The head florist of one of the most prestigious luxury hotels in Paris, The Peninsula Paris, Chloe Poitevin is tasked with preserving this majestic establishment’s grandeur on a daily basis. Not many hotels can say they have their very own head florist. She gives us an insight into her everyday working life and the key aspects of this ephemeral art form, a symbol of both French art de vivre and luxury.
Can you tell us about your career path in broad brushstrokes?
My studies were general until I went to university and decided to complete a diploma and professional certificate in floristry. This five-year masters course taught me all the basic techniques as well as more complex skills such as administration and management, equipping me with the toolkit to run a department like that of The Peninsula’s today. While I was training, I took part in quite a few floristry competitions which provided a great opportunity to see excellent floristry work first-hand, particularly at the Piverdière contest in Angers, which I ended up winning. In 2015 I worked with a Meilleur Ouvrier de France, one of the country’s leading craftspeople, giving me the chance to discover what work in a Parisian hotel entails. I’ve been working full time as head florist for the Peninsula since early 2022.
Can you tell us what the work of a florist at a luxury hotel involves?
In our line of work there are in-store florists who work in real time. At the customer’s request, they have to create a bouquet quickly and on a limited budget. At The Peninsula Paris, we work for the hotel. Our job is to ensure that the hotel is at its most beautiful. We’re not constrained by what the customers want – we’re working for a venue and tailoring what we do to its events programme. I’m in daily contact with the housekeeping and sales departments. Our job is to wow the guests, so we bring the décor in line with individual tastes or coordinate it with whatever the current campaign is. In October, for example, we worked exclusively with roses so that we could echo the hotel’s support of a breast cancer charity.
Is there an aesthetic framework to adhere to in order to preserve The Peninsula Paris’ identity?
The Peninsula Hotel was built in the Haussmann architectural style in the 19th century. This building is steeped in history, so you can’t do anything too crazy. We decided on integrated décor that blends in with this refined architecture and its very clear-cut lines. 90% of our floristry is done with white roses, as is stipulated by the guidelines from head office. It’s more about various shades of natural colours and relatively classic shapes. Our opulent and bountiful bouquets blend into the space. Elegance is the name of the game: very pared-back flowers and playing on transparency. The bouquets also need to be distinctive.
How do you and your team organise yourselves? How do you manage not to be repetitive in your creations?
We are a team of five florists including an apprentice. I decided to create a versatile team that could work across the whole space. The hotel is very large but each woman in the team – because we’re all women – can meet the needs of each space. This allows us to deal with any staff absences and to be independent, basically. Whenever a new recruit joins the team, it’s essential that they get a good understanding of this vast space of 200 rooms and fully immerse themselves in it. Understanding and immersing themselves so that they don’t let anything slip, including in the bathrooms – they mustn’t miss any wilted flowers. Meticulousness and luxury are key. It’s only at the end of the day, when every space is magnified, that we start our creations for the following day.
This arrangement also allows us to change things up, so that guests aren’t coming across the same style of bouquet every time they visit. It’s interesting to see how each team member translates the ambiance of a place differently through their flower arrangements. Working in a luxury hotel, and at the Peninsula in particular, means being fond of elegant bouquets. You could feel restricted by the hotel’s style, but when you come and work here, you’re looking for elegant things – you’re not looking for eccentricity. When you enjoy it, you don’t tire of it. Still, there are so many possibilities when it comes to arranging the flowers. Every occasion and every season allow you to work with a wide range of things and to create different arrangements each week.
The flowers change based on the style of the room, the seasons or the themes in the restaurant. We had peonies for spring and we’re going to have amaryllis for winter. We don’t want things to be static. We tend to choose seasonal flowers and avoid working outside of Europe to minimise our environmental impact.
What do you think flowers bring to a luxury hotel?
They add the finishing touches. That’s what makes it luxury. Flowers are the finishing touches of elegance and refinement. Thanks to the ephemeral nature of floristry, flowers breathe life into the space and wow the clientèle every day. Floral art is the signature of both the décor and the atmosphere. The hotel’s only scent, it plays with customers’ senses and gives the Peninsula its very own identity, acting as a reminder of their visit.