"Oh my."

These words, framed and hanging in the office of Tom Mathieu, owner of Tom Mathieu Company, in West Palm Beach (tommathieu.com), convey an aspect of his personality. 

“I say that a lot,” said Mathieu, who bought the treasure, already framed, from One Kings Lane, an online retailer. The phrase could also sum up the praise lavished on this king of all things floral and garden from his clients, not only for his work that decorates their homes, parties and weddings, but also for the sense of surprise and wonder his work imparts to the charity events he designs each season.

Among the dozen events is Cocktails for Compass, an annual event, now in its sixteenth year, held at Club Colette, a private club on Peruvian Avenue in Palm Beach. Four or five years ago Mathieu added the fundraiser that benefits Compass, the LGBT center of the Palm Beaches, to his schedule. “As far as Compass goes, it’s a really great cause and I like to help out however I can,” he said. This dinner is among a list of distinguished clients that cultivate his talents to the delight of guests.

Other charity events he designs include, among others, Palm Beach Island Hospice Foundation, Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach, Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, Palm Beach Opera, the Historical Society of Palm Beach County (for its Archival Evening), how (hearing the ovarian cancer whisper), The Society of the Four Arts, and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Each of these is scheduled onto a huge calendar for the months of September through April hanging in Mathieu’s office. In 2019 they will be joined by a once-in-a-lifetime event: Mathieu and his team will design the flowers and tables for the gala celebrating the opening of the Norton Museum of Art, on February 2, in a tent on the north side of the building. 

Before then, Mathieu will transform Club Colette once again to dazzle those who come for an evening of merriment at Cocktails for Compass. The event in 2017, shown here, illustrates his passion for turning tables into floral eye candy.

“Ross Meltzer, a client of mine, comes to me for décor,” Mathieu said. “It’s before Christmas, so it always seems to have a holiday theme, glitzy and glittery.” Past years’ color schemes: red and gold, silver and white, and last year, red and white.

“Ross and I have a meeting and we pick out a color scheme. We start with the table cloth and when he picks a color we always do something tall and splashy,” Mathieu said.

He often relies on frosted branches, glitter branches, gold leaves, silver leaves—even feathers—placed in a silver or gold trumpet vase or tall glass vase, to create spectacle. 

When asked if his towering creations conflict with traditional advice that flower arrangements be low so guests can converse across the table, he replied, “the vessel they are in is very narrow so it’s easy to see around it.”

Building the arrangements in his cavernous studio, which encompasses four interconnected bays in a complex adjacent to the Flamingo Park and Grandview HeightsHistoric Districts, he then transports them to Club Colette for installation. 

To complete the table décor, fresh flowers are placed at the base of the trumpet vases. “I try to honor what he likes,” said Mathieu, referring to Meltzer’s taste, and also keep it simple.

Once in place, each arrangement is illuminated, perhaps with candles, sometimes up lighting and pin lights. 

“I like real candles,” said Mathieu, who adds, “they give a much better light.” When it is necessary to use battery operated candles, he opts for those with flicker flames. “Put it in a votive and, if you are not looking directly it, it looks like it is real.”

Among his favorite flowers to work with are orchids, hydrangeas and roses. To complete his tablescapes for the 2017 Cocktails for Compass, he placed three clusters of votives and three small arrangements—a white hydrangea and red roses in a julep cup—at the base of each trumpet vase. 

A caveat from this floral wizard: “I don’t like to sit at a table where I smell Casablanca lilies or anything heavy. I don’t mind subtle smells, but I don’t want to be smelling flowers while I’m drinking wine.”  

Guests to this year’s Cocktails for Compass are sure to be wowed by the clever theatrics of Matheiu, who transforms centerpieces into star attractions. 

2018 Cocktails for Compass

Dinner, dancing, a silent auction—they add up to Cocktails for Compass at the private restaurant Club Colette, 215 Peruvian Ave, Palm Beach. This year’s event, starting at 7 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 10, will be cohosted by honorary chairwoman Sonja Stevens and dinner chairmen Ross Meltzer and Victor Figueredo, and Jack Lighton and Giovanni Di Stadio.

Since 2003, Cocktails for Compass has been the organization’s largest fundraiser, which recognizes Compass’ top donors and supporters while highlighting the successes of the year’s achievements and programs, according to Compass’ website. Through the generous support of its annual contributors and event sponsors, and donations from area businesses, 100 percent of the proceeds continue to benefit the valuable, life-saving services Compass provides.

For information on tickets, sponsorships visit Compassglcc.com/community-and-events or call 561-533-9699. 

The Art of Saying Thank You

“There are no rules for anything anymore. The important part is that you say thank you, not so much how you say it. Perhaps if you want a ‘rule’ it could be to match the invitation. Was the invite by phone, by email, by text? The same would be appropriate for a thank you. Just so you do it. My mother taught me to write thank you notes, and since then, so much of it is just having the manners to be appreciative of those who do things for us.”

—Scott Robertson, Scott Robertson Interiors, West Palm Beach. 

“If you are invited to a private residence, a small host/hostess gift is a nice gesture when arriving (i.e. small candle, chocolates, etc.). A handwritten thank you note sent the next day is always appropriate and much more personal than an email.”

—Stephen Mooney, Stephen Mooney Interiors, Palm Beach.

This story was published in the November issue of SFGN's high glossy magazine, The Mirror – on stands now. Click here to see the online PDF.

 Cover Photo: "Frosted branches and sprays of berries in a silver trumpet vase draw the eye to this festive party table."