Alice Calcasola-van der List
Muddy meets All In One Season
Dutch floral designer Alice Calcasola-van der List has lived in Letchworth Garden City for over 20 years in a beautiful Arts & Crafts house with her Sicilian carpenter husband and four extremely creative, trilingual children. Her business is unique in the UK, offering Dutch floral design and styling for weddings and any other occasion; she also hosts parties, has an onsite shop and runs seasonal workshops for complete beginners, professionals and anyone in between.
Alice, I think you are currently on a mission to convert everyone to garland their front doors in Hertfordshire and the whole of the UK with year round door wreaths?
I’m so glad you asked me about that! Decorating our front doors with seasonal wreaths is so normal in Holland and makes guests feel welcome before they’ve even stepped over the threshold. In the UK there is a mindset that wreaths are for Christmas, but they’re not – they are for any and every season!
I think you have created a hashtag for your campaign?
Yes I have! It’s #wreathgoals2017. People are already talking about it and there’s been quite a buzz. I’m looking forward to seeing floral and green wreaths on people’s doors in spring, summer, autumn and of course winter…
Can you describe Dutch design?
Two words really sum up the Dutch style: simple and organic. In terms of Dutch floral design we use a lot of greenery even when we’re putting flowers in a vase because this creates a green framework to really make the flowers stand out. One of my favourite things to make is massive hearts filled with blooms, but underneath there’s a lot of greenery for example myrtle, which is very fine. It means that when the flowers start to fade you’ve still got that beautiful green in place so you’re never looking at oasis and it prolongs the life of the design.
As a designer, I imagine you’re always on or ahead of trends?
It’s important for us to keep up with the latest design developments on the continent, which is where we also source the majority of our materials. Our trusty All In One Season van does a lot of miles every year, mainly to Holland and Belgium. Within the floral design world in the UK, we’re definitely one step ahead in terms of predicting trends. Last year it was rose gold, coppers and also ice blues. Then suddenly it started to soften with pastels. Blush pink was added and of course a lot of green. Coppers started to fade out but then gold stayed but it became a yellowy gold. Succulents are on the way out now, although I still like them, but cacti will be around for a little longer. We’re also seeing a trend for houseplants with bigger leaves that are a much darker green. Macramé holders which are woven plant hangers are also popular and we’ll see them for a while. As for weddings, from a bridal point of view, it’s very white and green this year – simple and organic!
Your home feels very creative, would you agree?
There’s definitely a strong creative flow in our garden city home. It’s as if creativity is embedded in the fabric of the building, which we know has a colourful and artistic history that seems to be rubbing off on the whole family! All the kids are creative, but I suppose it’s because they’ve always been surrounded by and grown up with what I do. To them it’s totally normal that their Mum lets 1,000 people into the family home for our #winterhouseherts event in the run up to Christmas, but it’s definitely not a conventional family set-up. There’s an expression in Dutch that sums it up perfectly: “Met de paplepel ingegoten”. This means they’ve been fed this creativity with a spoon from a very young age, like porridge.
On the couple of occasions I’ve visited you, there is always someone else working here, and learning from you.
We work with lots of local colleges and schools; it’s really great to be able to give back to the community and welcome young arts students to our studio for their work experience. We’re also now taking on interns from floral design colleges in Holland, after going through a rigorous accreditation process. Whenever I tell people this they always laugh at the irony that Dutch students are coming to learn Dutch design in the UK!
I’ve seen your posts on Instagram and you seem to have a special relationship with your iPhone 7?
I love social media. If you have a small business, you absolutely need to do it and do it well. Make sure that you post every day around the same time and that you post interesting content. You can ask a question to open up a debate in a subtle and beautiful way. I do use Twitter and Facebook but I’m in love with Instagram! What I do is so visual, which makes Instagram the best medium for me to share my work and style tips.
I think that what you are doing, Dutch floral design in the UK, is quite unique?
Yes it is. As far as we’re aware, nobody else in the UK specialises in contemporary Dutch-style floral design or offers such a variety of services. Everything we do is Dutch inspired – whether that’s our bespoke living or everlasting designs, our styling services or our floral parties and workshops. Workshops is actually where we started and they are my big passion. Usually floral designers teach budding students and other floral designers but I also welcome people with no experience. I think though that what really makes us stand out is our home studio/shop setting and the warm welcome anyone who comes through my door will get – I can promise that nobody leaves 15 Sollershott East without a big Dutch hug!
Do you think that Dutch people have a different approach to their homes?
The Dutch are very house proud; their homes and gardens are immaculate. It’s very rare in Holland for people to hide behind net curtains or frosted glass so you can almost always see into their front room or kitchen where there will be small design details such as a low light over the kitchen table and there’ll always be some greenery or flowers. I think that English people are moving more and more towards this in their own homes. It’ll be a different kind of hygge. In Dutch we call it gezelligheid. And part of this will be more floral wreaths on front doors, in all seasons.
All In One Season 15 Sollershott East, Letchworth Garden City, SG6 3PL
Alice is also in our Little Black Book.