3 Quick and Cheerful Ways to Decorate for the Holidays with French Flair
Jean-Pascal Lemire, a French-Canadian floral designer, shares a few easy-to-replicate, budget-friendly ideas to deck the halls like a pro.
Jean-Pascal Lemire opened his eponymous floral shop in downtown Los Angeles, a jewel-box studio space that would look right at home in the Marais or his hometown Montreal, in summer 2020. When others were closing up shop after a sharp downturn in business, he was just getting started.
“When we were all stuck at home and couldn’t see our friends and family, people were sending flowers more,” says Lemire. “I opened this shop with the money I made from special orders during the first half of 2020.”
The small shop, with its wide wood-top table for creating towering arrangements and sky-high shelves filled with carefully tended topiary and collected vintage vases, is lovely year-round. But it feels like a scene in a snow globe around the holidays. In contrast to his industrial-leaning surroundings at The Row, Jean-Pascal is not a minimalist. His last flower shop was at the Ritz-Carlton Montreal, and he credits the time he spent in the diverse, European-feeling city as inspiration for his creative, exuberant approach to the holidays. The city lights up during cold winter, and windows filled with flowers and lights help to break up the long, dark nights. And the city’s strong French culture influenced his classic approach to floral arranging. But that doesn’t mean he is a snob.
“I like to be a little bit more elastic when it comes to selling at the shop,” Lemire says in his heavy French-Canadian accent. “We will be happy to sell a single flower to a customer, or a $500 arrangement. We’re just happy when people buy flowers.”
Lemire has some last-minute, easy-to-execute traditional ideas to make your home feel more festive for the holidays (and beyond) without breaking the bank. Here, he shares a few of his favorite tips.
“Flowers can be expensive, so if you’re looking for a way to make a maximum impact, look for stems that are tall, like Ilex berries,” he says.
Put a cluster of branches with the bold, red berries in a vase, and you have instant holiday cheer. Tall, showy, colorful blooms like red amaryllis make a similar festive statement. You can buy them cut, or find potted, blooming bulbs at the grocery store. Drop the plastic pots into terracotta or another simple ceramic planter, and you’ve got a centerpiece.
Ilex berries, amaryllis, and a few well-placed bows are all you need to make a big holiday statement.
“Amaryllis plants in terracotta pots are as classic as it gets,” Lemire says. “And you can find them in nearly any grocery store.” Put a group of those elegant beauties on a table for instant cheer. Another bonus: They’re high enough so they don’t block your view across a dinner table.
Learn to Tie a Tiffany Bow
Splurge on some thick fabric ribbon, and then learn how to use it properly. “There are so many videos on YouTube explaining how to tie a proper Tiffany bow, and I watched a lot of them,” Lemire says.
The New York-based jeweler has become so famous for its blue box with a white bow that the “Tiffany bow” is the gift-wrapping standard. But don’t stop there.
Fabric ribbon makes every gift seem a little bit more polished, but it can also dress up a basic wreath, or decorate inexpensive ornaments. Lemire wraps small, empty boxes in brown craft paper, ties them with a beautiful bow, and secures them to the sturdier branches of his tree with floral wire or a twist-tie. It’s a fun, easy, inexpensive way to add a little professional flair to a homespun tree.
Lemire wraps empty, small boxes in recycled craft paper, ties them with this signature ribbon, and attaches them to the tree with floral wire.
Safety in Numbers
“At this time of year, tulips and anemones are everywhere,” Lemire says. “Take advantage of this by buying a big cluster of them, at least 30, that you can pack tightly in a glass cylinder vase.”
Everyday flowers can be dramatic if they’re shown in bold clusters.
Lemire shares his technique for creating single-bloom arrangements with French sophistication:
- Remove the leaves from the lower half of the flower stems, or any part that will be submerged in water.
- Line the heads of the flowers up on a work surface so they’re all even.
- Cut the stems so they’re even with the shortest flower in the lot.
- Gather the flowers together in a cluster and secure the stems with a clear rubber band, so they fit together snugly.
- Place them in a clean glass vase, so everyone can see the orderly stems and recognize your hard work.
Snapdragons get the Jean-Pascal treatment in a tall, rectangular vase.
If you’re feeling bold, you can twist the whole arrangement clockwise, just a few degrees, with your hands. Or if you find yourself at The Row, you can ask Lemire to show you in person.