Courtesy of Sayles Livingston Design.
Name: Sayles Livingston
Location: Tiverton, RI
Tell us about your business: We exclusively create flowers and design for events and weddings. We don’t have a retail space and we don’t do day-to-day phone and order flowers and that has been the case since I started in 1993. Since the industry has changed over the years we do a lot more than that now, now we do more design, candles, linens, and anything that helps to conceptualize a space.
When did you decide to start your own business? I started when I was in graduate school. I was doing some garden design and someone asked me to help with wedding flowers for their daughter. I found that I really enjoyed it and the growth of my work coincided with the growth of the industry in the area. Who knows what would have happened. Newport was exploding as a wedding destination and there was room for good, tasteful design people.
Name one of your favorite events or a company milestone you’ve reached: I feel like we are constantly ratcheting up our game, so it happens almost every year. We did a wedding where we had to build a ceiling of flowers. It was challenging and something that I really had to put a lot of mental and physical energy into trying to figure out. Every year there seems to be a bigger event that requires more effort and more staff. The milestones always have to do with overcoming big challenges. We’ve been doing a lot more destination work which is a challenge but also really fun.
Best piece of design advice you’ve been given: It’s a lot about subtly in color, my mom was an interior decorator and I grew up talking about color and shading. So it’s something that I’ve always had a really good handle on. It’s about being specific. One person’s blush might be different than someone else’s idea of blush. You have to be able to have a range of colors. Get specific. I need to have people show me what they mean. I also approach all my design work as if I would be seeing it in print.
Tell us what your studio is like: There’s a barn feel to it, with a really nice loft where I meet with clients. It’s great because none of the floral waste or dirt gets up there. I’m able to keep it looking neat. We have all of our props and linens up there and lots of books. Downstairs we have a soapstone counter that creates a nice open feel and an attached green house. It feels very upscale, country chic. Every single person who comes in is like “Oh my God.” It seems like the space was made especially for us. There’s also a big, cool flower on the side of the building.
What is your business philosophy? My business is completely client based, so I’m always making sure that my clients feel comfortable and taken care of. It’s important to me that they know that I’m going to do the best possible job for them. So a trust needs to be built while still staying on the cutting edge of design. As far as the product goes, I know where to go and what to do to source what my clients are looking for no matter what time of year—and that is something that only comes with experience.
What’s your favorite part about living/ working in New England? There is a very holistic approach to life here. For better or for worse, I’ve not had that much separation between my home and work life. I have four kids and I’ve been able to be around while they were all growing up and at the same time they have the opportunity to live in a beautiful area where I can still have a successful business. I really like being able to support other people in the community too. I love the small community feel. All of the local vendors are so supportive of each other. It’s a very New England trait.
Your idea of happiness: I would say that I love being with family and I love being on the water. Those are the things that make me the happiest—and I do love flowers!
What’s your favorite flower? Peonies. They smell great and remind me of my childhood, we used to bring them in to school in spring. Everyone loves them.
What do you have to have with you at all times? Definitely some sort of tech device so I can pull up images or take pictures for clients or myself. The business is so visually based. Probably clippers, our favorites are from Ocean State Job Lot. We lose them all the time, so we just hope that they last for a season. A hairbrush. A bucket. A block of Oasis floral foam.
What about keeping your hands clean? You kind of just give up on that.
If you could eat one thing for the rest of your life what would it be? Probably grilled fish, I like sea bass but any salt-water fish. Or maybe ice cream, but I guess you can’t really live on ice cream….
What is your life motto? To create unusual, extraordinary and luxury events for my clients, while staying true to myself, my family and supporting the environment and community around me. Whether you are my client, my employee, my friend, or my family, I always give you my best effort and respect!