FLORETTE, also known by ji su hua in Chinese, is a small flower shop hidden away in Beijing, China. It’s not an exaggeration to describe it as being hidden – in order to get there you have to first enter a courtyard in Baiziwan, make your way past a rock climbing activity center, and keep walking until you see a large chimney on the left. FLORETTE is located at the side of this chimney. It’s a small cottage with a red roof that sits independently by itself. Extending from the building and through the courtyard is a path consisting of red bricks that leads visitors into FLORETTE. Nowadays, most of FLORETTE’s business is done online; this physical location is primarily a private workspace for the owner and is only open to the general public over the weekends.
The founder Taiwan-born Isabelle Sun and her husband Tim Kwan both come from architectural backgrounds. The two first discovered this cottage by pure chance, and fell in love with it at first sight. Originally used to manufacture miscellaneous car parts, it was later abandoned and neglected. But this cottage had open spaces all around it, there was a large tree and chimney, and the house was built in a perfectly rectangular shape – even the windows are similarly shaped. For these two, the house seemed like it almost came straight out of a fairy tale, especially the simple and minimal facade. After renovations, the 9×9 meter square space was divided into three sections: a flower arrangement area, display aisles, as well as a space for miscellaneous work and flower refrigeration. The height of the building is another reason the coupled loved this location, and so situated right above the refrigeration area is the couple’s private second floor workspace.
创立人Isabelle Sun来自台湾，与其先生Tim Kwan均为建筑出身。最初发现这间小屋时纯属误闯，却也一见钟情。这里原为汽车零件生产厂房，被废置后破烂不堪，可房子前后都有空地，旁边有大树和烟囱，整个房子方方正正，对称的窗，一如童年画的房子，简简单单。经过两位设计师的一番改造，这个9x9m的方正空间，如今被划为三等份: 花的制作区，过道，剩下的为密集功能区以及鲜花冷藏室。这间旧厂房的高挑高也是这对夫妻喜欢这里的原因，所以在功能区的上方设置有二楼，被用作他们的私人工作区。
Isabelle and her husband grew up in New Zealand. Both of their mothers were stay-at-home moms, and similarly, spent a lot of time gardening behind their houses. Having been influenced by this, Isabelle began viewing plants and flowers as an essential part of her life. After moving out on her own, she would adopt the habit of buying plants. “That way, I would have fresh flowers in my house every week,” she said. After moving to Beijing – a place known for its dry climate, tall buildings, and hectic city life, the lifestyle she was accustomed to became difficult to maintain. Flower shops aren’t common in Beijing and the variety of flowers available are limited, so Isabelle decided to open up her own flower shop.
In FLORETTE, besides the conventional flowers one can find at most flower shops, Isabelle has a collection of seasonal flowers from around the globe. At times, she even carries wildflowers from Beijing that locals tend to overlook; other times, she will have rarer flowers like the betel flower. Customers can purchase freshly cut flowers and creatively arrange it themselves, but their prearranged signature bouquets are also available. “You don’t just leave flowers there after you buy them. You need to go home, open them, and release them from the packaging the moment you get home – then pick a suitable vase, prune the flowers, and arrange them. Anything with a life force is ever-changing; so after a few days, they will require additional pruning, and the arrangement will need readjusting. Different seasons will bear different flowers, when you put them in your home, you can feel the changing of the seasons and become more attuned to the flow of time.” Through FLORETTE, Isabelle hopes to generate more interaction between people and nature.
“At this market, known as the Woodstock of Eating, over 80% of our customers had never purchased flowers before. They didn’t know what to do with it after they bring it home, I was pretty shocked. Being located in Beijing’s Sanlitun, this event was attended by all of the hippest people in the area, but most people had next to no knowledge about flowers,” Isabelle was surprised about having to explain very basic things as she was selling the flowers, but she was also very welcoming to these first-timers. “In a way, I felt a sense of accomplishment. In other places, I operate strictly like a business and don’t run into these kinds of issues. Here, we are guiding the people who don’t understand, and this creates more interaction between us and the customers. Although it was unexpected, it felt immensely rewarding.”
Coming from a background of interior design and architecture, complementing space and colors is second nature to her. And as a creative herself, Isabelle is closely knit with the entire creative community. So besides only selling flowers, Isabelle also hosts FLORETTE’s Living Room, a salon that takes place in the shop. The second floor private workspace in FLORETTE transforms into a homely living room, and Isabelle invites various individuals to come in and share their lifestyle philosophies, anything flower-related or aesthetics-related. Besides that, there will often be workshops that people can participate in, which allows them to exercise their creativity in a hands-on manner. Isabelle doesn’t want people to only take photographs of beautiful things, but she also wants them to learn to cherish and appreciate these things. She hopes that these events can be inspirational for their daily lives.
As of now, FLORETTE has already been endorsed by Kinfolk, amongst a few other publications, and praised by people who see the importance in quality of life. It’s no surprise, as this shop is a great place to experience the colors and fragrances of nature amidst the urban cityscape of Beijing. The next time you’re in the area, be sure to swing by and buy a flower or two.
No. 5 Baiziwan Road, Shimen Village
Chaoyang District, Beijing
People’s Republic of China
Contributors: Banny Wang, Eric Zhang
Photographer: Banny Wang
供稿人: Banny Wang, Eric Zhang
摄影师: Banny Wang