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Blossoms against blight: Hamtramck's Flower House opens this weekend


Lisa Waud

Lisa Waud

 
Event planner Liz Andre-Stotz was a little surprised last year when her florist friend Lisa Waud called her and several others with a "crazy idea": buying a house for the express purpose of filling it with flowers.
 
"We were like, 'Yeah, okay, Lisa,'" says Andre-Stotz, who owns Parsonage Events in Clarkston. "But she's a real dreamer and if she sets her mind to something she does it. Not too long after that she was like, 'I bought not just one house. I bought two houses.' And we were like, 'Oh, my God. We're going to do this.'"
 
Andre-Stotz is one of 25 florists and floral design teams from across the U.S. and Canada who will turn the house at 11751 Dequindre in Hamtramck into Flower House for a one-of-a-kind installation the weekend of October 16-18. Each of the house's 15 rooms will feature a unique full-room design created exclusively with American-grown flowers. Shortly after the weekend of the exhibition, the house will be deconstructed and turned into a flower farm for Waud's floral design business, Pot and Box.
 
Waud says she was inspired by the unique "land art" works of Christo and Jeanne-Claude, as well as a 2012 Dior fashion show held in a Paris mansion filled with flowers. But the challenge for Waud was making such a project "accessible." 
 
"I always really loved that idea of any kind of land art—these installations on beaches, and then the tide takes them away," she says. "But I didn't know how I would enter into that world."
 
Waud found not one, but two venues for her epic dream project not long after she moved to Hamtramck in 2013. Last November she bought a pair of abandoned houses at 11751 and 11739 Dequindre for $250 apiece at auction. But there was a lot of work to be done before either house could be transformed. Waud and volunteers, including members of Reclaim Detroit, cleared out garbage that reached almost up to knee level in the two homes. Prep work at 11751 Dequindre stretched on for longer than Waud anticipated, so she decided to use 11739 for a preview event in May on her originally planned opening date for the Flower House proper.
 
The preview was a smaller-scale version of the final project that's to come. It featured 15 florists working on just one large room—but it attracted attention from major media outlets ranging from "Country Living" to "Vogue Portugal." But the reactions Waud was most concerned about were those of her neighbors. She's distributing free tickets in the neighborhood for the upcoming Flower House weekend, and she says locals who have stopped by so far have "freaked out"–in a good way.
 
"It has something for everyone, whether you are a flower junkie or you're into old buildings in Detroit or Detroit in general," she says. "There's the deconstruction and flower farming. And in a world of florists that could be competitive, it's like, 'Let's all do this together.' It's hard for someone to be like, 'Nope. I don't like any of that.'"
 
Waud has done her share of moving around; she grew up in Petoskey, attended Michigan State University, finished her degree while living in Olympia, Washington, then lived in Hawaii for a while before living and starting Pot and Box in Ann Arbor. But she finally found a long-term home in Hamtramck.
 
"Once I decided to move to Detroit and moved here—and that span was very close together—it's like, that's how you know," she says. "It's very like a relationship metaphor. I started coming over here, I was like, 'I guess I like Detroit,' and then one day it was like, 'Boom! I want to move here and I want to have my business here.'"
 
Waud now employs a manager to handle Pot and Box's Ann Arbor operations while she runs the Detroit side of things, although she says Flower House has lately been taking up her "entire brain and heart." Based on some of the early reactions she's gotten to the Flower House project, similar installations could even become a whole new facet of her business.
 
"People are like, 'Can you do a flower house in Vancouver? Can you do one in Pittsburgh?'" she says. "We're going to see how it goes and see what happens, but I would love to do more installations utilizing flowers and plants. I love it. It's so fun."
 
Flower House is located at 11751 Dequindre, Hamtramck. Cutting edge florists from Michigan and across the country will fill its walls and ceilings with American-grown fresh flowers and living plants for a weekend installation that will be open to the public Friday, Oct. 16, through Sunday, Oct. 18. Learn more at http://www.theflower.house/.
 
Following the installation weekend, the house that held the exhibition will be responsibly deconstructed and its materials repurposed, and the land will be converted into a flower farm and design center.
 
Patrick Dunn is an Ann Arbor-based freelance writer. Follow him on Twitter @patrickdunnhere.

Photos by Doug Coombe.

 
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