Cleveland: It’s possible to bring the outdoors in, even in midwinter.
Interior designers and decorators are demonstrating that during Orchid Mania, the annual orchid celebration going on now at Cleveland Botanical Garden.
The designers have created room vignettes that spotlight the exotic-looking flowers. But these aren’t just a few pretty blooms in a pot. Live orchids have become the subjects of framed artwork, objects on shelves and even ethereal decorations suspended in the air.
The idea was to make orchids dominant elements in the rooms rather than just supporting players, said Chris Kascsak, who served as a lead designer for the event along with Bret Manning, his partner in the Cleveland firm In Design Inc. The effect is meant to be lush and dramatic, more over-the-top than the rooms we occupy in our everyday lives.
An artistic installation in the lobby gives visitors a taste of what to expect. Potted orchids and foliage plants surround stark white couches in giant planters that are painted in the show’s theme colors — a grayish purple, a springy green, an ocean blue and a fiery orange-red. Overhead, chair shapes are suspended from the ceiling.
Orchids are displayed throughout the botanical garden building, including masses of flowers displayed in the glasshouse’s two artificial ecosystems. The orchids were shipped from spots across the country — even as far as Hawaii — and represent orchids from across the world, said Mark Bir, the glasshouse horticulturist and the designer of the Orchid Mania show.
The room vignettes serve as a more structured counterpoint to the natural setting of the glassshouse, Kascsak said. The designers were asked to use one or more of the theme colors, he said, all saturated hues that he hopes people will find less intimidating once they see them used effectively.
“This way they get to see them [the colors] in action,” he said.
Some of the room vignettes are edgy, he said, while some are more traditional.
Charles Phillips of Beautiful Flowers in Cleveland intended his to be dreamlike. He draped columns and a clamshell shape in flowing gold fabric and accented it with plants and peacock feathers in his vignette — “kind of a baroque fantasy, if you will,” he said as he arranged feathers a few days before the show’s opening.
The staff of Reflections Interior Design set up their space as an art gallery, with picture frames surrounding orchids that will be hung on the wall to act as living, three-dimensional paintings.
Karen Gustafson and Lisa Shaffer, on the other hand, created a more utilitarian arrangement in their vignette, a work space designed to help people be more focused, productive and happy. The two set up a desk arrangement meant to foster collaborative work, but they gave the room personality through bold wall colors and playful accents. They attached orchids to weighted cords suspended from the ceiling and filled shelves with jars of crayons, Pixy Stix, smiley face yo-yos and other fanciful accents.
Akron artist Bruce Stebner created an artist’s retreat in his space, inspired by a farm in the Auvergne region of France where he spent time two winters ago. He filled the room with antique furniture and his paintings and stoneware garden structures, and added a whimsical touch: a real door that appears to open to a foyer, which is actually a painting of the entryway in his own house. He even used the same chair in the vignette that’s pictured in the foyer scene.
Beachwood designer Carol M. Wellman painted the back wall of her space in bold blocks of colors. “You’re looking at somebody who couldn’t decide which color to use,” she said with a laugh as she oversaw the painting in preparation for the show.
The room, she said, would be a foyer, with a massive arrangement of orchids on a round table skirted in fabric with the same pattern and colors as the wall.
Kascsak said he hopes the show will be a respite from the season’s bleakness, as well as an inspiration. Showgoers will have the opportunity to talk to the vignettes’ creators at Meet the Designers events at 6 p.m. each Wednesday during the show.
And maybe those visitors will take home an orchid or two from the garden’s gift shop to perk up their own rooms.
Mary Beth Breckenridge can be reached at 330-996-3756 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also become a fan on Facebook at http://tinyurl.com/mbbreck, follow her on Twitter @MBBreckABJ and read her blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/mary-beth.