The Buzz About Town
Designer Michael Hansen offers his insights on decorating with French, floral flair.
By Carly Scholl | Photography by Carl Schultz
It’s been 22 years since designer Michael Hansen moved to Valley, but he still remembers how his empire of lush botanicals, European-inspired furnishings and ever-growing home goods collections began. “I was working out of my garage making faux florals for customers, and I began selling them at the farmers market at Biltmore Fashion Park,” he recalls. “It got to the point where before the market had even opened in the morning, there were ladies lining up to buy my creations. Two women were arguing about who got to shop my booth first, and it made me think I could be doing and creating more. That was the beginning of the brand.
“I’ve been an interior designer for 30 years,” he continues. “And I come from a very entrepreneurial family. When you grow up in that setting, you naturally want to branch out on your own instead of work for someone else.” In 2005, Hansen debuted The French Bee—his first retail store—where arrangements of remarkably lifelike flowers intermingled throughout the shop with chinoiserie, elegant furniture and a few carefully selected antiques. “My vision for The French Bee is and has always been a European feel. Not purely French, and not quite farmhouse, but more decadence and layers. A minimalist I am not,” he laughs.
While at one point in time there were five retail locations operating, today Hansen has scaled back to a single charming boutique in Arcadia full of all the florals, home decor and furnishings his loyal clientele love. His creative vision has also expanded into an award-winning global wholesale brand that includes lines of linens, dinnerware and a candle and home fragrance collection that is currently sold in stores all the way from Dubai to Argentina. “People often ask me why I moved beyond flowers and design,” he says. “The truth is I just love beautiful products. Whether I’m designing a room or a candle or packaging—it’s a natural crossover for me.”
Michael Hansen shares his insights on creating a home with flair.
FRESH OR FAUX?
“There is a time and place for both live and artificial flowers,” says Hansen. “For the person with a busy lifestyle and no time to deal with a wilting bouquet, an evergreen arrangement is perfect. But at the same time, there’s nothing better than fresh peonies dropped into a vase.” Whether you pick the real deal or an imitation, don’t think of flora as merely a finishing touch in your home. “Flowers used to be the last thing that got added when a room was furnished, but now that faux has become so high-quality, people shop for florals as key design elements for a space.”
INSPIRATION FROM ANYWHERE
Always keeping an eye open for new avenues of inspiration is a crucial aspect of Hansen’s business but also an important piece of advice for homeowners looking for fresh ideas. “I can be inspired by the slightest thing,” he says. “It could be a piece of millinery ribbon or the produce department at a grocery store. I’m constantly taking pictures on my phone, and when you keep track of the things that catch your attention, you can always go back and dedicate the time and energy that you might not have been able to invest when you first saw them.”
ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE
“If you buy the things you’re really drawn to, your home will just naturally evolve and it becomes easier to create a setting,” notes the designer. “You have to relate to the piece—don’t just buy a table because you need a table.” When creating or restyling a room, Hansen suggests beginning with a point of departure that you truly love. “A lot of people believe a space should be anchored around a rug, but a dynamic dining room can start with the chandelier or some really amazing drapery. It is so much easier to build on the design when you’re working with items that genuinely excite you.”