Restoring a fading floristry shop in Shoreditch to a hugely successful business, Kally Ellis' entrepreneurial flair and passion for flowers speaks volumes! Drawing on her business experience as a merchant banker, Kally took the plunge in 1991 and transformed the floristry shop into a well-established, premier floristry business that caters to both the individual as well as big Hollywood clients.
Now expanding McQueens into a floristry school, hotel & corporate events and more we sat down with the amazing Kally Ellis to hear more about her career, her home and her favourite RSG pieces...
1. Let’s start at the very beginning. Tell us about yourself?
I’m the CEO of McQueens, the leading luxury florist in London. We supply beautiful floral displays to all kinds of prestigious clients throughout London including top hotels (such as Claridge’s, the Berkeley, the Grove and the Rosewood) and we also provide the flowers for some glittering international events including Vanity Fair’s post-Oscar party in Beverly Hills.
2. You established the well-known floristry company, McQueens, in 1991. What inspired you to start your own business?
I was visiting a friend in Paris in 1990 and I bought her some flowers. They were beautifully presented in such an elegant, stylish way, and I thought, why can’t I buy flowers like these in London? So, I decided that this should be my mission: to sell the finest flowers and present them in a way that would enhance their natural beauty.
3. What is your favourite part of your job and what do you find the most challenging?
I love dealing with clients, getting to know them and understanding how we can work together; that’s how truly creative partnerships are forged, and that’s why I find those relationships so satisfying. The most challenging part is squeezing everything we do into one day – we’re very, very busy which means that there’s not always a lot of time to catch your breath. Fortunately, I have an excellent team – there are about 50 of us – and they really are the creative powerhouse that is McQueens.
4. Tell us a little about your home. What is it like? How have you worked the décor to suit your individual needs and style?
In London, it’s very much a family home – I’m married with two children – and we’re based in Tufnell Park in north London. We’ve lived in the same tall terraced house for the past 20 years but we’ve expanded it organically down the years – we converted the attic and enlarged the kitchen. We also have a place in Norfolk which is where we like to escape to at weekends. It’s a converted barn with a lovely big garden on the edge of a protected Wetland Trust area so we can go for lovely long walks with our Bedlington terrier Ted. It’s such a great way to unwind. Style-wise, I like to do all the interiors myself; I love to combine vintage pieces from antique shops, the internet or the flea markets with modern designs to create something quite unique to reflect my style. But the house always has to feel like home, not a photo shoot or a stage set aesthetics are important, but so too is comfort.
5. Which room in your home is your favourite? Explain why?
I love our sitting room in Norfolk – we have wonderful old beams, a sprawling, modern sofa and a log burner which is perfect for curling up in front of during the winter months. And our dog sits watching the rabbits running around the woods at the back – it drives him mad! Art is very important to me too, and we have several artist friends whose pictures we have collected down the years.
6. Is there a piece of furniture/artwork/home accessory that has a sentimental value to you?
We have a beautiful old terracotta bread bin with a wooden lid that I found in Italy: I love it. It’s practical and beautiful, and we use it every day.
7. What are your Top 3 Tips for someone who wants to create a unique and personal flower display?
1 Use unique containers that mean something to you, not just vases – it lets you put your own mark on your arrangement.
2 Keep it simple. If you’re a beginner, using one type of flower in a simple container can have huge impact.
3 If you’re on a limited budget, fewer flowers in smaller containers can still create a really wonderful focal point.
8. What/Where/Who inspires you? It can be a walk on Hampstead Heath, a conversation with a colleague, a trip to a gallery, a shopping expedition, a holiday somewhere exotic or an evening at the theatre or cinema – I think we can find inspiration in all kinds of places if we are open to it.
9. What exciting things does 2018 have in store for McQueens?
We’re busy expanding this year. The McQueens Flower School is going from strength to strength with all kinds of international collaborations so we’re looking to maximise those opportunities in the coming months. And we’ve been working on a collaboration with our friends at Miller Harris, the perfumers; later this year they’ll be launching some new McQueens scented candles. They are unexpected and quite unique – we’ve all very excited about that.
10. Finally, name two RSG products that you love!
I adore those industrial ceiling lights you do and the kilim cushions - I’ve just come back from Kerala and they are definitely calling to me!
Quick Fire Questions
1. I am happiest when… I’m coming home after a hard day at work, and I can look forward to relaxing.
2. My favourite magazine is… Vanity Fair. It has the most fantastic combination of quality journalism, challenging features and stunning photography.
3. My dream holiday would be… a villa somewhere sun-drenched by the sea, with lots of family and friends.
4. My ideal day would be spent…. at home on a sofa watching Netflix, surrounded by chocolate!
5. My personal motto is… Do Different – it’s the motto of my old alma mater, UEA.
6. My guilty pleasure is… chocolate. Not the expensive stuff either – I’m happy with a Fry’s Turkish Delight!
7. The last film I saw was… Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. It’s dark, funny and violent but it also presents a positive, human view. Frances McDormand’s performance is very special.
8. My favourite book is… The Madness of a Seduced Woman by Susan Fromberg Schaeffer. I read it years ago, but it’s stayed with me – a totally immersive experience.
9. In five years’ time, I want to be… doing what I’m doing now (but with a little more time to do other things, too).
10. The three things I can’t live without are… family, friends and flowers!