A self-proclaimed maximalist, floral and event designer Ramsey Prince recently opened a new boutique at 1239 Chicago Ave. brimming with elevated home accessories, high-impact artwork, statement jewelry and fanciful botanical arrangements.
Matte black walls deliver drama and allow displays to shine in the cavernous space which most recently housed an unassuming nail salon. Prince, who has been putting his stamp on interiors and events on the North Shore for more than 20 years, moved his Winnetka-based business to the new location after his three-year lease on Chestnut Street expired. He hopes to take advantage of Evanston’s bustling foot traffic as well as the roomier interior.
“I love that Paris Flea Market feeling where you have to hunt for everything,” said Prince, a fan of antiques as well as modern pieces. “But that’s overwhelming to a lot of people. You can still get that look without everything being on top of each other.” Throughout the shop there is a pleasing juxtaposition of old and new, classic and contemporary.
Representational pop art works by Chicago artist Zak Blatt are currently on display in a small separate gallery area and on the boutique walls. Pieces will rotate periodically, said Prince, with an emphasis on local artists.
Prince not only selects and sources the shop’s distinctive merchandise, but he also oversees a thriving floral and event designing business, creating custom looks for weddings, private parties and corporate events. In February he brought his signature style to the Museum of Science and Industry’s Black Creativity Gala, and this July he will add a touch of glamour to the Ravinia Women’s Board annual event. For more intimate gatherings, Maison du Prince features a small, customizable event space in the rear of the shop.
A Baltimore native, Prince began his career working in contract interior design. He was selecting finishes for a large apartment complex when, on a whim, he wandered into a nearby floral shop.
“I walked in,” he recalled, “and it was a tiny little floral shop in the front, but in the back, it was this huge event company.” Prince was intrigued and had a bit of free time on his hands, so he took a part-time job there. Before long, he shifted his focus from faucets to flowers and accepted a full-time position.
In Baltimore, Prince learned the event planning business from the ground up, helping to orchestrate posh D.C. weddings and big-ticket political events.
“We did the Republican convention in Philadelphia for George Bush,” said Prince, “and he actually bought one of my paintings – a sort of Madame Récamier but with a Texan longhorn steer head. I thought to myself, ‘I don’t necessarily agree with your politics, but you are still going to be president. Please, take my painting.’”
Eventually Prince’s career path took him from Baltimore to the Merchandise Mart in Chicago and more recently to the North Shore. For the past 20 years he has worked in event planning, interior design and floral design, gaining experience in every facet of the industry.
His style, he says, has evolved to be organic rather than overly structured. For novices, he offers a few floral design tips.
“I learned from a great floral designer that there should always be a wave or a line that the eye can follow through any arrangement, whether it’s up or down or back to front. And you can do that with color or with the direction the flowers are placed in, but there needs to be movement instead of a round static ball.”
The biggest mistake people make when creating arrangements at home, he said, is cutting flowers too short. Hold each stem next to the vase you are using and determine where you’ll make your cut before picking up the shears.
Prince is enthusiastic about sharing his expertise with Evanston folks and was thrilled by the turnout on May 18 for the Arts & Craft Beverage Crawl.
“I love Evanston and I’m so happy with the move,” he said. “This community wants to come out, they want to walk, they want to get 250 people wandering through the streets on a Thursday night.”
Prince confirmed he made many connections that night as people popped in and brought back friends to meet him. “It makes you feel like you are wanted in the community, and you belong. It’s very refreshing.”