Wander along Westbourne Grove and you’ll discover one of London’s greatest florists. Standing proudly on Turquoise Island with a designer public loo on one side, Wild At Heart is a floral emporium with peonies, delphiniums, hydrangeas and sweet peas regularly adorning the spot. Horrified by the thought of a ‘Portaloo’ on their local traffic island, the residents of Westbourne Grove had commissioned celebrated architect Piers Gough to design something more elegant. So at one end are the famous loos, a landmark for cabbies and tourists, and at the other is a hive of colourful activity: Wild At Heart's first shop.
The mastermind behind the brand is Nikki Tibbles, who set up her florist company in 1993. Her passion and enthusiasm have undoubtedly brought Wild At Heart to where it is now. After an early career in advertising, she was hungry for a new direction, and knew exactly where she wanted to go. She had lived in Notting Hill for 20 years, moving there in the first place as she had friends in the area and because she thought it was a colourful place to be. Armed only with a passion for flowers and a natural gift for design, she apprenticed herself to a South London florist. After setting up her own workshop, her reputation for quality and creativity quickly spread. By the time Piers Gough completed Turquoise Island, the acclaimed development with a purpose-built florist’s shop, she had beaten 70 rivals to the lease. “Initially I was working from a rented studio in Southwark when a note came through my door inviting tenders for a new flower shop on Turquoise Island. I delivered some flowers to the address they gave, which was the council’s Waste Department, and I got a call inviting me for an interview. I was given the keys there and then.”
Twenty years later, the Island has achieved listed building status and Nikki Tibbles' Wild At Heart has grown to a flagship store and head office on Pimlico Road with an ever-growing nationwide delivery service. In 2008, Wild At Heart became the in-house florist at Liberty department store. The styles of the two brands match perfectly, epitomising classic, elegant design with a contemporary twist. Roses are Tibbles’ favourite flower – “they’re such old-fashioned, luxurious flowers which are beautifully scented. I love the way they slowly fade” – and you can guarantee that Wild at Heart will always stock a fantastic array in all sizes and colours, each with a special fragrance.
Tibbles gets her inspiration from different things, including the flowers themselves and the changing seasons. “I’m heavily influenced by art and fashion,” she says. “I also use my love of interiors, often taking someone’s home or a venue as inspiration for the floral installations we create.” So it’s no surprise to learn that she is soon to open a homeware department store: Nikki Tibbles Wild At Heart… at Home. “I’ve always loved to be playful with my interiors and over the years I’ve been asked by clients to get involved in much more than just their flowers, helping them to style their homes and events. It seemed a natural progression to launch Nikki Tibbles Wild At Heart… at Home. I source all the interior products myself and I only buy things I would have in my own home. A great friend of mine, photographer Martyn Thompson, taught me that everything should have a reason for being, and this is something I stick by when it comes to interiors. Everything sold in …at Home has a direct relation to flowers in one way or another.”
As well as opening her new interior shop, Tibbles has many other projects on the go. “We recently launched our new website which now offers customers everything our shops do and more – easy online ordering and nationwide delivery, Nikki Tibbles Wild At Heart… at Home, details on all the services we offer such as weddings and contract flowers. And we keep our blog up to date with all our goings-on. We have some amazing weddings and events coming up which I’m very much looking forward to working on, as well as some fantastic collaborations with institutions such as The National Gallery. My hope is that I can continue to create beautiful and inspirational floral displays and get the opportunity to carry on working with fabulous clients.”
Asked about the highlight of her career so far, she finds it hard to pick just one. “There have been so many but from it all I treasure the incredible people I’ve met through work who have become life-long friends, such as my dear friend Betty Jackson.”
But it isn’t just flowers and interiors Tibbles is passionate about; her other great love is dogs. You will never see her without her crew of four-legged friends and she says that if she wasn’t working with flowers, she would be running a dog charity. “If I had enough money to retire, I would build kennels and bring street dogs over from Spain and Greece.” While not able to desert Wild at Heart quite yet, she is still doing her bit to help stray dogs. “I support Noah’s ARC in Murcia, Spain, which takes in injured and abandoned dogs and re-homes them throughout Europe. Wild At Heart has raised over £9,000 for them. I’m currently waiting for 10 dogs that I’m sponsoring to come to the UK from Spain. I plan to keep two of them and then find lovely homes for the rest.” While she may be excited about the prospect of getting her new dogs, here at Domus Nova we can’t wait for her expansion into interiors. She clearly has a lot to look forward to, and we’re looking forward to the results.