VIDEO: Transforming an Abandoned Home into a Floral Wonderland

By Patrick Sisson

Detroit-based florist Lisa Waud believes she’s found a special occupation. How many jobs can take you to three weddings in one weekend, or allow you to play a role in the continuum of events that mark a lifetime, from bouquets for newborns to floral arrangements for funerals?

It’s hard, physical labor -- the only gig she’s had that leaves manicurists laughing when she tries to get her nails done -- as well as an occupation with a powerful, symbolic component.

The communicative power of peonies and dahlias is what inspired her latest project, the Flower House ( Check out the video for a sneak peek.

An immersive installation taking place October 16-18 in an abandoned home in the Hamtramck section of Detroit, Waud's vision will bring together nearly 20 florists from around the country to transform a forgotten space into a potent artistic statement about beauty and permanence. Afterwards, the home will be responsibly dismantled, with the material being reused by builders, and the land turned into a flower farm.

It's a new type of floral arrangement, which in Waud's mind requires a different kind of promotional strategy. "I wanted this project to have a contemporary feel to it," she says, "not anything stodgy or old school.”

In a city with a significant number of empty lots and abandoned homes, as well as an increasing number of art projects and urban farms repurposing and reimagining those spaces, the Flower House fit the current creative climate.

Waud knew she wanted a website that was direct, memorable and immediately reflected the spirit of the project -- and the straightforward name seemed like a perfect fit. While the 'dot-com' website name was taken, Waud explored other options and discovered, which felt more immediate while capturing the progressive spirit of the project.

“Everybody is a ‘dot-com,’” she says. “So I thought one of the new suffixes would be a good fit, and saw that was [available]."

Waud has always been an artist and businesswoman unafraid to try something new and follow her intuition. After she got her start in the flower business in high school, working at Polly’s Planting & Plucking in her hometown of Petoskey, Mich., she felt an urge to hit the road and explore, so she started spending half the year working and half the year traveling, making it as far as Portland, Olympia and Hawaii, before returning to Michigan to open Pot & Box in Ann Arbor a few years ago.

When the business expanded to Detroit, she noticed the deserted homes throughout the city and began envisioning ways the decaying structures could be utilized and reclaimed, turned into a resource by a respectful neighbor.

Inspired in part by the way the artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude used textiles to wrap structures and transform the landscape in a platform for art, Waud’s vision soon led her to an auction for abandoned properties. Five hundred dollars later, she owned a pair of old buildings, one of which would become the Flower House.

Waud already staged a dry run for the concept in May, covering the smaller of her two new properties in roughly 4,000 blooms, which attracted media coverage from outlets ranging from the Huffington Post to Travel + Leisure.

One of the aspects of the projects she’s most excited about is its flexibility. Artists have free rein to decorate more than a dozen rooms in the home as they please. (They did fight over who would get to put bouquets the claw-foot tub in the bathroom.)

But the real versatility comes after the installation is taken down, and the home gets deconstructed and turned into an urban flower farm.

With room to grow her own flowers, Waud suddenly has a much more multi-faceted business, one that benefits from such a unique, open-ended URL provided by This evolving business plan is one reason why another new “not-com” option, ‘dot-florist (.florist), wasn’t exactly the right fit -- but ‘dot-house’ (.house) definitely was.

“This project has floral design, responsible deconstruction and a future flower farm,” she says. “There’s plenty of responsible buy-in for people to get on board. I had this idea and I feel lucky that it’s interesting enough that people want to help out.”

Learn more about this project by visiting the website

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