Like many L.A. stories, Spencer Falls’ began with a long list of restaurant jobs, auditions and the necessity of a side hustle. So when his goal to become an actor didn’t go as planned, he dreamed up an idea that had wheels — he decided to sell flowers out of his 1980 VW Vanagon on Abbott Kinney Boulevard in Venice.
“I used to give flowers to girlfriends,” he says wryly about his interest in the floral field and the birth of his company, the Unlikely Florist. And though he may have started the business as a whim, his rustic arrangements resonated with buyers who wanted high-quality flowers at the right price. “I needed to sell flowers and make money, so I wasn’t interested in the big upcharge you traditionally see in the flower industry,” Falls notes.
Originally from New Zealand, Falls didn’t know much about flowers or business, but he does say that his mom — a multi-media artist — instilled a creative curiosity in him. At 18 he moved to Lake Tahoe to snowboard, then to Maine to work as a lobster fisherman, and finally to L.A.
When he started creating arrangements, he gravitated toward sculptural plants like stiff, graphic Australian Protea flowers; Eucalyptus for striking foliage; spikey, colorful Grevillea; and neat, compact Leucadendron. Working with these robust varieties felt familiar to Falls, who grew up on a fruit orchard pruning and picking. “It just came more naturally for me to work with flowers that are hardy as opposed to tulips, lilies and ranunculus, which are too delicate.”
But Falls doesn’t totally shy away from roses, and you may even spot ranunculi in some of his work, which has expanded beyond the man-with-a-van model. (As he puts it, “If I wanted to be able to eat at Gjelina, I needed to do more than sell flowers out of my van.”) Falls started offering up his Venice studio — a former body shop — as a venue for events like a recent launch party for Tom’s shoes. He also began creating floral installations for brands like the plant-milk company Califia Farms.
Eventually he discovered that Venice is a small town, and he secured a word-of-mouth following that landed him more high-profile jobs, such as the luscious red-rose floral wall he designed for Vogue India’s Kim Kardashian cover and floral designs for Nobu, where his tidier, more formal arrangements include kangaroo paws and his beloved Protea. Yet a visit to his Venice studio — where he pursues projects like upcycling old wine bottles into vases with bases made from reclaimed wood adorned with brass and copper — reveals a more organic aesthetic. “I have an obsession with repurposing things and giving them a new life.”
That nod to sustainability shows up in creations like his “floraleir”—a floating box of flowers made from reclaimed wood and rigged with lighting. In his newly launched flower-delivery subscription service, Falls’ clients can request flowers weekly, bi-weekly or monthly, but instead of receiving a new vase every week, the client keeps the vase (made from an upcycled wine bottle) and takes delivery of just the flowers to eliminate waste. And since he uses a lot of drought-tolerant varieties — most of them grown in Baja California — the arrangements can last four weeks instead of days.