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Arranged for lasting effect

At home, botanical artist Krislyn Komarov channels her passion into a creative, carefree look.

January 17, 2008|Alexandria Abramian-Mott | Special to The Times

THE first thing you notice in Krislyn Komarov's 1920s Spanish-style house is what's not there: no blooms sprucing up the night stands, no gerbera daisies in 21-month-old daughter Ava's room, no orchids elevating the entryway. In fact, there's barely a garden beyond a series of trumpet vines lining the side of the house.

Komarov, who owns the floral studio Krislyn Design, may have an all-access pass to the L.A. Flower Mart and charge up to six figures to create hothouse fairyland weddings, but when it came to her own 2,600-square-foot house near the Grove, she cut the floral motif at the root. Hence the empty niches in the living-room office, the glass shelves above the kitchen sink that practically scream for neat rows of African violets, and a dining table that's entirely centerpiece-challenged.

But take a closer look, and Komarov's unconventional take on floral design ("botanical installation," as she refers to it) becomes apparent. Hanging above that dining table, there's a shimmering forest of "mica fairies." That's Komarov's name for dried avocado leaves that she glue-guns to pieces of mica shards and hangs from fishing wire.

"I just started hanging them from a branch that rests on the chandelier, and then I kept going until there were lots," Komarov says. "When heat rises from candle light, it makes them move so it looks like they're flying."

Nearby in the sunken living room, a 7-foot hunk of reclaimed cypress towers above the wooden daybed and hanging chairs. Komarov recently had the tree trunk wired, then she crowned it with a lampshade, turning her passion for all things organic into a mode for lighting.

Perched high on her home office desk, there's the charred manzanita that she plastered with hundreds of tiny mirror fragments. Dubbed the "Narcissus tree," it's typical of her version of permanent botanical installation, the kind that won't fade after five days in water, and the type of creation with enough sculptural appeal to keep her in demand with interior designers such as Kazuko Hashino and James Magni.

"People want creations for big spaces, but they don't necessarily want to water a plant," says Komarov, 38, who in November moved her business from Melrose Avenue to a larger space on nearby 3rd Street. "A lot of my work is about answering that customer."

Throughout the house, Komarov has kept her creative streak in check. So even though there are some picture-perfect moments -- like the mirror displayed on the wall at the far end of the swimming pool, a high-concept highchair positioned in front of a "Jetsons"-looking mini flat screen, or a pair of hurricane vases that she loaded with pebbles to form a trifle-cake-like stripe of white against gray -- the overall effect is more lived in, less design lab.

"We didn't want the house too packed," Komarov says. "I collect things and love curiosities, but I don't want a house that looks like people don't actually live there."

Komarov says the family divides most of their living between a cozy breakfast nook and the outdoor cabana, which is outfitted with sturdy teak furniture, beaded lamps and Indian mirrors.

Throughout the house, there are the lighting fixtures from Portugal and New Orleans that she and husband Dmitri installed, and lots of quirky, one-of-a-kind pieces such as the Dorothy Thorpe resin birds and a pair of Jim Beam 1960s bird bottles that Komarov scored on EBay.

Much of the artwork, large format black-and-white photography, was taken by her sister, Patricia von Ah.

But when it comes to getting the specifics on her own designs, such as those ceramic-dipped roses that rest on a piece of sandblasted cypress in the master bedroom, Komarov is less forthcoming.

"I've worked for years to get the best sources for materials, and I have to protect them," she says. To this end, the former talent agent turned floral designer will only offer general descriptions of her work, such as a line of what she calls "table jewelry": plum-sized, partially opened "tree pods" that she gold-leafs, studs with Swarovski crystals and sells for $35 to $300 each.

What about those fluffy-headed mini "trees" near the doorway? All you'll get from her is "Italian grasses," a term carefully crafted to lead astray any copycats searching the Internet for her suppliers of Danish moss and specimen shells.

And what about those glass kitchen shelves that any other homeowner would have filled with flowers? Komarov installed a collection of figurines, both kitsch and classic -- Siamese cats, a 1950s American buffalo, a turn-of-the-century horse. They're all white porcelain and ceramic, and together they form a still-life quirky elegance.

"Those are for a new line of terrariums I'm working on," Komarov says of the collection. And when they're whisked away into tiny glass-walled worlds of their own? "That space is like an altar to me, so I don't know what will go there next. Something for my next collection, or it might even be flowers."


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