Inside the Annandale Home of Florist and Plant Whisperer Sophia Kaplan
Welcome to The Makers. Each week, we’re celebrating innovators, artisans and crafters of all types, taking you on a private tour of their creative spaces. For this instalment, florist and Leaf Supply co-founder, Sophia Kaplan, welcomes us into her home.
Plant whisperer Sophia Kaplan runs Leaf Supply, an indoor plant delivery service that she co-founded with fellow green thumb Lauren Camilleri. She’s also a florist who creates breathtaking botanical designs for events and editorial shoots. Between the two endeavours, Sophia transforms indoor spaces into thriving indoor jungles and floral wonderlands.
Unsurprisingly, Sophie’s flair for flora extends beyond her career and into every room of her Annandale abode. In the appropriately verdant bathroom, ivy cascades from the windowsill, whilst atop a mid-century modern teak sideboard in the hall, sunflowers and hydrangeas compete for adoration. (It’s a tie, you guys.)
In the bedroom, lime green leaves flourish amidst a palette of turmeric and tan, whilst sprigs of chamomile shoot from unique ceramic vases throughout every room. With light pouring through the windows, the clean and minimal space is totally tranquil. From the planters on the floor to the framed floral sketches on the wall, Sophia’s home reads like a love letter to her greatest inspiration of all, Mother Nature.
Hi Sophia! This series is called The Makers. What is it that you make?
I am a florist who make botanical designs for events and editorial shoots, and am also co-owner of indoor plant delivery service Leaf Supply, where I make a lot of mess potting up plants amongst everything else.
How does the act of “making” relate to your personality and who you are?
I’ve always enjoyed working with my hands and am happiest when surrounded by nature. I love the variety of my work life, and the fact that it blends so seamlessly with the rest of my life that it doesn’t usually feel like ‘work’. The fact that it allows me to interact with flower growers, nurserymen and women and all the other kind, thoughtful plant people, is an added bonus that really pleases the social side of my personality.
When did your appreciation for flowers and creating beautiful floral arrangements begin?
I’ve always been fascinated by nature, but there were a few keys moments, like joyfully learning to garden with my Nonno who grew all sorts of things in his expansive backyard in Haberfield, and discovering beautiful flower filled gardens whilst wandering through Reading University where another grandfather was a Dean. In my early 20s I started a very simple garden and design blog to house all the plant-filled things I stumbled across in the real world and online. Through writing for the blog, I came across American florist Amy Merrick and my mind was opened to the beauty and magic of floristry as a career. I found my first gig as a florist at Guillon Fleurs in Paris, and then became an assistant to Jardine Botanic back in Sydney. Now a good friend, Jardine has an incredible passion for flowers and she really encouraged me to start my own floral business, which I did in 2015.
You also have an indoor plant and pot delivery service, Leaf Supply. Tell us more about that?
My co-founder Lauren and I are seriously passionate about plants and wanted to share that love around. Each month we hand-select a fresh batch of leafy indoor plants that sit alongside our beautiful selection of botanical wares, like our brass water mister and custom Leaf Supply seed packs on our online shop. We thought that most people would buy our plants as gifts but have found that a lot of customers are actually buying for themselves, which we love.
What keeps you motivated when you have to wake up at 3am to head to the flower markets?
Thankfully it’s more like 4am now that we have our reserved parking spot at the market! A small reprieve, I know. I am always so excited to see the bounty of flowers, the swathes of mottled hydrangea and colourful garden roses in summer, the delicate tall stems of windflowers in autumn, the pops of magnolia buds, crisp jonquils and cyclamen in winter, and the welcome blossom and forget-me-nots of spring. It’s a rush, they’re like a drug! Plus, it’s always nice to have brekkie with my flower pals before we all head back into town and get a start on the day.
What’s been the single most crucial tool or strategy you’ve used to grow your creative business?
To be honest there hasn’t been a whole lot of overarching strategy. I have been incredibly lucky to have a strong network of friends who hired or collaborated with me from the start. I’ve definitely still had to prove myself, but it made starting out a little easier. At the beginning, I said yes to everything. This helped me get a tonne of experience, make lots of connections, and build my business. Now, since I am a bit more established and also have a little kid, I am in a position (privileged, I know) where I can be a bit fussier about what I take on. How to balance the creative and the commercial has been an important lesson for me. When you’re starting out, most of us have to do as much as we can, but it’s also important to step back and look at what direction your business is going in. Does it reflect who you are and what you want out of life? This will change as you navigate different stages of your life and career, but be sure to check in and make sure you’re still enjoying what you do.
What’s been the most challenging lesson learnt since you started your business?
Getting negative feedback is totally heartbreaking. My flowers are a personal expression and you put so much thought and energy into what you do. The lesson I think is to try and only work with people who share your vision and aesthetic. There’s no point trying to bend to someone else ideals— I don’t think either party ends up happy.
I’ve also struggled with how much waste our industry produces, especially as one that works so closely with nature. I’m more conscious now of disposing of everything thoughtfully. Re-gifting flowers at the end of the night, separating green waste and recycling, and avoiding floral foam, an environmentally damaging product.
What’s been the best thing that’s happened to you since you started your business?
Flowers have taken me to Italy, France, the US and the UK and I’ve met so many cool people along with way. Two particular highlights would be hosting a workshop at the Sydney Opera House for the All About Women festival and getting to publish our books—something I never thought would happen.
Do you have a single piece of advice you’d give to your younger self/ someone looking to start their own business?
It’s great to learn and understand all parts of your business, but if there are things you really don’t enjoy doing (for me, bookkeeping) and can afford to delegate, hire someone to take this off your plate so you can focus on growing the business and doing the parts that you enjoy. Also keep in mind that not every business needs to be a huge corporation. I am ambitious in some ways but am also very happy with the smaller size of my operation. Don’t feel like you have to follow someone else’s path, do what feels right for you.
Now, the home stuff. How long have you lived in your home?
We moved in just under a year ago.
How did you initially know this was the space for you?
Being situated right next to a reserve is similar to the setup at my parents’ place, and its familiarity instantly appealed. All the windows along the north side look out onto trees and around the back too, with the deck opening onto our little garden and the avocado trees behind our back fence. We love the character, the openness, the light, and the potential to build a studio under the house (one day!).
Did you do any renovations or make any big changes after moving in?
Nothing terribly exciting, we replaced the roof and the fence and took out some dead trees. We’re now slowly working on rebuilding the garden.
What was the thought process behind the way you’ve styled the interior?
It’s a bit all over the shop in some ways, I haven’t rushed to get everything at once. I like the idea of using the green tiles in the bathroom as inspiration for green accents around the place, but am also very attracted to neutral tones and wood—and then the occasional burst of colour like my Turmeric bed sheets! I would love a more minimalist approach but my gosh things accumulate when you have a little toddler running about. Obviously, I am also very into plants and love the way they add both a liveliness and calmness to any space.
What are your favourite pieces in the home?
I love our ceramics, many made by dear friend and collaborator Tara Burke. The large Rhaphidophora tetrasperma plant in our bedroom is pretty special too.
Do you have any special décor pieces you’re looking to add?
I am on the hunt for a small mid-century bedside table and would love to buy some large pieces of art to hang on the walls. It’s a big investment and an even bigger decision!
Which is your favourite room in the house?
I love mornings in our bedroom, having cuddles with little Rafi as the light peeks through the curtains. In the afternoon, if the weather is nice, we swing the back doors open and have friends over on the deck.
Tell us about your bedroom.
We live on a quiet street, and I love the peace our bedroom offers. We have tried to keep everything simple and uncluttered. There are linens and wood, and I love the warmth and happiness of our turmeric and rosewater sheets, and the way the light falls on them in the morning. Other than our bed, there are built ins, an old fireplace and my favourite mid-century sideboard.
What are your top tips for a well-styled bedroom, and home generally?
I would only buy things that really speak to you. Don’t rush purchases, wait until you find something you truly love. Plants are also a really lovely and cost-effective way to fill an empty corner or bring a bit of life to a shelf.
Do you have any projects coming up you want to talk about?
We are currently working on our third book (being shot by Jacqui Turk), which will be released later this year. We’ve just finished shooting at the Royal Botanic Garden which was a total dream, and we’ve also photographed our friend Anno Leon’s private collection and at two of our favourite growers’ nurseries. I think it’s going to be a very beautiful one and am excited to see it all come together. Just have to finish the manuscript first!
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