French floral designer Carole Delavelle has set down her roots and made Coloane Village her home
Carole Delavelle has been in Macau for almost 9 years. Born in Versailles, but living for most of her life in Paris, Carole was working for a famous outside caterer, as their floral designer and specialist in table settings. At one event, the Cannes Film Festival with over 5,000 attendees, Carol was designing flowers for all the cocktail gatherings and the 500-table gala dinner, when she met Franco Dragone. He convinced her to come to Macau to help with a project for his House of Dancing Water show. “I’d never heard of Macau, I’d never traveled in Asia, I didn’t know where Macau was, couldn’t even find a book on Macau … but I’m brave!”she laughs, and so she packed her bags and set out with an adventurous spirit.
When she first arrived Carole lived in Kingsville in Taipa, then moved a block away to Pacifica Garden. And then to the great surprise of her friends, and even herself, she made the move to Coloane Village. “Although I’d enjoyed meeting up with friends and eating in the restaurants, I didn’t ever imagine I’d live here!” she exclaims. “Everyone told me it’s too far away, and you’ve got no car!”
But when her real estate agent Juliet introduced her to Houston Court, a low-rise building located a couple of streets off the main village square, made up of 6 recently renovated apartments, she immediately decided to take one of the 2-bedroom units. “I totally connected with Coloane. I didn’t think twice, this apartment building has great energy, its got a wonderful roof terrace that we use for BBQs, or just sitting with friends for coffee, it’s made for me and I wondered why I hadn’t moved here earlier!”
Perhaps her artistic temperament is what drew Carole to the village life. “We say in French, “douceur de vivre’; there is a sweetness of life here. There’s a neighbourhood feel, everyone knows each other.”
Having set up one of her bedrooms as a home office, she does a lot of her creative thinking at home. “In Pacific Garden I was drawing in front of a view of a blank wall. Here I often use the kitchen breakfast bar, and look out at the roof tiles and papaya tree, and brightly painted little houses around me. Working in the village, it’s amazing, I get so much inspiration. This flat has windows all around and a lot of light. I see the mountain, the trees, I hear the birds singing.”
Carole’s workshop is in Central Macau, near Tap Seac. It’s the place where she creates all her mock ups for clients and keeps her florist materials. Traveling between home and work, “not having a car is not a worry – the bus is perfect. It comes often and regularly and I have an app on my phone that I can check to know when the next bus is coming, and I just run downstairs to the bus stop, so never have to wait, it’s all very convenient. And on the bus I use the time to work.”
Having designed and overseen the production of the House of Dancing Water’s artificial decorations for the show’s Pagoda, the Vertical Garden and other attractions within the show, Carole realized that there was other work opportunities still to be had in Macau. In May 2010 she opened her company ‘Oulalaflower’. Why the name? “For many years ‘Ou la la’ has been the expression that most of my friends know me for!”
“I’m not a florist”, she insists, “which I consider to be the executor of the arrangements, and I don’t sell flowers. I’m an international flower designer; I’m not just in Macau, but I run events in Taiwan, Vietnam, Hong Kong.”
Carole studied for 6 years at the Floral Design School of Paris and then at the Commercial and Institute Chamber of Paris earning the necessary diplomas to become an independent floral designer. “My work involves working with the client, understanding the brand and the needs, managing the creation; I do a proposal, with sketches, I create a budget, I organize the team, I order the flowers, and so I need to know all their Latin names. Wynn Palace is an example; they put great importance on their floral displays – they have 3 floral designers – one for fresh flowers, one for artificial flowers, and my company was the floral designer for all the Christmas decorations. We had less than 3 months notice, 80 people worked day and night. I needed 80,000 glass and plastic balls, which had to come from 6 different factories in Taiwan. Time was very tight,” but the end result was wonderful.
A crucial part of Carole’s work is how she manages her relationship with her supplier. “My supplier is based in Hong Kong; he has the best quality of flowers. I have his confidence, he likes my designs, and he respects my work. You’ve got to have respect for the product and for the supplier you work with. It’s just like a chef – he relies on tried and tested suppliers to provide him with the best product, so that he can create beautiful, tasty dishes.”
I also teach floral design. I collaborate with the floral designer at MGM Palace to teach a bilingual class for MORS (Macao Occupation Skills Recognition System), at the IFT. I conduct classes in China. I’ve been teaching an evening French flower diploma class for the past 7 years at IFT. Many of my students have gone on to open flower shops, or work with flowers in the hotel industry. So I feel I’ve helped changed the ‘visage’, the landscape, of Macau’s floral industry, by bringing in European and French vision, and raising the bar in the quality of work.
American interior designer Heather Clarke initially designed, decorated and furnished the Houston Court apartments almost 10 years ago. Carole’s particular unit has an open kitchen living room with breakfast bar which acts as a natural divider between cooking and lounging space, one Jack and Jill bathroom with doors to master bedroom and living room, concrete floors in the living area, engineered wood in the bedrooms. White kitchen cabinets with mirrored splash back and stark white walls, adds lightness to the space. A small garden patio is located off the master bedroom.
None of the furnishing seems to hold much sentimental value to Carole – “I brought my sofa, coffee and side tables with me when I left Pacifica, the rest of the furniture I gave to my landlord, I didn’t have room for it here.” However the wall hangings are precious. In the living room and study, two large posters were bought in an antique shop in Paris. The subject matter of both is remarkable in that refer to Hong Kong / China – “and these were bought 15 years ago, when I never dreamed I’d be here in Asia! C’est fou! (It’s crazy). That one,” she points to, “is of an old film, called the Comptess of Hong Kong, and the other is advertising a documentary called Tomorrow China, with a quote by Napoleon, ‘… when China will wake up, the world will tremble’. How true it is today, with all the developments in China.” The framed picture above the bed of a head, filled with little flowers is by Parisian portraitist Francois Delaube. “Part of his new collection, I adore his work.”
And what does Carole enjoy about Macau? “It’s a city with a human scale. Even though we have a huge quantity of tourists, we residents can still live a relatively quiet, intimate life”. The diverse nationalities and cultures she finds all very interesting.
But there are things she misses: “I miss family, friends and seasons. To have a real winter, a real autumn, more extreme temperatures. Growing up like that, seeing the seasons change, and then moving to a tropical climate, has taken some adjustment, but you adapt yourself. I’m happy being in Macau. I feel I’m doing important, useful work here.”
“Yet I’m happy in Paris too, where I spend several months of the year – so I have a great life balance. It’s important that I get back there to reconnect with friends, mostly highly experienced floral designers, and others in the floral design industry, to exchange ideas, technical information, to recharge myself with knowledge of the latest trends. I sometimes take short courses, 1 week to 10 days – full days, so pretty concentrated, but it’s vital to stay current.
I love my work, I’m a true artist at heart who enjoys freedom, flexible days, I can travel, my days are always different. But when I need to work, I will do so up to 5 am, as last night. There’s a price to this freedom. People come to you for advice, so you really have to be on top of your game, and to be creative.”
“I like to party, but I work hard. It takes a lot to have all the skills to manage a business; creation, accounts, flowers to order. My day is never finished!”
For more information on floral design and classes, Carole Delavelle can be contacted at: [email protected]
This article was written by Suzanne Watkinson exclusively for the Macau Closer magazine. Photographs are by Suzanne Watkinson