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Designer Jeffrey Bilhuber leads Red Diamond Lecture Series at The Gardens on October 7

published: 09/23/2016

Designer Jeffrey Bilhuber leads Red Diamond Lecture Series at The Gardens on October 7

Jeffrey Bilhuber is one of the nation's most respected interior designers. He shares his design prowess through his firm, Bilhuber and Associates, which is based in New York City. He has authored four highly acclaimed books, all published through Rizzoli: Jeffrey Bilhuber's Design Basics, Defining Luxury: The Qualities of Life at Home and The Way Home: Reflections of American Beauty. His latest is American Master. His clients have included: Vogue, 70 Park Avenue Hotel, City Club Hotel, Ariel Sands Resort for Michael Douglas, Conde Nast Publications and Mariska Hargitay and Peter Hermann.

Bilhuber visits Birmingham as part of the Red Diamond Lecture Series at Antiques at The Gardens on Friday, October 7. The Red Diamond Lecture Series will also include floral designer Michael Grim of the Bridgehampton Florist.

Bilhuber's talk at The Gardens will be at 11 a.m., and he'll sign copies of his book after. Tickets for the event can be reserved here.

Before visiting The Gardens, he reflected on his career and shared more about his style and inspiration.

What can we expect from your latest book,
American Master?

It is the latest and the greatest! It's the fourth book. I'm not sure how many other designers have it in them to more than one book out, but I've been very fruitful in managing to get a new book out every three years. Because I'm trying to articulate changes in market or the mood in the country, the evolution of personal style. I'm proud that I have four books, but I'm very pleased that with each cycle, I'm able to continue to show my logical evolution and that of the clients and consumers that surround us.

At this point in my career, I've had the chance to realize it's a very, very difficult industry to succeed in. And once you've succeeded, it's even more difficult to stay at the top of your profession. I succeeded early on – within the first few years of founding this company, I rose to the top of the profession and garnered a lot of attention. Through talent and grit, I've managed to stay there. American Master is the proverbial pat on the back of doing my job very, very well and realizing that I am at the top of my game at this point. And it's been well earned.

You're going to see projects that represent the best of my career to date, but it's balanced with 30 signature statements that are the bedrock principles that have defined my design process. It's not just an overview of recently completed projects, but it's the foundations of what makes all of these projects work – the takeaway information for the reader is to be an informed audience and consumer. These 30 principles distill the process just how much effort it takes to get rooms to a point where they are appropriate, invigorating, creatively stimulating and balanced.

Mariska Hargitay wrote the foreword on the new book. What can you tell me about the projects that you've work on with her?

I believe that I've worked on six projects with Mariska. She's a fan, and she's very loyal. She understands the creative process intensely, just given her craft. And she can read my shorthand. She understands that creativity and business go together. You write a book and you think, "Who is it that should set the stage with a foreword? Who understands the message best of all of your current clients?"

Anna Wintour was delighted to write the foreword to the first book. We were deeply immersed with her at the time at Conde Nast and Vogue offices and the Metropolitan Museum of Art and her houses through the city and the country. And over the last three years, Mariska has also become a very important aspect of our company and a huge supporter.

How did you begin your work with Vogue?

That was through Anna. She was interviewing interior designers to redecorate the offices at Vogue. It was a bit of a cattle call early in my career, and I was flattered that Anna Wintour wanted to meet with me about the offices at Vogue in the Conde Nast building. I skipped in proudly with my portfolio in order to see in front of me a sea of competition and all of my peers lined up in front of me on a sofa. It deflated my balloon very rapidly. But from that pack, I was plucked – which was great. And Anna Wintour to this day remains the most powerful woman in the fashion industry. It's a very intimate, very productive, very trusting relationship. She has the ability and the smarts to turn to the creative people around her and say, "Do your best work." It's her business to do that. She has a fine-tuned instinct for being able to spot great talent and to be able to nurture it.

What is the most important room in the house?

For me? The dining room is critically important because it's where we gather together. And not just at dinner – any room that you can gather you r family at a table becomes the most important room in the house. Hopefully that doesn't mean the island in the kitchen; we've got to wean ourselves off of standing around the island in the kitchen and eating. You want to be at a table. You want to be able to look each other in the eye and communicate, to talk to each other. Whether that's a card table, a breakfast table or a dining table, that will define what becomes the most important room.

There's nothing that tops the gathering of family and friends. In a time of great uncertainty, in a topsy-turvy world where sometimes everything seems to be upside down or on fire, the gathering at a table is enormously reassuring.

What is the secret to combining modern and vintage looks?

You've got to be current. Being constantly open to the evolution of changes that surround us. We are constantly evolving and changing in the way we communicate, the way we travel and it's all completely different than the way it was two or three years ago. You have to be open and receptive to change. The evolution of the world is the secret to modern life without ever losing track of the value of tradition or the merit that our history has brought to us and continues to – that's what we try to do. History with horsepower.

Who or what still inspires you?

The foundations of my creativity and inspiration come from the creative world that surrounds me. I'm immersed in contemporary art and decorative arts. The way that we dress or the music we listen to or the art that we see will inform all of the other aspects of what surrounds us.

Many of your notable projects have happened in larger cities. Can you tell me more about some of the projects that have taken place in rural areas?

Our projects are global. I am as happy working on a log cabin on 100 acres of farmland as I am working in a dazzling duplex penthouse on 5th Avenue. What I am ultimately looking for are people that embrace what I have to offer and enthusiastically let me do my best work. We're currently working on projects in Seattle, Santa Barbara, Bel Air, Montecito, Marth, Texas, Palm Beach, London, Greenwich, Connecticut, It's a very broad and diverse portfolio of projects.

The projects that you see in American Master run the gamut from New York City to Palm Beach to Aspen to San Francisco. I find that long distance projects are far more productive than the one that's just around the corner. If we're going to travel any distance and we bring value to the table, the time that we spend together is enormously valuable and can tend to be more productive than a project much closer to home. I would say that 70% of the work that we do is long distance rather than local or regional.

To learn more about all of the educational opportunities The Gardens has to offer, we encourage you to visit our website, find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and follow us on Instagram. You can subscribe to the award-winning Dirt E-Lert, our bi-weekly e-newsletter, by simply texting BBGARDENS to 22828.

About Birmingham Botanical Gardens

Birmingham Botanical Gardens is Alabama's largest living museum with more than 12,000 different plants in its living collections. The Gardens' 67.5 acres contains more than 25 unique gardens, 30+ works of original outdoor sculpture and miles of serene paths. The Gardens features the largest public horticulture library in the U.S., conservatories, a wildflower garden, two rose gardens, the Southern Living garden, and Japanese Gardens with a traditionally crafted tea house. Education programs run year round and more than 11,000 school children enjoy free science-curriculum based field trips annually. The Gardens is open daily, offering free admission to more than 350,000 yearly visitors.


'Bridgehampton Florist' shares design tips at Red Diamond Lecture Series

published: 09/22/2016

'Bridgehampton Florist' shares design tips at Red Diamond Lecture Series

Michael Grim was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and his love of flowers began when he was just 12-years-old after visiting his grandmother in Vermont. He'd take walks with her and return with flowers for every room in the house.

In high school, he went off to Lehigh Vocational Technical School to learn the fundamentals of horticulture. There he met Peter Tryforus, the head of FTD, who singled Michael out at a floral design panel; Michael was the only non-adult on the panel. Upon seeing his designs, Tryforus urged Michael's parents to allow their son to utilize his talents in a larger market, and upon his graduation, he left for New York City. After a stint at the St. Regis Hotel, he found himself at the St. Moritz Flower Shop. He was still just 21.

He noticed that his Manhattan clientele were establishing second homes in the Hamptons, and he was gradually drawn to move there full-time by 1981. He and his partner Jim Osburn eventually purchased The Bridgehampton Florist, a shop that has become the standard for fabulous arrangements in a fabulous part of the Northeast.

He and Jim have appeared on "Barefoot Contessa" with Ina Garten, and for 35 years Michael has provided his services to the Lauder family's entertaining.

Grim will be part of the Red Diamond Lecture Series at Birmingham Botanical Gardens on Friday, October 7. He'll also host a floral workshop. Tickets for both events can be purchased here.

Before visiting The Gardens, Grim shares more about his career, his work with Labor Day's Hampton Classic and what he'll share with Birmingham.

How do you make your designs work inside and out?

My work is very, very country and simple. It's not designed or over the top - it's really just a very casual garden look. A lot of our houses here have outdoor living rooms, so flowers are used out there. I basically work with things that are local and in season. Even though I'll bring in hydrangeas from Holland, it really is pretty much a farm-to-table look. Whatever is in season here - dahlias, hydrangeas, garden roses...things like that.

How large of an undertaking is the Hampton Classic for you guys? How much manpower does that take?

We take five or six people over there with us. The planning really starts as soon as it's over. I'm getting phone calls in January and February to start designing tables with new and different looks.

All week, there are things happening at the horse show. The big Grand Prix is when people are setting beautiful tables, china and things like that. That's where the fun is! We get started on Grand Prix Sunday - we're on the ring at about 5, we'll get started with the tables. Last year we did about 25 tables.

How did you connect with Aerin Lauder?

Through her mother and her grandmother! I started doing flowers for Aerin's mother, probably 35 years ago when Aerin was just a young girl. I helped with Aerin's wedding and I've always been involved with her family.

Years ago, when I started with Jo Carole, we'd do flowers for her grandmother. It's a 35 year friendship.

At that point, they must sort of just turn things over to you and trust your judgement, right?

They do! Sometimes they have their ideas and we go from there, but it's always a very casual kind of entertaining, whether it's in the formal dining room or an outside party. In summertime in the formal dining room, we do hydrangeas or white garden roses. Outside with dining rooms and picnics, it's cosmos and dahlias and garden kind of flowers.

What will we learn from your workshop here?

I'm going to focus on the holidays - Thanksgiving and Christmas. There are going to be fun things that can be done for tables - napkin rings and things like that. I'm also going to show you how to do things the weekend before Thanksgiving or the weekend before Christmas and keep them somewhere cool so that all of the pressures aren't down to the wire.

Do you prefer to work with live or artificial arrangements?

I don't work with artificial arrangements. Most of my clients want fresh flowers and fresh plants, so I really don't work with artificial things.

 What flower is best for all occasions?

Oh God, that's like asking my favorite child!

You know, when it comes down to it, a beautiful rose can be perfect, single and in a little bud vase next to a bed down to 50 or 60 of them in a silver bowl. They can be very casual or very formal.

What or who inspires your style?


Everywhere I look! The sky, fields, wildflowers, the ocean. I get color palette ideas from sunsets to sunrises. Everywhere I look. Everywhere I see or feel. Right now, I see a little yellow sunflower in my back yard, so when I wake up tomorrow, I'll probably be inspired to do something in yellow.

To learn more about all of the educational opportunities The Gardens has to offer, we encourage you to visit our website, find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and follow us on Instagram. You can subscribe to the award-winning Dirt E-Lert, our bi-weekly e-newsletter, by simply texting BBGARDENS to 22828.

About Birmingham Botanical Gardens

Birmingham Botanical Gardens is Alabama's largest living museum with more than 12,000 different plants in its living collections. The Gardens' 67.5 acres contains more than 25 unique gardens, 30+ works of original outdoor sculpture and miles of serene paths. The Gardens features the largest public horticulture library in the U.S., conservatories, a wildflower garden, two rose gardens, the Southern Living garden, and Japanese Gardens with a traditionally crafted tea house. Education programs run year round and more than 11,000 school children enjoy free science-curriculum based field trips annually. The Gardens is open daily, offering free admission to more than 350,000 yearly visitors.


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