For Rose Mattos and Erin Heath, their friendship and work flow seamlessly together and have since they first met working at Anthropologie doing visual displays. After meeting on the job five years ago, they became fast friends, traveling together and eventually deciding to start their own business. As owners of the Somerville-based Forêt Bespoke Floral & Installation Design, they’ve used their strong friendship to create a business that represents their core values.
“It kind of happened so organically and naturally,” Heath said of starting Forêt, which means forest in French. “We were working before and after our day jobs, going to the flower market at 5 a.m. and then going to work. We were getting projects without asking for them and it finally kind of clicked with us. It was kind of a leap of faith but we knew if we put ourselves out there, we could offer something different.”
While Mattos (above left) and Heath (above right) met while working on visual displays at Anthropologie, Mattos left after a time to travel and learn the ins and outs of the floral design business. Growing up in Newburyport and Portsmouth (Mattos) and Vermont (Heath) provided both of them with an early love for nature and flowers. They both studied art in college and were intrigued by using flowers as a medium.
After friends and family started hiring them to create floral arrangements and do design installations, Mattos and Heath felt it was time to go into business together, creating Forêt Bespoke Floral & Installation Design. In addition to floral arrangements, Forêt offers interior decor installation, event planning and styling.
“We do flowers, but we do other things too,” Heath said.
Mattos added, “We love it when we get people at the early stages of planning. We can do everything and we love being part of that process because it makes everything feel as cohesive as possible.”
Keeping things natural is a huge focus for Forêt, which strives to reduce much of the waste commonly associated with putting on big events, such as weddings. Forêt focuses on using local flowers whenever possible, with Mattos and Heath even foraging for ferns, mosses and branches for some arrangements.
“When we were deciding, ‘What’s going to make us different? What do we believe in? What’s important to us?’ There’s so much waste that goes into weddings and events. We’re trying to lessen that,” Mattos said.
In addition to using flowers grown by people in the community, Forêt often creates arrangements with flowers that won’t immediately die and steers clear of many of the harsh chemicals often used in the floral industry.
While Boston and New England often have an old school vibe, especially in the floral industry, Mattos and Heath are forging their own path. They have set aside the traditional rules of flower arranging and do what feels natural and right to them when creating arrangements.
“Some people are limited by technical teaching,” said Mattos, who has worked at a high-end flower shop in Boston. “It’s exciting to start inventing our own set of rules.”
Heath added, “What’s important to us is keeping the flowers alive. It’s a natural thing. We want them to look like how they look in nature, to keep that movement that flowers have in nature.”
Though Forêt is based in Somerville, Mattos and Heath look to the French tradition of flower markets and bringing fresh flowers into the home regularly for inspiration, hence their company’s French name.
“We are very inspired by French floral culture,” Mattos said. “There are flower shops on every corner of every street. It’s so integral to their life.”
This innovative perspective on flower arranging makes them right at home in their studio space at Fringe Union (9 Olive Square), the creative business incubator and co-working space in Union Square.
“I was a fan of what was happening here,” Heath said of Forêt’s initial visit to Fringe to secure business cards from Repeat Press (who also printed the Beat’s cards). “It feels and looks like art school. But it’s so much more serious than it looks. It’s so inspiring to be part of a network of people who had already taken the steps we’re working toward.”
Mattos added, “Everyone has been through it so everyone can help each other. We didn’t want an isolated space. We want to team up and collaborate and be a part of a community.”
After a busy summer wedding season, Forêt is gearing up for the upcoming holiday season for which they will be designing and creating garlands and wreaths. Mattos and Heath are also hoping to sell their arrangements in some local stores, which would be a great way to get retail exposure without having to maintain their own storefront. They’re looking forward to meeting more people in the community and working with like-minded businesses.
“We want to work with people who have the same beliefs, cares and concerns,” Heath said.
And they seem to be finding them right in their Somerville home.
“Everyday we’re just amazed at how awesome the community is here. We couldn’t imagine a more supportive community. It’s a city, but it’s small and so artistic,” Mattos said.
“I love when things are happening in Somerville,” Heath said. “People who live here know how awesome it is. It’s a special place. Somerville is definitely home.”
All photos courtesy of Forêt Bespoke Floral & Installation Design.