In bloom with Lucie Merkl

In bloom with Lucie Merkl

I’ve lived in Tunbridge Wells for the last 22 years. I’ve got three boys aged 12, nine and six so when I’m not busy in the shop my time is mainly filled with feeding and entertaining them! They love coming to work with me – as long as I remember enough snacks of course!

I studied floristry at Hadlow College about 14 years ago as I’d had enough of working in an office. On the day I qualified I found out I was expecting my first son so my floristry dreams had to be put on the backburner as babies and marriage happened. I started antiques dealing online to begin with then branched out to selling to other dealers and at decorative fairs. Things just escalated from there really! I love doing it as I’m always learning about the pieces that I buy and there is nothing like the feeling that you get when you find something really good.

I opened my first shop The Bloom Foundry, which combines my principal loves of floristry and antiques, on St John’s Road in April this year. It’s easy to spot as it’s coral pink! I stock beautiful fresh seasonal flowers from Cornwall, interesting, easy-to-car-for house plants, stunning silk flowers and unusual antique items. These currently range from original mid-century Japanese woodblock prints to a 1980s stereo cabinet with clowns styled to look like an 1800s steam organ complete with cassette tapes of organ music.

When I was a little girl my favourite game to play was shopkeepers. My sister and I used to set up elaborate shops all over the garden and then ‘invite’ everyone to come and buy from us. The Bloom Foundry is an escalation of that childhood dream – except now hopefully my customers are willing ones!

I chose the name The Bloom Foundry because I wanted a name that subtly reflected what I do. Foundries meld metal so that a beautiful or useful item can be created, and I meld flowers and antiques together to hopefully do the same.

And I chose the St John’s location and shop because it was perfect for what I wanted to do. I’ve always loved the symmetry of the building’s frontage and the windows are huge so therefore perfect for the displays I love to create. It’s also positioned right by the pedestrian crossing which means that 99 per cent of the residents of Tunbridge Wells will get held up outside at some point in the week!

Trading has been good so far. I’ve got some lovely regular customers and as the footfall is good I have a lot of people walking in for a browse and buy too. The mainstay of my business isn’t just reliant on the shop as I sell a lot of the antiques online and take bookings for events as well as weddings and funerals. I am in the process of putting together a high-end faux florals range for corporate and wedding hire.

There’s a really excellent network here and all the traders support each other where we can. I have lived in this part of Tunbridge Wells for a long time so I already knew a lot of the other business owners, having been a customer for many years.

Since opening in April I have had excellent feedback. Everyone seems to love it when they come in and tell me how beautiful the shop is, how lovely it smells and what a wonderful energy and feeling it holds! I think many are also really happy to have a good local florist to use for unusual houseplants and flowers.

My USP is being a florist and an antiques dealer. I think that antique dealing is the ultimate form of recycling. I try as much as possible to match the houseplants that I sell to vintage pots so that they don’t end up in landfill and customers can see how great they look once they are filled with a plant.

I am not too keen on upcycling items for the sake of it. Instead I try to get clients to appreciate the beauty of old wood without covering it in paint immediately, the joy of old flower pictures when they are all grouped together and how they can live alongside things in a modern home without looking twee. I set the shop up in little scenes and groupings to give customers ideas of how they could use and display pieces in their own space.

I receive a weekly delivery of handpicked flowers from Cornwall. This is because I get the very best of the seasonal choice on offer and I can then create fantastic long-lasting bouquets for around £20 which are bigger – and better – than letterbox flower boxes! I use an award-winning wholesaler in London for my event and wedding flowers as they have lots of beautiful roses along with other unusual flowers for the shop. I source my antiques from fairs and auctions around the country.

The current floral trends selling best are lots of lovely seasonal bouquets containing narcissi, nerines, scabious, anemones, iris and lilies. My silk floral creations are always very popular too.

Social media has been instrumental in raising awareness of the shop and what I’m doing here. Instagram is especially useful as it is so visual and means I can really show off the beauty of the antiques and blooms that I have for sale. I’m very pleased that at the moment most of the shop’s followers are based in Tunbridge Wells and the nearby area so it shows that it’s doing what I wanted it to do.

Currently I’m very busy preparing for Christmas. I am running a number of wreath-making workshops, both in the shop and for private parties during late November and throughout December, which have proved very popular. I’m also planning table decoration designs, wreaths and garlands that will be for sale in the shop. In between all that I’m busy sourcing lots of cool gift ideas so I’ll have lots available for Christmas.

To find out more about The Bloom Foundry follow @thebloomfoundry on Instagram or head to Facebook

How to make the most of blooms in your home

I would recommend using houseplants in your bedroom to improve air quality. Peace lilies and ivy are especially good as they process toxins and pollution well. A pineapple plant is also a fun addition and releases three times more oxygen back into the air than other plants!

As the weather is turning colder and some fresh flowers are no longer available, like peonies for example, a good way to keep these in your house is to use high quality faux flowers. They are also a good way to display flowers in certain vessels that might not usually be suitable because they can’t hold water. I love using oriental porcelain in this way.

If you have a lovely bunch of fresh flowers they’ll look stunning anywhere. To keep them fresh for as long as possible, when you first get them home trim the stems and add flower food to the water. Repeat this with fresh water every few days to maintain them.

Lucie’s top three instant interior styling tricks

Don’t be afraid to mix eras

Flower pictures in gilt frames look stunning on a blank wall

If you find lots of something (old bottles for example) grouping them together in a line to fill a shelf looks really effective

Why I love Tunbridge Wells: Lucie Merkl

What is your favourite place to shop?

I don’t get a huge amount of spare time at the moment for shopping but when I do I like to look in the old High Street and The Pantiles.

And to eat out?

I have a number of favourites depending on what I fancy to eat so my list would have to include Kitsu for sushi, Kai’s Kitchen for Thai, Rendezvous for French, St John’s Yard for burgers and for a roast I’d pick Sankey’s.

And for coffee or cocktails?

The best coffee in town is in Manuel’s Bakery on St John’s Road, I drink a lot of it. For cocktails it would have to be The Common Rooms. The Mexican Mimosa is delicious and my go-to drink when I’m in there – which is probably far more often than I would like to admit!

Finally, where’s the best place to go locally in order to get away from it all?

Let me think… Gatwick airport? Seriously though, when I really need some thinking space and I’m by myself there is nothing like Bayham Abbey ruins for some quiet, meaningful time. If I have the boys with me then we often go to Penshurst Place so they can run off some steam and I can admire the view.

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