Hundreds of flowers spill out of a phone booth on on New York City street corner.
Courtesy Lewis Miller Design

The Story Behind Lewis Miller’s Unforgettable #FlowerFlash Installations

By Aileen Kwun
November 9, 2019
3 minute read

The renowned floral designer Lewis Miller, creator of the Insta-popular #FlowerFlash (in which he installs exquisite, over-the-top bouquets in public spaces throughout New York City) and author of the book Styling Nature, tells us why the spontaneous act of spreading beauty gives him the “ultimate dopamine rush.”

“I entered the world of floral design in the early nineties, in Seattle, then moved to Manhattan and established my business in 2002. I loved it, but after a bit of time went by, I felt that some of the passion started to waver a bit. Flowers—this world of magnificent beauty—somehow became very routine and expected.

Then, one day, some years ago, while heading to my studio on a Friday afternoon with an armload of huge yellow garden roses or peonies—the leftovers from a project—I was walking one way while all of the busy Midtown commuters were walking the other way. The hunger I saw in their eyes, just from seeing these blossoms, was of incredible awe. I might as well have been carrying a peacock around. It was a small incident that got me thinking.

Fast-forward to October 2016, right around when we were going through the [U.S. Presidential] election—and [we were] frankly pretty miserable about everything—and it kept resonating in my mind: I’m getting older. There’s so much talk about giving back, but what am I doing? How can I actually give back in a way that feels right and authentic, that’s actually fresh and going to inspire me as well, and be unexpected? That’s how Flower Flash started, as a bit of an experiment. We didn’t have any expectations whatsoever.

At the Flower Flashes, people will say, “Wow, you can really smell that!” We’re actually coming out with a Flower Flash candle soon. Psychologically, when you’re in a city that’s concrete and steel, garbage and graffiti, then [you] turn the corner and see this decadent display, it’s really impactful. You can smell the flowers, whether you’re really there or not. It triggers something. The element of scent is so important, because it is that kind of third level to the next dimension. I even teach a class at my studio where we focus on creating arrangements with flowers that are heavily scented.

From the very beginning, the Flower Flashes were just about me doing my thing. There was no financial transaction, so nobody could be displeased with the results. And it was fast and spontaneous—like, boom, here’s this guttural experience—people are going to touch them, take the flowers, take a picture. It wasn’t like my day-to-day, [agonizing] over every last detail. It’s not a profit thing; I’m not in the business of selling them. Nowadays, I could probably do nothing but Flower Flashes for people, but then it would just become another commodity—it would be dead. And, honestly, it’s kind of like my ultimate dopamine rush.”