How a Fruit-Crammed Backyard Impressed a New Wellness Model


Richard Christiansen was employed for 20 years. The Australian-born founder of Chandelier Creative, a New York-based creative agency known for working with major fashion and retail brands, was “pitching, pitching, pitching,” he says, constantly soliciting new business and traveling between offices in New York, Los Angeles and Paris. He was up early for flights, late with customers, and nervous about coffee and wine. For a year he was JetBlue’s number one flyer. “And I was so proud of it,” he says. “But I’m ashamed of it now – because I lived outside of my body.”

March 2020 came with a now familiar history of pandemic upheavals. The agency’s work dried up; Christiansen’s life slowed down; it was not recognized by JetBlue. A range of natural personal care products he wanted to launch, inspired by the hammam-like bathhouse at the Flamingo Estate – his eclectically renovated 1940s home in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles – seemed increasingly unlikely. Jeff Hutchison, the gardener who oversees the 150 botanical species that grow on the property’s 7 acres of hillside property, drew his attention to the fact that the farmers in the area, many of whom normally relied on business from hotels and restaurants who were worried about losing their livelihoods. Christiansen, 44, suggested the breeders Sell ​​their vegetables every Friday in the parking lot of the Owl Bureau, the nearby bookstore that it opened in 2019. They sold 300 boxes the first week and 600 boxes the next.

At some point someone called the health department and the provisional surgery had to be discontinued, so Christiansen and his team switched to their current home delivery model. Not only does the Flamingo Estate provide farmers with a sales platform, new revenue stream, and promotional strategy normally reserved for deep pocket businesses, but it also produces partnerships that offer customers a weekly CSA box from exceptional local growers. gave Chandelier employees a productive opportunity during the pandemic downturn. “Nobody had anything to do, so people got new roles,” explains Christiansen, saying that this was a typical conversation last spring went something like, “I know you were art director before, but now you’re in charge of stone fruit.” The design team that used to work on fashion campaigns turned their attention to vegetables, photographing them for high-production-value marketing materials and soft lighting, like quarantine nutrition porn. “We were really just trying to find out,” explains Christiansen. “Like the garden, we have grown and listened and changed.” His team soon began experimenting with herbs and plants from his own medicinal garden to create new products such as a rosemary-infused hand sanitizer and a sage-scented candle for his emerging wellness line. And the brand now sources many of the ingredients for their personal care formulas, as well as fruits and vegetables, from independent farmers who can supply in larger quantities. “The volume has far exceeded anything we’ve ever been able to do on my property,” says Christiansen.

In April he started inviting chefs to his kitchen to develop recipes to be distributed with the weekly product deliveries. (These have since evolved into packages that also include crossword puzzles, playlists, and a newsletter that publishes vital information about the garden and the life of its owner.) “At some point I realized, ‘Wow, this may be Everything I ever wanted to do, ”says Christiansen, although as a kid growing up on a farm in northern New South Wales he usually preferred to stay indoors and watch Dynasty while his parents harvested the sugar cane and avocados. In any case, last spring it was the first time he could really enjoy the grounds of his home, where bursting succulents, towering aloes, and blooming lemon, apricot, and fig trees grow amid a maze of winding paths, and where camellias and roses line the bold red cement walkway that winds around the front of the house for dramatic city views. “I wanted to take stock of how I spend my time,” he says, “and make decisions that allow me to enjoy joy and pleasure.”

Indeed, Christiansen saw pleasure as a human right from which we are often separated. And this idea has led the development of Flamingo Estate from a colorful house on a hill to a full-fledged wellness brand that has offered almost 50 products in its online shop since Christmas last year, including freshly baked bread decorated with vegetables from Los Angeles cook Loria Stern on olive oil from Brosius Family Farms in Paso Robles, artisanal mushrooms from the Golden State Papayas Farm in Santa Barbara, and a range of herbal face mists, tinctures, and bath products. As someone who has spent his entire career strategizing to get people to like things, he was amazed at how naturally the brand’s following grew. “We haven’t sent an email for six months. We didn’t pay influencers. We didn’t look over our shoulders at what other people were doing, ”he recalls. “We really did this so we could thrive – because we were in a pandemic and wanted to be healthy and happy and meet good people. We almost had to unlearn some of these things because the second it felt corporate it didn’t feel real anymore. “

If there is a precedent for Flamingo Estate, it might be Daylesford, the organic farm in England’s idyllic Cotswolds, which has its farm shops in Gloucestershire and London, the hospitality program, cooking classes and the e-commerce website (like it happened) reached a wide audience. Daylesford is the name of one of Christiansen’s two cocker spaniels. Ultimately, however, he wants Flamingo Estate to act as a kind of “farfetch for the green world”, referring to the international online fashion platform – in other words, a place where growers and manufacturers who are committed to regenerative agriculture and environmentally friendly Use practices that can reach a larger community.

In the meantime, the brand’s range continues to grow. Just over a year after Christiansen’s team started selling vegetables in a parking lot during uncertain times, Flamingo Estate unveils a festive rose wine called Pink Moon. The sustainable wine is just as red as Christiansen’s house and is matured by the winemaker Kamee Knutson in acacia barrels near San Luis Obispo. It contains notes of strawberries, hibiscus, frangipani and honey. Christiansen asked Gaetano Pesce, one of his creative heroes, to design an ice bucket to go with it, and the Italian designer made 25 editions from colorful hand-cast resin that are reminiscent of asymmetrical ice cubes and will be available for purchase from the spring harvest. In addition to seasonal products such as green garlic, rhubarb and mulberries.

In the garden, in which a crew led by Hutchison is constantly planting, harvesting and experimenting new product ideas, a butterfly pavilion is being built this month, which is designed for the breeding of endangered monarchs. (“With my family in the honey business in Australia, pollinators are an important issue to me,” Christiansen explains.) Thirty-five drivers are now dropping off thousands of product boxes across Los Angeles every Friday, and Christiansen just closed his first round of funding to make Flamingo Estate a separate company from its agency with plans to expand into New York. Meanwhile, work has returned to Chandelier Creative. And while Christiansen’s time is still spent talking to farmers and planning harvests and deliveries, he and his team have returned to advertising and branding projects with new eyes. “We have a much narrower filter on what we’re willing to say in the affirmative,” he says. “The type of work we do is much more creative and nutritious. Maybe it really helped us in other ways to dip our toe into the world of natural wonders. “