A Lifelong Pursuit of Beauty

25 May 2023

Editor of Flower Magazine shares her advice on creating a beautiful, happy environment

By Carin Hall

Did you know that the way we feel about our homes is one of the biggest factors in our overall happiness? In 2019, Kingfisher and the Happiness Institute published the “Good Homes Repor,” and discovered that our homes have a bigger impact on our happiness than our physical health, income and employment—let that sink in.

Spending time and energy on a home that’s beautiful to you—that makes you feel calm, rested and safe—is not a frivolous pursuit. And it doesn’t have to be expensive. The point is: caring for our homes is essential for our overall wellbeing.

With that in mind, I spoke to Margot Shaw, Editor-in-Chief of Flower Magazine and one of Design NC’s keynote speakers this May. With a desire to let others know that design, style and even flower arranging is not reserved for the elite, she describes her journey, inspiration and tips for how to build your own unique style.

“The concept of ‘flower’ as the title of the magazine is meant as a verb,” she explains. “It’s about a flourishing, flowering lifestyle that encompasses a more botanical, natural world profile. And who doesn’t respond to infusing more natural beauty into everyday life?”

The Seed

A native of Birmingham, Alabama, Shaw describes her childhood as privileged to beauty, born to sophisticated parents who spent several years with her in Europe and New York.

“They took me everywhere with them,” she says. “I remember museums, chateaus, gardens and cathedrals; fine dining at age six; and visiting the Louvre at age seven. That began my journey of my appreciation for beauty.”

Later, at boarding school, Shaw gravitated towards art history, which she also studied at Hollins University in Virginia, followed by interior design at the University of Texas. At Hollins, she spent a month at Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library, established by Henry Francis du Pont (in the other Wilmington in Delaware).

“Du Pont was a great collector of art, antiques, textiles, tapestries—just everything,” she says. “That was one of the most exciting months of my
entire education.”

The Roots

Flash forward to planning her eldest daughter’s wedding, Shaw found herself inspired by collaborating with Sybil Sylvester, a well-respected florist in the Birmingham area, which some might even describe as the floral capital of
the US.

“After about six months of working with Sybil, things were really stirring in me,” says Shaw. “I started seeing flowers as an intricate art form and loved the idea of working with natural elements.”

The Sprout and Bloom

That’s when it clicked. Shaw apprenticed under Sybil and fell in love. After a few years, she felt a calling to create a publication that “trumpeted a botanical lifestyle.” Although it felt somewhat outlandish of an idea, she pushed on.

“Once it happened, every door opened like it was meant to be,” she says. It also helps that Birmingham is a big publishing town—home to the likes of Southern Progress, Coastal Living, Cooking Light and many others—which she describes as a great environment for seeking advice as she built her brand from scratch.

“If you look at our masthead, you’ll see a lot of former employees from some of the great titles that are no longer in publication,” she says. “Karen Caroll, for example, is our editor-at-large and has been one of the greatest influences in helping me build the magazine.”

Now in its 16th year, Flower Magazine continues to blossom in the hands of audiences who truly appreciate beauty, whether in the form of topics on florals, gardens, interior design, entertaining, art or travel. At Design NC, Shaw will discuss her book “Living Floral,” which serves as a microcosm of her career. The book contains chapters profiling various individuals, including a chef, an architect, a florist and an interior designer, among others.

How to Curate Your Own Style

While beauty is subjective, Shaw places great importance on incorporating elements into your home that resonate personally. That may include items with a history, restoring family heirlooms to fit your style, collecting pieces over decades and, of course, including natural elements whenever possible.

“Make your space authentically yours,” she explains. “It should reflect your personality.”

Magazines and social media are a good jumping off point for inspiration, she explains, but building personal style is more of a lifelong process that should bring joy and allow for expansion and evolution over time.

Tips for Hosting

Work with what you have. Shaw says, more than anything, people just want to feel comfortable and get to know you. That means showing up as your true self, cutting flowers from your own garden (if you can) and not hiding elements that showcase your personality (books, art, photos, or even pets if well behaved).

“I think we're at a point in society where we really need to just be who we are,” she says. “Do what you want, show up as your authentic self and have plenty of everything to go around.”

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