Studio Tour: Livia Cetti of The Green Vase

Photographs by Maxwell Tielman

What Livia Cetti is able to do with paper is nothing short of magical. Her flowers are so meticulously crafted that it’s difficult to tell they’re actually made of paper. Livia started making paper flowers three years ago as a solution to a client’s problem of finding a beautiful cake topper for her Caribbean wedding (one that could also double as a wedding keepsake). Livia immediately thought of the hibiscus flowers that grow wild in the Caribbean and how beautiful they would be made out of two-toned double-sided crepe paper. She began experimenting with making the flowers, and to get the color graduations in the blooms, she tried dipping the paper in bleach. It worked beautifully, and she was hooked. From there, she moved to tissue paper and slowly taught herself how to create all of her favorite flowers out of paper. Now Livia can be found in her Riverdale, NY, studio designing flower arrangements for special events and magazines and creating handmade flowers that you can purchase on her site, The Green Vase, as well as at John Derian in New York. Livia is currently at work on a paper flower book with Stewart, Tabori & Chang. I, for one, can’t wait to read it! — Amy Azzarito

Image above: Garden rose and ranunculus

Design* Sponge: What are your craft room essentials? What sort of creative objects can you not live without?

Livia Cetti: Binder clips, Japanese KAI scissors, Olaf rotary cutter, crepe paper of all kinds, every color of tissue paper possible, Canson paper. Vintage stamen. Muji clothes drying racks. I buy brown craft paper by the roll.

Design*Sponge: What do you do to make your workspace an enriching and inspiring place to be?

Livia Cetti: I try to keep the cool, fun, interesting projects rolling in. New projects and challenges keep me inspired. I’m always telling new clients, “Lets customize your order.” Crazy! But it’s hard for me to do the exact same thing again and again. I like constantly making small changes to my flowers. Almost every flower is different; they are always evolving.

Image above: Livia’s workspace. “Paper and debris are usually knee deep.”

Design*Sponge: What sorts of things are inspiring you right now? Where do you look for inspiration?

Livia Cetti: My garden — nature and growing things are a constant source of inspiration for me. My large collection of vintage flowers, fabric, vintage ribbon. I love old things in general. They are better made, with finer detail, and are faded and soft. The World of Interiors is the best magazine ever. African floral headpieces by the Surma and Mursi tribes. Everything Japanese. My collection of old plastic pieces that I gathered from a beach in the Bahamas. Tropical fruit stands.

More images and the full interview continue after the jump . . .

Design*Sponge: What do you do to keep yourself, your space and your time organized?

Livia Cetti: Sterilite tupperware bins in the studio. They keep everything clean and dust free, and they stack nicely, and there is something so satisfying about putting a bunch of loose things into a bin and closing the lid and poof you are organized! Post-it notes on my phone. I make them for everything. The act of putting things in a list both reduces the stress of trying to remember and helps you not forget.

Image above: Works in progress/projects for my upcoming book

Design*Sponge: What are some of your favorite shopping sources, either for inspiration or for supplies?

Levia Cetti: For supplies — Castle in the Air, Tinsel Trading, Bell’occhio and Addison Endpapers. For general inspiration — John Derian, of course, Erica Tanov, De Vera, Ted Muehling, Rosedale Nursery and Tail of the Yak.

Image above: Bleached and cut tissue paper. Livia prepares “tons” of this in advance.

Design*Sponge: How do you combat creative blocks?

Livia Cetti: I switch gears, do something else, make dinner, turn up the music really loud and dance with my kids. Go running. Go shopping. Work in my garden.

Image above: My cabinet of curiosities

Design*Sponge: If you could peek inside the studio of any designer/artist/craftsperson, whose would it be, and why?

Livia Cetti: Vladimir Kanevsky because I think his work is incredible. Every detail is considered, and every process is perfected. Or Francis Bacon, well, because I’m super curious.

Image above: Goddess/good luck altar. We constantly offer and add beautiful things.

Image above: Cherry blossoms

Image above: Our floor. My husband and I saw the same floor in The World of Interiors years ago and both fell in love with it! When we completely gutted and remodeled our home, we both really wanted to include the floor. It makes me really happy every day!

Image above: Forest creature, named by my oldest son, Dante.

Image above: Shell collection from trips to Bali, Jamaica and the flower market.

  1. Brooke says:

    Livia has inspired me for years, and I’m so happy to peek behind the scenes at her beautiful home and studio! Her paper flowers deserve to be in a museum, they are so artfully crafted.

  2. Bobbi says:

    Amazing! I was certain those were real flowers in the second photo.

  3. Abigail says:

    Absolutely gorgeous work! I’m completely blown away by the craftsmanship and beauty of those arrangements. What a treat to see this post pop up on a dreary February day.

  4. sue says:

    Beautiful! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Samantha says:

    Such lovely, detailed work. Love the scraps on the floor in her studio.

  6. Candi says:

    Beautiful and amazing work! I love it…..thanks for sharing.

  7. Cordelia says:

    Love her work. Thanks for this post on a grey, slushy day! (PS. I may be wrong, but I believe you meant Riverdale?)

  8. Those flowers are absolutely incredible. I can’t believe they’re paper!

    I love the home images too, the flooring is fab and I really like all the curiosities gathered together. Lots of fun to look at and plenty of inspiration!

  9. What a stunning space. Those flowers have such life to them. I am sitting here in disbelief right now that they are not freshly picked from the garden.

    I would love to see an entire home tour!

  10. Preeti says:

    Wow! I can’t believe those flowers are not real !!

  11. Sarah says:

    OH MY GOD!!! That is soooo wonderful! I learned to make roses out of this crepe paper at school ages ago. This suddenly reminded me of that. I used to spray my mommy’s cologne on them too! LOL.

  12. Kiti says:

    I love her work! I’ts amazing! At first sight I thought the flowers are real…

  13. Beccy says:

    What a talented lady! Amazing flower, the colours are so beautiful. Stunning!!!

  14. ri gal says:

    I want to migrate to USA to become her assistant! I’ll do it for free!
    The colours… and it’s paper for God’s sake! My toes are tingling! Oh God I love the space! Man I love it! The studio space, the flowers, her son’s name Dante, and even the cool pic of her. Please visit Sri Lanka Livia!!
    God! I want to throw away my uni books and unearth the scraps of paper and start knee deep on paper flowers.
    Uh! I think this post just made me so heady!

  15. Alicia Greenrabbit says:

    So inspiring,my studio looks like a cut up cashmere floor!

  16. victoria says:

    gorgeous! and i agree with ms. cetti, world of interiors is the best magazine.

  17. Wow, super pretty! This inspires me to try making some paper flowers. I like how they never die. I never like real flowers in the house because I detest how they die fast and get very sad looking. Ha, I guess I’m sensitive that way.

    Thanks for the tour.

  18. Shannon says:

    First thought, the flowers are so realistic they look fresh in bloom. Second thought, love the tiles too. What are they called?

  19. Kate says:

    Oh my! Swoon! Be still my heart! I want those to be on my bday cake each and every year! I see that they recommend on fondants…anyone tried to reuse after on a cake?

  20. Maryke Francisco says:


  21. RedHillHome says:

    Beautiful work! And the photography of the flowers i stunning. Thanks!

  22. Sarah H says:

    Lovely work! Words in the last frame, just as inspiring <3

  23. Great pictures! Those flowers and shells are beautiful. Can’t wait to see what else you have in store.

    The Office Stylist

  24. They are so whimsical, I am blown away. It’s so inspiring to see people with so much passion in what they do =)

    Juju Sprinkles

  25. Dominique says:

    Absolutely beautiful. For my eighth birthday, my mother threw me a party where she taught all us kids how to make tissue paper flower hats. Totally cemented my love for the craft. Exceptional work.

  26. Luwana says:

    Wow, truly inspiring work!

  27. Wow and again wow! Stunning, glorious, magical work! I see you posted this two years ago, so I am glad to have found it in the MUST READ column.
    Great article with good questions, too. And I am glad you haven’t closed the comments, as so often happens on older posts.

  28. Ainee Beland says:

    A delightful floral bliss.

  29. A-M says:

    I’ts amazing! and so inspiring I love her work

  30. WOW. Blows me away. Just gorgeous. Thanks for sharing!


    absolutely fabulously gorgeous and so u give tutorials ever on your website of your fabulous works?

  32. Thats really beautiful art

  33. Love Livia and her studio..Thanks for sharing!

  34. Hollie Baker says:

    This is AH-MAZE-ING. Such lovely work… I know this is an old post but it gives me so much inspiration to try something new!


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