The Cognoscente: Behind the Blooms of Florist Natalie Bowen

By

In our next installment of "The Cognoscente," we interview experts in their field—who also happen to be the city's chicest tastemakers—about how their work influences their style, and living their best life in San Francisco. 


Natalie Bowen belongs to a bloodline of talented florists—she follows the path of her grandmother, who ran the floral shops at The Fairmont and Mark Hopkins. Not surprisingly, she's become the It Girl of floral design: her projects include a yearly contribution to the "Bouquets to Art" exhibit at the de Young Museum and inspired floral arrangements for events and weddings across the country. In between producing gorgeous and envy-worthy bouquets, she hosts garden parties at her chic SoMa design studio. Below, the budding businesswoman tells us about her stylish life in SF.

Photo by Anna Wu Photography

My favorite part of floral design is when I get up in the middle of the night to get to the market early and find the perfect unexpected element—and then that element makes the entire design come to life. That’s the moment I feel energized by the whole process. 

My signature style piece is asymmetry.

A recent "find" in San Francisco is the frozen yogurt with salt and olive oil at Souvla. It’s simply the best thing on earth. 

Frozen Greek yogurt at Souvla. Photo courtesy of Bill Bogenschutz.

The destinations that have influenced my work are Tulum, Big Sur, Colorado, and New York; all places I have traveled in the last year. This spring I'd say that the Northern California coast is probably the biggest influencer on my current work. I’ve been loving working with shades of blue and soft green with pops of deep, dark tones. The contrast of the soft shades and rich dark shades is something I’ve been playing with more lately. Additionally, I find that the environment that I am designing for is always a huge factor in the work I am designing.

For pure aesthetic, there is nothing like fragrance.

A project I am excited for is traveling for a wedding in Colorado this summer. I can’t wait to team up with the other vendors. The client gave us great direction and then let us gather our inspiration from the setting and come up with some texturally interesting concepts. In addition to the project itself, I love to travel for work. The thrill comes from really getting outside my comfort zone, yet having to perform as well as I do when I am nestled in my familiar space. Sometimes the remote domestic locations are just as challenging as working in foreign countries.

If I could design a floral arrangement for any event, I would love to do a floral-art installation with my architect husband for the entry to an art exhibit or fashion show. We love creating together, and I like the idea of getting outside of the vase and creating something that is both impactful for its large scale but is also temporary and can only be enjoyed in that moment.

Natalie prepares her piece, a collaboration with her husband, for the "Bouquets to Art" show at the de Young Museum. Photo courtesy of Natalie Bowen Designs. 

An indulgence I would never give up is travel.

My favorite San Francisco neighborhood is Hayes Valley. There is a nice combination of shopping, dining, and creative projects going on. I love its proximity to Civic Center and the way that the theatre crowd spills onto the streets in the evening.  

In order to clear my head or relax, I started a meditation practice last year and it has changed my life. 

My favorite flowers to work with are vines such as honeysuckle, passion vine, and jasmine. I love movement, and those blooms have such character. Their meandering lines can lead the eye from the arrangement to the surface it's placed upon, and really connect the arrangement to its context. My perfect arrangement has elements that are both classically beautiful and also unusual and unexpected. 

Jasmine. Photo courtesy of Natalie Bowen Designs

My favorite local getaways are Point Reyes and Big Sur.

When I want to look at or find wildflowers, I go to Table Mountain. I grew up in Northern California and every year the wildflowers explode on Table Mountain. We would often go there as a family just to see the flowers, but never pick them. I was taught to never pick flowers outside of your own garden, so the foraging movement has been one that has been hard for me to get in to. I always have my mother’s voice in the back of my head telling me not to pick the flowers! 

My favorite parks in the city are Dolores Park for the people watching, and Mount Tam for the hiking, peace, and quiet—sans people. 

If you want to continue to ogle at Natalie Bowen's work, visit her website here

Related Articles