Florist Spotlight: Kiana Underwood of Tulipina

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Photo by Corbin Gurkin

There are so many pieces that go into the design of an event: Choosing the perfect venue, selecting furniture and tableware, lighting, linens, and, of course, flowers. When it comes to lush, dramatic floral designs that will truly take your breath away, one of our favorite floral designers to turn to is Kiana Underwood, founder of San Francisco-based Tulipina. She has an eye for color and texture that can’t be beat, and we love having her on board to help transform a space into something totally breathtaking. We sat down with her to find out a little more about what she does and why she loves it.

How did you become interested in floral design?
As a little girl, I spent a lot of time in my grandfather’s gardens. He had a huge estate surrounded by gardens, and my mother always kept her own lovely garden – we always had fresh flowers in our home. In general, flowers are an integral part of Persian culture, and being surrounded by flowers was very much a part of my childhood.

What inspired you to start Tulipina? When did you start?
I earned my Master’s degree in International Relations and Economics from a prestigious school in Washington D.C., after which I returned to San Francisco. I began working at Stanford doing research and writing, but it was within a subject for which I had little passion. So when my first baby was born, I decided to stay home with her. But soon I found myself at home with 3 kids under the age of 5. While I absolutely loved having the privilege of staying home with my children, I always felt like I needed something more, something that was just for me – an outlet. That was when my husband suggested that I start Tulipina. For years I had been creating my own floral arrangements for my home and parties and friends and family would admire them, so with the encouragement of my husband, I launched Tulipina in April of 2011.

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Photo by Corbin Gurkin

What do you love about working with flowers?
One of my favorite parts of my business is the creative aspect. I love working with beauty of course, but the creativity that I’m allowed in doing so is a real blessing. I think of flowers as my painter’s palette, and every arrangement as an expression of who I am creatively.
The other favorite part of my work are my clients and students, especially those who truly appreciate my work and seek me out – they make my job very rewarding.

What makes your approach to floral design and arrangement different? What sets the weddings you design apart?
I think that my use of unexpected floral elements and approaches to color are what set me apart. I’m often approached by those who appreciate my work for what it is, and are not just looking for a “florist“ per se, but rather for someone who does what I do creatively.

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Photo by Corbin Gurkin

Do you have a favorite floral aspect to design? Why?
I love to incorporate elements from my own garden – they add a unique element and help the design stand out.

Is there a type of wedding (location, culture, style, etc.) that you’ve never worked on that you would love to be involved in?
In general, I love being involved in weddings/events that step outside the box. I’ve always had a fascination with the Japanese culture and I would love to incorporate my designs with their traditional wedding rituals.Tulipina_jakarta16-012

What are your favorite flowers to work with? Does this change seasonally?
I have many favorite flowers, and pretty much love all flowers and foliage. In autumn I love dahlias and zinnias. In the spring I love peonies and garden roses. Ranunculus and gardenias have to be my absolute favorite flowers, but for very different reasons. I love ranunculus because they are so beautiful and come in so many different shades and textures (and last for a very long time), and I love gardenias for how delicate and aromatic they are.

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Photo by Corbin Gurkin

What about non-floral elements? Are there details you love to include that are unexpected?
I love using fruit branches in my arrangements.

What inspires you?
I’m inspired by music, art, or just a simple walk around my neighborhood.

What do you like to do in your free time?
In my free time I love watching my children play their musical instruments, and I also love playing the piano when I have the time. I also thoroughly enjoy visiting nurseries and maintaining my garden.

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Photo by Sandra Fazzino Photography

What’s a fun fact about you that your clients might not know?
I can speak Farsi, English, Italian, and Japanese (in descending order of proficiency).

What do you wish couples knew before hiring a florist?
I wish couples understood just how expensive flowers are, and the labor that goes into the creation of floral art.

What should couples know about their event or be prepared with when they meet with you for the first time?
They should have a good sense of the overall theme of their event. I can fill in the gaps, but being able to express their likes, dislikes and overall theme is very important to ensuring a gorgeous final result.

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