Skip Navigation

Flower.Style35: With a Passion for Bold Blooms, Lifestyle Expert and Party Planner Extraordinaire Debi Lilly Makes the Ordinary Extraordinary

Celebrity party planner, author and lifestyle expert, Debi Lilly believes in elegant and easy design for all. She is on a one-woman mission to inspire, educate and share her 20-plus years of expertise in event and floral design to elevate celebrations for any occasion. An entertaining contributor for several publications and broadcast television networks, Debi's work has been featured in O, the Oprah Magazine, Martha Stewart Weddings, InStyle, ABC, CBS, Fox News and many more. She also launched Debi Lilly Design™, an on-trend floral and home decor line, exclusively with Albertsons Companies grocery stores across North America. Today, Debi continues to balance a demanding career, her full-service party planning firm (A Perfect Event) and event space (DL Loft), and her young, community-focused family.

1. What is your idea of the perfect flower arrangement? I tend to love massed monoflorals; there's something so graceful about their beautiful simplicity. A giant mountain of Hydrangea, peonies or Phalaenopsis orchids is perfection.

2. How did you get started in the floral industry? I grew up with a flower garden-loving mother and grandmother (Gigi). There were always beautiful blooms all around: red and hot pink Geraniums, white and pink Cosmos, and other classics typically grown in the backyard. My Gigi always had a bud vase with hot pink Geraniums on the counter of her powder room, which was tiled with seafoam glass. This is likely why I love mint and hot pink together. Swoon.

3. If not a florist, what would be your fallback profession? My grandfather (GG), an entrepreneur and veterinarian, gave me an incredible love for animals. Growing up in Ohio, I spent a lot of time with him, including spring, summer and winter breaks. He'd wake me up at 5AM each day to start his “calls” at each farm. Here, I was his little shadow, helping him vaccinate sheep and cows. I was in charge of herding, holding them one by one, and then painting a small dot on each one's hip as they received their shots. But still—flowers with my Gigi ultimately won me over!

4. What's your present state of mind? Currently, I'm in Hydrangea heaven. I'm surrounded by the most beautiful, oversized fall Hydrangea on Nantucket in every color you can imagine. There are blooms everywhere; some Hydrangea trees can reach up to two stories in height, and the conical Hydrangea outside are almost 2 feet long. And many have been in bloom since July. It's like a fairy tale.

5. Are you a Type A or B personality? Example? I've always been told I'm Type X, meaning a combination of both. I tend to mix Type A traits with those of Type B, like super social characteristics, a creative focus, and a love of the arts.

6. What is your most treasured possession? Hands down my family, my children, and our precious 2-year-old French bulldog, Jacques Louis.

7. Which words or phrases do you most overuse? I have so many! "Gorgeousness." "Swoon." "Oh what fun." "Happy." "Sunshiney." My kids will also tell you I totally overuse "stay in the happy square" (while simultaneously making a small square shape with my hands).

8. Where do you find inspiration outside the flower world? Travel! Seeing new worlds, cultures, histories, architecture, people, lifestyles—it's the ultimate inspiration.

9. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I'd like to be less busy. It’s hard to slow down when you've got so many incredible projects to jump into.

10. What do you consider your greatest achievement? My family—sorry to repeat. I dreamed of being a mother my entire life, and I still have to pinch myself now and again that our two charming, lovely lil' babes are really all ours. Forever and ever.

11. What's one thing you would tell your younger self? Savor each day; they whiz on by in the blink of an eye.

12. What event or job has been your favorite? Gosh, I've been so lucky. I've really loved every job that I've had—from my first job in high school to college (working for two french chefs that had just moved to the U.S. from France), to starting my own business after graduating college. Of course, if held to it, I'd choose my wonderful team and company, A Perfect Event, since we started it together from scratch.

13. Any projects that you wish you could forget? Surely, when you've been in business this long, not everything is pure sunshine. We've seen it all, from brides with awful family emergencies to weather drama causing flooding and mudslides. I'll also never forget an event where hurricane force winds blew the reception linens straight up and off the tables like ghosts—consequently sending the glassware and candelabra right to the floor. Gah! I'm still not over it years later.

14. What is your most marked characteristic? I would say hard work. My grandparents were hard-working entrepreneurs, and the same goes for my parents. I have been so blessed to have such great examples and family support in my life. When work is fun and beautiful, you tend to love creating it more than anything else.

15. Who are your heroes in real life? My grandparents. They were the biggest cheerleaders in my life. We've recently lost them both, so it's incredibly difficult losing your best and brightest sunshine and support.

16. Who is your floral hero? Oh, how I love the brilliant, bold, out-of-this-world work of Jeff Leatham.

17. What is your favorite color? Green everything. I'm a Taurus, a May baby, so it's always been about emerald shades for me.

18. What is your favorite flower? Lily-of-the-valley. Mmmm, so delicious!

19. What would you call your style of design? European: a bit lush and a bit full. I love to meld old and new styles together.

20. What is your favorite tool for working with flowers? I love old school galvanized buckets; they bring me such joy when filling them up.

21. Who's on your playlist? I'm really into electro swing—it's so happy! Caravan Palace is my new favorite. Just try not to tap your toes and snap your fingers as you design.

22. What's on your to-do list? We're launching a new online store, helping create a women’s online community, and designing a curated pop-up experience in an iconic building in downtown Chicago. It's all so epic! Pinch me.

23. What flower best represents your personality? Why? I'll go with peony: it's fluffy, quite girly and loves to be classic.

24. Who is your favorite artist? I have so many, but Monet has always been a favorite. That garden! Those lilies! What's not to love?

25. What’s the last book you read (and loved)? I love to read fiction, especially historic fiction. I just finished "Ask Again, Yes" (which has an incredible ending) and am now deep into "All Adults Here." My "to read" pile is never ending—and I make sure to buy all the happy, shiny, colorful covers too!

26. How do you unwind after a long day? Taking a long walk with Jacques, usually to the beach, and a fun-filled family dinner at a sidewalk café—topped off with an ice-cold, French rosé.

27. Favorite beverage? Champagne.

28. What do you see trending in floral design? Bright, bold colors are trending; they bring happy energy into our homes. I'm also seeing plenty of smaller, more affordable bouquets and plants that are perfect for "just because" situations—for yourself, as a gift for others, or just to brighten someone's day.

29. What's your flower motto? "Let love bloom."

30. What's your motto in life? "Be the sunshine."

31. How would your friends describe you? Loyal. Passionate. Supportive. I absolutely love helping and caring for others.

32. What would surprise us most about you? That I love a good ol' boring, cozy night at home with nothing to do.

33. What have you learned from flowers? Beauty is important. It can change someone's entire day. It also makes people smile, feel happiness, and inspires a need to help spread feelings of love and support to others.

34. If you could invite three people to a dinner party, who would they be? Describe the centerpieces. My grandparents (Gigi and GG), Jackie Kennedy, and—sorry, I need a fourth—Audrey Hepburn. Such icons. I would design the flowers with my grandmother, so of course we'd assemble giant piles of pink peonies together in antique "Blue Willow" Chinoiserie ginger jars. These were my Gigi's favorites.

35. What's your best advice to someone just starting out in the flower industry? Always work hard, be the happiest and sunshine-iest person in the room, and help find solutions.


To stay connected with Debi and view more of her work, click on the links below.

Debi Lilly Website | Debi Lilly Instagram | Debi Lilly YouTube | A Perfect Event Facebook | A Perfect Event InstagramA Perfect Event Blog