Related Articles: Clothes and Accessories, Event Planning, Home & Garden, All

Mary Lois Hare

Floral Extraordinare

If you ask Mary Lois Hare to give you a condensed history of her work as a designer, you'll quickly discover that she's a jack of all trades - and from the looks of it, she's mastered them all. Hare is an award-winning San Francisco-based event and floral designer, interior designer, set designer, and visual and performing artist. Celebrated for her dreamy theater designs, verdant nature-inspired installations and sculptures, grass-covered indoor furniture, and live theater performances, Hare's personal aesthetic is borrowed from "using objects found in nature, those things deeply familiar to us."

Over the past decade, she has exhibited her art in galleries, on stage, and at various events. Her work was nominated for a SFMOMA SECA award in Experimental Design in 2000, and she went on to win the 2004 Isadora Duncan Award (www.izzies-sf.org) in set design for the theater company inkBoat. Hare is also the founder and artistic director of Loop Group, a wedding/event floral design company, started in 1995, whose concoctions merge together the traditional and the unexpected, the baroque and the contemporary, the spare and the vivid. The transition to floral design was an obvious move for Hare, who has "loved flowers since I was a kid." After working at a flower stand in Santa Barbara and doing some wedding work in Boulder, Colorado, Hare came into contact with floral designers who influenced her to move in that direction.

According to Hare, planning a wedding means "looking at a bride's dress because that tells a lot about her style, looking at the venue, the time of year, whether it's indoors or outdoors…Choosing colors and arrangements means taking those things into account, and seeing what the client feels strongly about." Hare is also influenced by current color palettes ("Yellow is not happening in either fashion or flowers.") without being bound to them. Instead, she opts in favor of timeless touches. As far as weddings go, simplicity is in - A-lines, small straps, round and compact bouquets; but "if there's a bride who can carry out the drama of a long, cascading bouquet, that's terrific!"

When Hare plans weddings and events, she does everything from web searches, antiques shopping, and gathering odds and ends herself in order to make sure she has the right accoutrements. "Something modern can go in a traditional building if the container is right. It's easy to mix and match."

Soon, Hare will finally have full artistic license in planning a wedding- her own. On August 21, Hare will celebrate her union with longtime business and personal partner, cabinet-maker Eamonn O'Brien. The wedding, a three-day gala during which all guests will be draped in assortments of flowers, will take place at the Headlands Center for the Arts in Marin.

"The building is historical and not entirely restored, so the event is going to be very rustic," she explains. Hare will be using materials ranging from a rusted red wagon, unusual containers, knotted hanging bags, burlap runners laced with ribbon, floral tapestries, balls of flowers, and old bottles. "Basically, we're using things that wouldn't normally be used. Our invitations were designed on chipboard, letter pressed, and fastened with stainless steel. It's a utilitarian kind of approach, but it's complemented by elegance."

Since Hare's whimsical yet elegant style, in her personal designs and work for clientele, is "not cookie-cutter", she was compelled to design her own wedding gown - a graceful 1950's-inspired dress made from taffeta, tulle, and organza and decorated with - of course - hundreds of round organza fleurettes specially picked out and handmade by the bride and friends.

Overall, Hare's personal aesthetic is fun and playful. "Flowers can look perfectly in place in a gallery setting, but I think you can be elegant without being overly formal. I stay away from stiffness. I like arrangements that are lively."

Hare's inventive artwork (for instance, a moss sofa that was on the cover of the June 2001 issue of Dwell Magazine) also influences her floral arrangements, but there are definite motifs that permeate all the work she has done. "I really like big, hanging things. Dramatic interiors are fine, but when I'm doing an interior, I like to create things that people are in harmony with, that they can wake up to and feel soothed by. I like elegance and the unusual, but nothing too wacky."

According to Hare, her blend of traditional and innovative has not gone unnoticed by those she serves, even the customarily apathetic. "I have grooms writing me letters, saying 'I had no idea how much flowers could influence my day.' And they really do-they fill the room with beauty. They add character and transform the environment."

Like all good event designers, Hare is chockful of advice on wedding planning. "You should pull pics of flowers you like, even if you can't identify why…Also, don't micromanage with your planner. It's important to find someone you trust…In addition, most people get their linens and tabletop arranged by their caterer, but it's always a good idea to have your designer manage the details, to have as few people as possible picking out materials…It's wise to find an event designer who's really good at tackling the big picture, putting the details together and tying it all up into a neat, beautiful package."

If these are the elements necessary to ensure a successful, aesthetically harmonious event, it's obvious that Hare has all her bases covered.