Alyssa Reed has always had an interest in interior decorating and loves to use her hands to create.
“I’m 36. I’ve searched a really long time to figure out what I should be doing with my life,” she says. “I was always creative — always. I’ve always been on the North Fork, I’ve always hung out there during summers. I know a lot of small business owners out there, but there’s no one really zoning in on wreaths.”
For several years, she has been designing and making handcrafted wreaths that at first glance look like fresh florals with their vibrant colors and high level of detail but which are made from a wide variety of other materials instead.
Initially, she began making foraged wreaths with items she found in wooded areas on Long Island.
“A wreath is such a welcoming symbol to your home. It’s such a statement piece to your front door. And it was always something that was required for my front door,” she says. “So why wouldn’t people want them all year round?”
In 2016, when Reed and her husband purchased their home in Shoreham, she made wreaths to brighten up her own space, and soon she began giving them as gifts.
Reed “put it down for a little bit” when she became a holistic aesthetician, running her own business. But home décor kept tugging at her.
“During the holidays, I always put up around five to eight trees for Christmas in my home. I started taking clients to decorate Christmas trees and that really did well,” she says. Once the holiday season was over, she began making foraged wreaths again.
“I’d look for freshly fallen pine trees, things like that,” Reed explains. “Not everybody wants a one-season, real wreath because obviously you can only use it for one season. Some people like that and some people don’t. Some people want a wreath for five to 10 years. So I started making them again and immediately I got a ton of orders,” she says.
“I laughed because I was like, ‘Oh, I guess I’m a wreath-maker now.”
Typically, her wreaths begin with real grapevine, as opposed to wire frames which are more traditionally used with faux floral wreaths. “Although wire frames have their place, there’s just something really special about a grapevine wreath.”
Reed is looking to source grapevine on the North Fork, instead of getting it from wholesalers. “I’m talking to a few wineries to see when they cut their fields.” Her aim is quality. “I never want my work to come off as something cheap or chintzy.” She seeks out faux florals and greenery, which range from plastic to silk, that are more realistic and rich in color.
Reed, who designs all the wreaths and takes custom orders, says it takes a keen eye to integrate different items of high and low value. “Just like when I decorate trees, you can get really, really high-end ornaments and you can also get low-end ornaments and there’s a proper way of mixing them as well to make something really exquisite.”
In addition to the faux flowers and faux greenery, along with the grapevine itself, she uses fabric bows, different textiles and decorative items for accents.
“I’m literally shopping all the time. My brain really just never shuts off, so I see potential in everything,” she says.
Reed uses wired ribbon to make the bows herself. “They are such a pain! Bows are not easy to make, I will tell you that.”
Some wreaths have more loops, some less; some have bigger loops, some smaller. The bow tails vary in length, too. “Since my wreaths are pretty substantial, I like to make a substantial bow. So I’ll add anywhere from five to six layers of loops.”
Her wreaths are typically built on bases that are 18 inches across, but, she explains, “the florals can spray out a little bit to possibly 20 inches.” She also makes 12- and 14-inch wreaths or even smaller, or as large as 26 inches if the client has grand entrance doors.
A springtime favorite are the wildflower wreaths. “I try to make them look as if you’re walking through a field of wildflowers,” she says.
Her coastal-themed wreath includes a starfish and a sailboat attached with twine and wire. “People really loved that one,” she says, adding that she just led a coastal wreath workshop at the WILD Plant Shop in Port Jefferson.
Earlier this summer, her designs leaned toward patriotic themes, playing up an Americana look with red, white and blue, stars, and burlap bows.
Reed doesn’t usually sketch designs. She admits she’s not very good at sketching. “It’s all in my head,” she says. “And, I’m running out of space,” she adds with a laugh.
Are any two wreaths ever the same?
“I can recreate some,” she explains. “There are some wreaths that are more popular, like a lavender and sage wreath, those ones I can recreate pretty easily.”
Others cannot be replicated. One recent custom order used faux Monarch butterflies with wildflowers.
“I can create something similar, but you’re never going to get something that’s exact again,” due to the depth of detail, she explains, pointing to the daisies, willow, poppies, lily of the valley, and forget-me-nots. The wreath has bursts of pinks and greens.
“A lot of people don’t realize wildflower wreaths are my most expensive wreaths because you’re adding — since they’re so small and so delicate — you need way more product to fill in those spaces and make it look really overgrown.”
Another, which also used wildflowers, had a grapevine base in the shape of a sunburst. “It’s not the typical round one that I use. It has twigs, like vines, shooting out all around it. This one was so jampacked with florals,” she says.
Many of the faux floral wreaths could be mistaken for fresh ones. “A lot of people have ordered from me and then they’re like, ‘Wait, so is this real or not?’” she says. “Sometimes they’re relieved because they’re like, ‘Good. It will last,’ but they’re never truly sure.”
The wreaths are made for outdoor use. “But I do tell everybody if we’re getting a storm and you don’t have a large overhang that can protect this, just bring it inside,” she says.
They will last for years. “You just have to take care of them. You can’t just throw it in something because it’s not going to do well over time,” she says. “You just have to make sure you’re not crushing it.”
For custom orders, she asks clients to measure the clearance between their front door and a storm door, which is usually anywhere from four to six inches, she says, adding that the storm door should not press too much on the wreath. “It doesn’t destroy the wreath, but it’s not going to make it look too good.”
In that case, she may suggest a wire base because it is thinner. Or, if the client wants to stick with a grapevine base, she steers them toward faux florals that don’t protrude as much and that can be placed closer to the grapevine.
She also makes indoor-only wreaths that may include paper florals, which would not withstand the elements. There are seasonal wreaths for every time of year. A recent visit to her studio revealed that she had just loaded up on faux sunflowers, some yellow, some orange. She also recently made a simple Halloween wreath with small bats.
Reed decided to call her company NOFO Flower Company because she loves the area so much. “I’m a seasonal North Forker,” she says. While she grew up in Huntington, “the further east, the more corn I saw, the happier I got,” she says. “I always gravitated towards the North Fork.”
This summer, she has made appearances as a pop-up shop at In the Attic Too in Mattituck, an antique furniture store where she has long been a customer. When Heather Ganguzza — who owns the store with her father and refinishes pieces there — put out a call for pop-up shop vendors, Reed reached out.
NOFO Flower Company will be on hand for another pop-up on August 27 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
While Reed gets lots of customers through social media for local pickup (she has also been known to meet customers on the North Fork to deliver the wreath), she has not been selling the wreaths online.
“Figuring out how to ship wreaths is not an easy task, but I am working on that. I do have a lot of people out of state who have been asking,” she says. “I don’t want someone opening up their wreath and having to adjust it and do all this crazy stuff. I want them to open it and be happy and be able to just put it on their door.”
The prices vary, depending on the size of the wreaths and the amount of florals and other decorative items. They can range anywhere from a simple, modest 12-inch wreath for $65 up to $250. “I think once we get into the holidays, you’re going to see really magnificent ones and those are going to be the higher-end ones.”
Meanwhile, Reed’s home is quickly filling up with artificial Christmas trees decorated to the nines. Her favorite was filled with coastal items, like lobsters and traps, and a “local” sign.
“I’m really, really into Christmas decorating,” she says. “I think about that starting in January!”
Clients can begin booking her now for tree decorating services, and it’s Christmas in July on her Instagram page (@nofoflowerco). “I have to tell clients what I can offer them now, because if I start posting this in November, it’s too late.”
She takes her work very seriously.
“I can’t sleep over some of them, I need them to be perfect. I’m not just someone who is doing it just because I’m bored and I’m going to sell it at a random table. This is a business and I’m looking to make a profit, but I also want my clients to be very happy.”