Flower House

By Ingrid Fetell Lee

Static1 squarespace 3

In nature, nothing stays dead for long. A tree falls, and moments later there are fungi, slime molds, and earthworms turning all that bark and pith into food. Nothing good is wasted.

With notable exceptions (composting, estate sales), we humans are not such avid or nimble reconstitutors. But occasionally there is someone who casts an eye on a forlorn structure and dives in headfirst to fill it with new life. And when you think about it, it’s actually not surprising that this someone might be a florist.

Lisa Waud is a floral designer in Detroit who discovered a blighted house, purchased it at auction for $500, and this weekend, in partnership with dozens of other florists, will be turning it into a secret garden of sorts. Known as Flower House, the installation will be filled with 36,000 blossoms and as many as 2000 visitors over the next three days.


Static1 squarespace 1

Flower House was inspired by the incredible A/W 2012 Dior show (that I wrote about here) which filled a Paris chateau with floor-to-ceiling blossoms. (It was so extraordinary that the clothes were almost beside the point.) Waud breathed in that idea, and imagined an installation that could show the value in Detroit’s derelict spaces. (Derelict might be an understatement — Waud removed twelve thousand pounds of trash before the structure was workable.) She worked with Reclaim Detroit, a “deconstruction” specialist, which worked to salvage valuable materials rather than doing a blanket demolition.

Static1 squarespace

Static1 squarespace 6

Static1 squarespace 2


The things that spring out of the crevices of Flower House are multifarious: rangy, Miss Havisham-esque tangles of mosses, creepers, and vines; sunny carpets of Gerbera closing in on a broken toilet; small tufts of grape hyacinth sprouting from floorboards, like they just couldn’t wait for spring. But invariably they are lush, the kind of hopeful upwelling that soothes our anxieties about dark, decaying spaces. Like a few sprouts in a landscape charred by forest fire, they feel promising — even if we don’t know quite what they offer yet.

At the end of the weekend, Reclaim Detroit will return to “deconstruct” Flower House. The materials will be salvaged for sale to builders who want a piece of history in their renovation and new builds. Moldings and wainscoting silvered and softened with age. And Waud will turn the soil over and plant an urban flower farm, growing seasonal flowers like peonies and dahlias. And like that, the old becomes fodder, nourishment for what’s new.

Static1 squarespace 4


Flower House is on view today through Sunday. Tickets are sold out, but some will be offered throughout the weekend via Instagram.

Images: Flower House
Source: NYT

Oh, and hi! I’m back, and I missed you. More posts soon, so stay tuned!


October 16th, 2015


Lost your spark?

The Joy Jumpstart is a 7-day, self-guided program to help you break out of a rut and reconnect with what makes you feel truly alive.

    Discussion (3 Comments)

  1. Mary Lou on October 20, 2015

    Welcome Back! Nice to see you. Missed the sound of your voice.

    1. Ingrid on October 25, 2015

      Thanks so much, Mary Lou! Feels good to be writing here again!!

  2. Lingling on November 24, 2015

    Hi Ingrid,

    I have known you as a creative designer at IDEO (because I watched your speaking session on Youtube) but I didn’t know you are a great photographer too! I enjoyed reading your articles around brand and emotional designs!

    On a side note – do you have any books that you would recommend for design thinking or open innovation? Would love to hear your thoughts how we can curate design & innovative thinking through our daily life. Thank you!

    Best Regards,


Leave a Comment

What's killing your joy? Take this 3-minute quiz to find out.
Free Resource

Find more joy every day

Our free workbook has 5 simple strategies that will make life better right now.

You'll also receive periodic updates on new things from The Aesthetics of Joy. We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at any time.