Floral Designer to the Stars

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Operating for the past 16 years out of a suite in the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, Eric Buterbaugh has become the floral designer to the stars and for some of the most discerning heavyweights in entertainment and fashion. When Tory Burch and Michael Kors came to town to open West Coast outposts, Buterbaugh was enlisted to help set the mood. The white calla lilies at Madonna and Guy Oseary’s Oscars after-party last year? Buterbaugh’s doing too.  His client list also includes virtually every major luxury brand, from Dior and Valentino to Ferragamo and Cartier, and he’s done parties for the British royal family (including one at Windsor Castle).

One of Buterbaugh’s most memorable gigs was Salma Hayek’s 2009 wedding to Kering CEO François-Henri Pinault at the Venice opera house, for which Buterbaugh commissioned a series of tall, cylindrical vases that surrounded the couple on the altar. “It was a three-day affair with the most amazing group of people—Bono even sang,” Buterbaugh remembers. “The vases were so delicate that they had to be brought to the opera house along with the flowers on these tiny little motorboats that could navigate the canals without the glass breaking.” Awards season remains his busiest period.“Besides the parties, it’s all the flowers you have to send people, send to the stars, the thank-you for wearing the dress, the thank-you to the stylist for getting the person to wear the dress,” he says. “Oscars week, there’s blood on the shop floor.”  

Gwyneth Paltrow, Nicole Richie, Demi Moore, Eric Buterbaugh

Photo credit: Alexi Lubomirski for Harper’s BAZAAR.

Old adages aside, if there’s any truth to the notion that every woman loves flowers, then the proof is on full display at the Los Angeles studio where Hollywood’s most in-demand florist has corralled three longtime friends and clients—Gwyneth Paltrow, Demi Moore, and Nicole Richie—for a photo shoot for Harper’s Bazaar. Quite the glamorous foursome, there they are poking fun at one another’s camera faces and joking about who has prime positioning (“Why am I always in the back?” Richie teases) as they arrange themselves around Buterbaugh in front of the bright, blooming arch he has created for the occasion. It’s composed of magnolia branches, nearly 2,500 Geraldine roses, and more than 30,000 carnations.

Paltrow remembers her first Buterbaugh experience, when she was sent one of his bouquets by a friend. “It was white roses, but roses on roses on roses—basically a plate of roses balanced on this tiny vase that defied the laws of balance and physics,” she says. “I just thought: ‘This is so above anything I’ve ever seen. It’s art.’ Eric is very economical in terms of the beauty he creates with his flowers,” she continues. “It can be over-the-top, but just the perfect amount. And he’s like that as a person too.”

Moore met Buterbaugh at a mutual friend’s birthday party in 2002. The pair were introduced and chatted, then bumped into each other again at the valet. “In those days I used to carry around with me a small, hard cooler full of Red Bull and I smoked Marlboro Reds,” she recalls. “So as I was waiting by myself for my car to come, sitting on my little cooler, Eric looked over at me and said, ‘I like you, because you’re just not right.’ ” Moore laughs. “And we’ve been best friends ever since.”

 “He has a true appreciation of beauty—and I don’t mean that in a superficial way,” says Richie, who compares Buterbaugh’s company to that of a rose, which has become his signature flower. She explains that, like his extraordinary arrangements, he gives off an energy that makes her feel better when she’s happy but also when she’s not. “Every time he walks into a room with his boots, I know that we are going to have more fun than Nancy Sinatra.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by Moore. “We’ve shared a lot, but I don’t think there’s ever been a time when I haven’t wanted to have Eric with me,” she says. “Whether we’re in palaces in Asia or pajamas in Idaho watching Downton Abbey, he’s the same guy.”

 See more photos and read the full storyhttp://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/features/a9955/eric-buterbaugh-0315/

Harper’s BAZAAR’s March issue hits newsstands February 17.

Producer who swims with the sharks in Hollywood and the Pacific Ocean. Riding the entertainment wave from one red carpet to the next.

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