LAURA DOWLING served as Chief Floral Designer at the White House from 2009 until 2015. As creative director for flowers and décor, she managed White House floral design and installations, including state dinners, official parties and special receptions, public events, such as the Fourth of July, Halloween and White House Christmas, as well as for East and West Wing offices, Camp David and the Obama family residence. During the White House years, her broad portfolio included designs for thousands of events, table settings and oversight of an inclusive program of projects with a team of White House volunteers.
Laura focused on the conviction that flowers can be more than just decorative objects. Her White House floral designs were thoughtfully conceived to convey important diplomatic messages, meaning and metaphor. Floral Diplomacy became a signature initiative during Laura’s time at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Her first book Floral Diplomacy at the White House is published by Stichtung Kunstboek (March 2017).
Laura is known for her contemporary and romantic style of flower arrangement featuring a free interplay between flowers, floral boughs and branches, berried twigs and leafy vines, combined with more formally designed bouquets. Inspiration is taken from the splendor of abundant gardens, balancing artistic vision with the beauty and free form of nature. At the White House, Laura created a variety of garden style arrangements, some in hand-made natural fiber containers. Her innovative approach resulted in beautifully sophisticated, seasonal designs that were at once modern and classically refined.
During her White House tenure, Laura also oversaw a volunteer citizens program that opened the White House flower shop to hundreds of people from across the country. This effort built an extraordinarily talented team of volunteer floral ambassadors that helped expand the White House flower program, with exciting engagement and results.
In 2000, Laura was inspired to change careers (from a strategic communications practice to flowers) after a Paris trip during which she became fascinated with and intrigued by French floral design and history. She studied French floral art in Paris, and extended her floristry training in Germany.
At home, near Washington, DC, Laura established her own floral business and design studio in a basement kitchen. After the resignation of the previous chief floral designer, after 32 years of service, a White House Florist Competition commenced in early 2009. Laura entered the search, and following the nation-wide competition she was announced the winner and appointed Chief Floral Designer at the White House in October 2009.
A native of Chehalis, WA, a small farming town in the Pacific Northwest, Laura received a bachelor of arts degree in political science and master’s degree in public administration from the University of Washington in Seattle. Prior to her White House assignment, Dowling was Senior Manager of Strategic Communications for The Nature Conservancy.
Laura is an annual presenter at the Philadelphia Flower Show, the nation’s oldest and largest flower expo, as well as a regular speaker at national, regional and local horticultural associations, garden clubs and museums. Her flower designs have been featured in design magazines and on Home and Garden Television (HGTV).
Recent honors and endeavors:
Laura received the Great American Gardeners Award (2012) from the American Horticultural Society, and currently serves on the organization’s Board
Floraliën 2016 (Ghent, Belgium) – At the internationally renowned horticultural festival, Laura created a large installation celebrating the theme of “Floral Diplomacy”
The Royal Horticultural Society of Belgium named her “Distinguished Flower Ambassador,” during a ceremony recognizing international diplomats and ambassadors (2016)
TEDx Talk MidAtlantic (October 2016) – Laura delivered a talk on the strategic and diplomatic power and potential of floristry and her experiences in the White House