Creating evocative gardens with landscape designer Florian Wild


June 7, 2022

Art & Design

Florian Wild are passionate about creating experiential gardens that spark feeling – contentment, contemplation, joy – and connect us to the natural world.

Florian Wild are passionate about creating experiential gardens that spark feeling – contentment, contemplation, joy – and connect us to the natural world.

Florian Wild are passionate about creating experiential gardens that spark feeling – contentment, contemplation, joy – and connect us to the natural world.

This philosophy underpins co-founders and members of The Commons Collingwood Clare Mackarness and Rupert Baynes-Williams work–and their desks (think: dreamy indoor jungle vibes).

Despite having worked alongside each other on various projects over the years, it was only last year that the pair decided to make their shared love for plants official, founding Florian Wild following a phone call with David Flack (of Flack Studio, the architectural design agency behind The Commons Wellington Street), where he asked if they could “come and spruce up a courtyard in inner Melbourne”.

Unbeknown to Clare and Rupert at the time, this project would soon become a defining moment for the duo, marking the debut of Florian Wild with landscape design for none other than Australian singer-songwriter and actor, Troye Sivan, alongside features in Architectural Digest and Vogue Living.

We caught up with Clare and Rupert to get the lowdown on what it was like to work with the award-winning artist, as well as what their creative process looks like and how we can incorporate more nature indoors for improved wellbeing.

First off, can you tell us a little bit about yourselves, Florian Wild and where the idea for the business first came from?

Florian Wild is our fun gardening alter ego. Florian came about after we received a call from David Flack asking us if we would come and spruce up a courtyard in inner Melbourne which was approaching completion of a drastic reno. David said ‘You’ve got two weeks, can you do it?’ and we said ‘We’ll give it a crack’. We then spent ten days designing on the fly and installing what was to become our first project together – a radical courtyard space for singer/actor Troye Sivan. After this we decided we’d quite like to continue the fun.

We’ve been lucky enough to work together for several years prior to the spouting of Florian. Over the years we’ve had a really inspiring working relationship. We make sure we're having fun and there’s always something exciting happening.

Working with Troye Sivan must have been really special, can you tell us more about this project?

Working with our Troye boy was fantastic and super easy. We got involved fairly late in the process just as he was about to move in. We gave Troye a bit of a run down of what we wanted to do and how we would achieve it. Other than that he trusted us completely and let us go wild. His kind words really made it for us. Then seeing him enjoy the garden and even watering the plants and starting to look after it himself made us feel great. He is also very receptive to changing and introducing new things and sees the garden as evolving artwork.

Troye Sivan's courtyard. Image: for Architectural Digest by Anson Smart

What inspires you?

Plants, the way they move and interact and how they make you feel. We can probably all relate to that wonderful feeling of being enveloped under an expansive canopy of a favourite tree. The shadows they create is another thing we vibe out over.

Zeitgeists of architecture. Mid-century design gets us going but also we love the dangerously traditional. Think terracotta pots and an elegant wisteria vine.

The people that inspire is, of course, a never ending list. Dan Pearson, Bernand Trainor, Amanda Oliver to name a few, and of course, our incredible team at FW.

We also love film, art, a good barn floor chardonnay, oysters and Kath and Kim.

We’re also very inspired by the movements towards sustainability from people in our industry. David Godshall from LA-based landscape design firm Terremoto is a strong voice and it’s motivating to hear of the approaches their practice taking steps towards preserving the environment.

What does your creative process look like?

It’s completely different for each job. Sometimes we just vibe on-site and design on the spot. Other times we go away, watch some cartoons on YouTube and think the aesthetic might suit. We’re all about the aesthetic of Archibald the Koala currently.

In recent years we’ve seen a push toward designing landscape first, followed by interior. Why do you think this is?

Great architects have always said buildings should celebrate the ground on which they sit. Overall I think this stems from the idea that buildings should not disturb the environment but rather fit seamlessly into it. From a functional perspective, working out how you want to use a space and then integrating a house within that will always improve the outcome. That way you don’t end up with a square of lawn out the back but perhaps a series of outdoor spaces that circulate the home and create outlooks.

How does the surrounding area/landscape/neighbourhood influence or inspire your design?

Context is everything. But we’re not trying to re-create the surrounding landscape, we’re mostly trying to integrate our spaces with their locale, whilst injecting something nuts at the same time. A garden is surreal in the sense that it’s man made, so we try to celebrate that and are not afraid to create gardens that might be ecologically oppositional, but contextually actually work well.

Federal House by Florian Wild with architecture by Edition Office. Image: Benjamin Hosking

What’s your advice for people looking to better connect their interior with their landscape design?

Work out how you want to feel in a space rather than what you want to see. Relying on static images from Instagram or Pinterest for inspiration will lead to disappointment. Bring things into the foreground. If we pull things off the boundary, we can create a sense of depth which draws you in. Eclectic planting vessels are another fun way to bring character to a space.

What is 'biophilic design' and why is it important?

Biophilic design is recognising the effect nature can have on human experience. Contact with certain elements of nature can obviously elicit a certain relationship with that space. If we can create spaces with the understanding that they can positively impact human experience, then that’s great. I suppose it’s saying ‘Let’s remove those hideous fluro overheards and get some natural elements in here’. It draws on the idea of nature as a healing energising phenomena.

Can it improve sustainability?

Understanding that contact with nature/natural elements will hopefully encourage a push towards using sustainable materials.

For the majority of us, we spend most of our time in the office/at work. What are some tips for creating a home away from home?

We would recommend focusing on one outstanding thing… It could just be one plant that brings joy, reminds us of a holiday, a best friend or an artwork. One good plant is better than many half-dead or dying ones. We’re not about cluttering our lives with plants for the sake of plants. Quality over quantity.

What are some of the biggest trends you’re seeing in landscape design for 2022?

Our hope would be that trends in landscape design take longer than a year to cycle through. Unlike interiors or even architecture that will look great from the first day of installation, plants and gardens will take years to establish and are forever evolving with the seasons anyway.

How do you think the last two years shaped or shifted our perspective toward the environment and being outdoors?

Climate action. Fast pace work like. Commuting. The rate of building. Covid. All these things make us feel a craving towards nature. Gardening can be seen as a form of nurture, in the same way that we can love a pet, cooking or gardening a space (even if it’s just a balcony).

What’s next for Florian Wild? Can you tell us about any exciting projects you have coming up?

Can’t tell you, it’s top secret. Just keep watching.

You can find Rupert, Clare and the Florian Wild team at The Commons Collingwood. Next time you're in the space, why not say hello. You can check out their portfolio via their website.