Style Court

Textiles, Art History, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes 2006-2016


Objects of Desire

[Unless otherwise noted, all photos in this post by Thuss + Farrell from Matthew Robbins' Inspired Weddings, Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2012.]

It could start with a bead.

Or any object you're drawn to. In this case, floral designer and event planner Matthew Robbins thought about something he's held tight for a long time -- an old green-and-white Portuguese bead given to him by his mentor.

Apart from the bead's clean palette, he considered the object's mood (fresh and organic) and its form (a floral-like shape echoed by delicately rendered tendrils that appear to be growing around the tiny piece). From all of this, options for an entire event emerged: a wedding with a decidedly natural, lush, secret-untended-garden feel. I think his use of bentwood Thonet-style chairs in two of the settings above is a brilliant way to softly play with the loose botanical motif. Also, if you look closely at his abundant gathering of Phalaenopsis orchids and green hellebores, you'll notice that Matthew has put them in a really delicious container -- an iridescent 1930s milk glass punch bowl. Details are everything.    

In his new book, Inspired Weddings, Matthew talks about avoiding the cookie-cutter event. Not straining to be different just for the sake of being different, but creating something personal and timeless. I like how he uses loose motifs rather than literal themes. His suggestion is to hunt and gather together disparate things that simply captivate you. For Matthew, one less expected source of inspiration was a quirky old paint-by-numbers picture -- it was a still life, a genre he appreciates, and had a terrific muted palette. Above, you can see the assemblage that grew from the vintage painting.

And from that came this. Through the course of the book, Matthew discusses nine different inspiration objects and explains in detail how he used them as spring boards. As a former art student, he sees the world graphically and shows how to maximize the visual impact of the most commonplace items.

We've all heard about using alternatives to flowers as a centerpiece. Sometimes the suggestions are well-intended and imaginative but ultimately kind of silly. However, I find Matthew's approach unforced and actually beautiful.

He's also opened my eyes to foliage that previously I might have overlooked. While the pages are certainly filled with larger, jaw-droppingly gorgeous arrangements (never the stiff, overly-styled variety, though), this ethereal collection of bottles (a riff on seaglass and the old message-in-a-bottle) inspires me to get more plants for cutting and maintain similar little things around the house on a regular basis.

I'm a flower girl, so this post has been heavy on the blooms but I should mention that Matthew also delves into the nuts and bolts of table settings, linens, furniture, rentals, lighting and so on. Whether or not you're planning a big event, there's just a great deal of sumptuous visual fare to savor.

Since Matthew has me thinking about still life, terrific antique containers, and random objects, I wanted to share three related links (museums are definitely on his list of go-to places for ideas).

Still Life at The Met.
Wedgwood at the BMA
Zuzka Vaclavik's Glass

To pull this post together, I had access to a review copy of Inspired Weddings. All images posted with permission from the publisher.


Alli G Dixon said...

Hi Courtney! It has been too long since we've talked. I hope you are well! Matthew Robbins tweeted the link to this glorious post and someone I follow retweeted it... I was so grateful to have a moment to spend here and will have to come back tonight. I have been missing your beautiful world! Need more beauty! Cheers, Alli

quintessence said...

Looks like a lovely book!! I love the beautiful styling! Very elegant yet relaxes.

Lisa Mende Design said...

Wow! Two great minds, I have Matthew down as one of my topics for the month! Great post! May be instead of writing mine, I just refer readers to yours! It's beautiful!

Laura Casey Interiors said...

His work looks beautiful and lovely. I am not wedding planning at the moment, but his book looks thoughtful and inspiring so I will be sure to check it out next time I am in the bookstore. Thanks Courtney for sharing it!

Style Court said...

Alli -- so happy you popped in! We'll catch up.

Style Court said...

Stacey -- I think you'll really appreciate this one. And yes, relaxed is a defining characteristic :)

Style Court said...

Lisa -- I'm thrilled you enjoyed it. Matthew's material is inspiring and fun to study.

Laura -- right! No need to be planning a wedding or party. All kinds of ideas can be pulled from his work, I think.

Clint Smith said...

I got a copy last Friday and I have to say that I think it's the best floral design/tabletop/entertaining book I've seen in the past five years. So much more than just about weddings. Very inspiring.

Style Court said...

And Clint, you would know! So skilled with flora and fauna yourself.

Tokyo Jinja said...

Oh so pretty!!

lifeloveluxe said...

Amazing the places we find inspiration! I love this story and how the book "blossomed" (gotta love a bad pun!). Thanks for sharing. It's quite lovely.