Outside in

Part design, part horticulture and all customer service, interiorscaping is taking off as the idea of incorporating natural elements into interior design gains popularity. Architects and interior designers are starting to include some green in their designs, and interiorscape companies are diversifying, branching into furniture, art and more.

In Irvine, Calif., Julie Farrow has been installing indoor plants for more than 30 years, working with designers and architects to raise awareness of the benefits of adding plantings. And now designers are putting green space in their plans.

“We’re being specified where we weren’t before,” says the president and founder of Plantscapers. “We give them the tools to actually put in living walls in their CAD designs and we speak to them a lot. It’s a really hot topic right now. People are actually starting to listen.”

For Plantscapers, working with the designers is crucial to a great product. Not only does the endorsement of the architect help sell the client on planters or green walls, but knowing the design helps Farrow’s team complement the office environment.

“There’s nothing worse than having a design that’s very traditional and then you go in there and you disregard it and put in chrome pots,” Farrow says. “You really have to be respectful of what they’re doing.”

At Hoffman Design Group in Folcroft, Pa., the team does it all, from furniture to artwork to outdoor planters and window boxes to weddings and holidays displays for nearly 400 clients in an 85-mile radius of Philadelphia. The company has been doing so well that it moved to a larger, 50,000-square foot facility in June.

The goal is to create a happy and healthy environment to improve people’s well-being. “A company that is going to succeed now in this day and age needs to be more focused on plants and their effects on the office as well as how they relate to the interior design of the office,” says Bryan Hoffman, founder and owner of Hoffman Design Group. “Plants by themselves – anyone can do that. You really need to be able to figure out a way to provide a whole environment for the people in the office.”

Stay on your toes

Trends move much faster inside than they do outside, says Julie Farrow, founder and president of Plantscapers in Irvine, Calif. Customers want more than just the standard pots and planters, so interiorscapers need to keep up to date with the latest design trends to keep their customers happy.

Plantscapers is always expanding its design horizons, using cutting-edge elements like preserved grasses, replica equisetum, character plants, unique pottery and contemporary lines of squares. Cool tones and steel elements like gunmetal pottery are big in California right now, so Farrow incorporates them into her work.

“We’re really paying attention to what the architect and design movement is right now and if we can keep on that and complement that, I think we’re going to do really exciting things,” she says.

Bryan Hoffman, founder and owner of Hoffman Design Group in Folcroft, Pa., keeps his customers intrigued by surprising them with elements like pop-up gardens and found object planters. From parking lot gardens to temporary displays, the company is always trying to keep clients guessing.

“We’re looking at these ways that we can incorporate changes into the accounts and surprises because the whole idea of surprising people and capturing people’s attention is a big trend right now,” Hoffman says.

Inspiring creativity and interrupting routines in surprising ways is Hoffman’s goal, and he says that’s what sets his company apart. Hoffman gets his inspiration from some of the latest movements in street art like seed bombing where someone will throw a handful of seeds into an open lot and see what grows.

Hoffman Design Group is always trying to find new ways to display plants beyond the green wall and green roof, looking at ways to combine art and horticulture in ways no one has seen before. Capitalizing on the popularity of biophilia (the idea that there is an instinctive bond between human beings and other living systems), Hoffman and his group create a natural office environment.

“Why would people want to use us if we didn’t have the newest, latest innovations to share with them?” he asks. “They could just go to Home Depot and buy some pots and plants and do it themselves.”

Strictly business.

Plantscapers and Hoffman Design Group both service mostly corporate clients like hotels, retail centers, offices and other public spaces, with Hoffman’s clientele 100 percent commercial, and Farrow’s 80 percent commercial and 20 percent high-end residential.

Both companies employ 18 fulltime workers, and Hoffman also has 30 to 40 seasonal employees. While Plantscapers is all interior, Hoffman’s landscape services make up about 45 percent of the company’s total revenue. That includes interiorscapes and outdoor planters. The rest comes from displays and design.

Plantscapers’ goal for net gross profit is 55 percent with a 2014 revenue of $2 million.

Each department at Hoffman Design Group has its own goals with an overall ideal of 15 percent profit margin.

Last year, the interiorscape department had a goal of 45 percent net profit and exceeded it by 2 percent.

“Interior landscapes has a lot of reoccurring revenue so it’s easier to predict what revenue is going to be coming in every month and as long as the routes are managed efficiently and there’s not a lot of turnover, things can move along nicely according to plan without too many surprises,” Hoffman says.

Both Hoffman and Farrow got into the industry for their love of plants, but stress that it’s a business, not a hobby. Since interior landscaping is a luxury service, she stresses that it’s important to be a perfectionist and a professional at all times. And if you don’t know how to do something, find someone who does.

“Hire people to do the things that you don’t do,” Farrow says. “So if you’re not good at accounting; if you’re not good at business, then hire people who can help you with those things because you can’t be great at everything.”


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