from left to right)

Most weddings are most likely one of these four styles if not a combination of two differing styles to create a mixed look.  Let's just see some more examples on how we interrupt these four styles.  Perhaps in doing so, it will help brides and planners to pinpoint the style that most describes their clients overall feel.    Today's let's look at what structured simplicity can look like. 

Photo by Jessica Burke  | Planning by Jamie of A Savvy Event | Venue Four Season Santa Barbara