Podcast, Episode 19: Flower Magazine’s Margot Shaw

Ballard Designs' How to Decorate podcast with Flower Magazine editor in chief and founder, Margot Shaw

Flower Magazine editor in chief and founder Margot Shaw joins us from Birmingham to talk about flowers, being a green thumb, and why she decided to start a publication all about florals. We talk fake flowers, the etiquette for cutting from the yard, and why your containers or vases are as important as the flowers you’re trying to arrange.

What You’ll Hear on This Episode:

  • Taryn’s very upsetting wardrobe malfunction
  • Karen talks about how she oxycleans everything
  • Taryn’s triumph is that she had a piece of art framed
  • Karen shares the mystery of her collapsed faux boxwood balls
  • Karen’s triumph was painting her back fence black
  • My triumph is that I had my Nala Stool reupholstered in our Natural Woven Sand fabric which looks just like raffia
  • My trial is a recurring experience in which my neighbor’s get to see my pajamas
  • Margot shares the incredible story of how she started Flower Magazine
  • We talk about how people are really the cornerstone of the magazine, not plants
  • She shares that she does not in fact … have a green thumb
  • How her daughter’s wedding started her in a whole new career
  • Margot says that a French hand tied is the best method for arranging flowers for beginners
  • Margot shares her favorite flower to arrange with — garden roses
  • The secret to a great flower arrangement is really in the container
  • Why flowers and floral patterns are considered to be feminine
  • How leaves and flowers actually form the foundation of so many classic forms — acanthus leaves, Corinthian columns
  • What flowers (or style of arranging flowers) are trendy right now
  • Why it’s actually harder to make an arrangement look organic and effortless
  • Her favorite greenery to add to her flower arrangements
  • We talk about fake flowers, or permanent botanicals as Margot calls them
  • We all admit to whether we’ve cut flowers from our neighbors’ yards

Taryn’s wardrobe malfunction

Decorating Dilemmas:

Hello ladies.

There’s so much to say, I apologize in advance for the length of this email. 

First, I’ll divulge my love of your podcast. It really is the best and easiest design podcast to listen to because the three of you interact so well together and with your guests. No awkward silences just solid design advice delivered in a laid back, fun format.

Second, I loved meeting Caroline and Karen at the Natick, MA grand opening, sorry to have missed Taryn. Thanks to Caroline for the shout out on the last episode, you made my day! (Also, I love you all equally).

Third, I’m sorry this has taken so long. I’ve been wanting to ask for help for months but I’ll admit to wanting to crack this nut on my own. Alas, I cannot.

So …. down to the nitty gritty …

Our living room is basically a bowling alley minus the fun of chucking heavy balls at things. To make matters worse, some genius (not us) decided to cut into the already narrow width of said bowling alley to make a spot for the smallest bathroom in the world. So there is a cutout in an awkward place which completely destroys any hope of symmetry for this room.

My burning decorating dilemma is the whole darn thing! We use this room to sit and read, to enjoy a warm fire, to socialize with guests and occasionally we watch a bit of television. We plan to redo the whole room including paint, carpet removal and adding crown mounding. Originally we were wanting a deep blue color but I’m spending deep thought on this since the kitchen is a dark color already. The kitchen which opens to the bowling alley through a large cased opening is painted in Gotham Gray by Behr (link below) which is a dark gray, the trim is white which. The hardwood kitchen floor is scheduled to be stripped and restrained to a darker color. The dilemma room will receive new hardwood flooring in the same shade as the kitchen, is fairly large and does receive quite a bit of natural light. 

Most of the furnishings are up for debate, either slipcover, paint, rearrange or remove and there is a Casa Florentina Louis armoire in the antique walnut finish on its way.

Questions :

1) where can we put the armoire, which will house the tv, for maximum viewing? It’s a big piece of furniture, as you know, and may wind up being the first thing someone sees when they enter the room which may not be the desired outcome. The walls on either side of the fireplace are not symmetrical so I feel as though a big bulky armoire placed there could be an eye sore. (?) I thought about moving the small round table with chairs and putting the armoire kitty corner in the back northeast corner? 

2) how can we arrange seating around the fire but still leave enough seating for multiple guests as we tend to have large gatherings? In the winter my husband likes to sprawl on the couch to be close to the fire, I like to sit in a chair near the fire. I’d love to have either a couch to fit us both comfortably (he’s 6’5″) or a nice looking, comfy chair with an ottoman if we kept the couch we have which is only a little over a year old. I’ve considered something like the Larkin swivel chair on either side of the fireplace but if the tv went in the back corner, one chair would obstruct the view of the other.

3) How do I treat the awkward cutout? Originally, I followed an “ignore it, pretend it’s not there” idea but it continues to trouble me. It’s not centered to the fireplace or anything for that matter. I thought about hanging the framed botanical prints (currently on the mantle until they get hung) in a vertical set of three on the edge of the wall at the corner, centered to the couch, one row on the pushed out edge and one row on the indented edge? Not sure if that would help or accentuate the problem?

4) I am a book hoarder so having more of my books in the room is a must. I love the pagoda style Sylvia etagere and would love to be able to incorporate that into the room if design allowed. 

5) what are your thoughts on a paint color?

To help you in helping me I’ve included dimensions and photos. 

Please ignore :

1) the dresser with the tiny tv as this was just temporary to see if we’d put the armoire in that spot. The dresser is about the same width and depth as the armoire, just not as tall. 

2) the curtains, they’re getting altered to the correct length or replaced, new curtain rods are in the game plan.

The ceilings are 8 feet. The length of the room is 26&1/2 feet. The width of the room at the narrowest is 11&1/2 feet. See? Bowling alley. ?

Any advice offered will be greatly appreciated. 

Again, you gals are the absolute best!!



We have lots of ideas for you. We love the Louis Armoire, but consider hanging your television over your mantel. It’s the best way to make this narrow space function properly. Of course you could still keep the armoire in this room, but placing it so you can watch a TV in it will be tricky. We suggest floating two narrow loveseats in the center of the room or a loveseat and a pair of chairs. Float a seating area in front of your mantel with your television hung over the mantel. Then add two smaller seating areas on either end. One side could have your existing round table and chairs with a large vase or urn to create some drama and height. Then on the other side, create a spot for lighting with a console table in your window and a big reading chair.

Definitely bring lots of lighting into this space through overhead lighting, some table lamps, a floor lamp, and maybe even some sconces on the wall.

Margot suggests studying some of Bunny Williams’ living rooms because she has great room layouts. Don’t worry about needing to move your furniture if guests come over. You can always pull up a chair when friends come over but decorate for how you’ll use the room most often.

You ask about a paint color. We all agree that you should wait to pick a paint color until you have more pieces in the space. Find a rug, find some art, and nail down your upholstery.

Good luck. Hopefully we’ve given you some great ideas!

Karen's fence that she painted black

Karen’s fence that she painted black

Mentioned in This Episode:

Ballard Designs Nala Bench upholstered in Natural Woven Sand

My Nala Bench upholstered in our raffia-like Natural Woven Sand fabric

Please send in your questions so we can answer them on our next episode! And of course, subscribe to the podcast in Apple Podcasts so you never miss an episode. You can always check back here to see new episodes, but if you subscribe, it’ll automatically download to your phone.

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Caroline McDonald

Caroline lives for pairing together patterns, mixing furniture styles, and oogling over our newest furniture pieces. As you can imagine, her little 1920's craftsman is in a constant state of flux. Here on How to Decorate, it's her goal to help you turn your home into your own little slice of paradise.


  1. Reply


    June 1, 2017

    Oh Taryn- hope you can save the blue dress because it was cute! Really enjoyed this episode and hadn’t heard of Flower magazine before I listened while spreadsheeting at my corporate HR job :). Love every episode!

    • Reply

      Caroline McDonald

      June 2, 2017

      Elizabeth, thank you so much! I’m so happy to hear that you’re enjoying the podcast. Thanks for listening! I’ll pass along your comment to Taryn 🙂