Passion and Purpose
Those who know Anne Dickson are at once astonished and not the least bit surprised by all she has accomplished in such a short time. With her husband, Andrew, she is raising three young boys and the evidence is everywhere in the Fox Chapel home the couple purchased seven years ago. They bought the house in August and began a major renovation two months later. Then last summer they began construction on an addition that also took nine months, using the same architects, Paul Shea and Lisa Simone.
In 2016, Dickson started her floral design business, Fox and The Fleur, working out of her garage. The response was immediate. She quickly became one of the premier event florists in Pittsburgh, producing floral displays for weddings, galas and parties while continuing to create arrangements for everyday occasions.
“I believe that flowers have long held space in life’s most celebrated moments and they serve as a reminder to be present in the vitality of life,” says Dickson. “Having flowers at home, whether purchased or from the garden, is an accessible and essential everyday luxury.” While she routinely donates leftover flowers from events to hospitals, she also began an ongoing public art project in the form of unexpected floral installations around the city. For example, she made giant wreaths for the bronze statues outside the Carnegie Museum and filled trash cans with floral displays, hoping to “spark joy” for passersby and “turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.”
The addition is covered in Hardie board and batten painted Soji White by Sherwin Williams while the breezeway is Farrow & Ball’s Railings, giving the impression of separate buildings.
In October, Dickson opened a shop on Brilliant Avenue in Aspinwall. Fox and The Fleur sells fresh flowers, topiaries and other plants, textiles, tabletop items, containers, candles, home and decorative accessories and gifts. The rear of the store serves as her workshop, a bustling place on weekends when up to 10 people are busy prepping for an event. The name for both businesses was inspired by her mother’s French heritage, and of course, Fox Chapel. But it speaks to the masculine-feminine dynamic present in her work.
“My personal home style is a collection of important objects, patterns and colors in my life: Furniture and art that have been passed down, that have been found during travel and that tell a story. The same philosophy anchors the Fox and The Fleur store. Our pieces have a story,” Dickson says. “They are curated and collected with meaning and purpose.”
With a background in marketing, first in corporate communications for Tommy Hilfiger and then in public relations for Dolce and Gabbana, Dickson referenced her experience in fashion after a stint in development for Propel Schools. Her dramatic sense of color pervades the home, as does her proclivity for texture and a respect for tradition with a twist.
“We wanted to marry the traditional New England saltbox style of our house with something that felt fresh and modern. You can see a lot of the modern leanings in the light fixtures, and we wanted a lot of texture in the house so we did shiplap ceilings in the kitchen and dining room, picture lights and barn wood transitions between living areas. There’s a lot of detail that adds depth and interest to the house in general.”
The home, built in 1969, was dark inside when the couple bought it. But having spent summers in Nantucket, Dickson was attracted to the Colonial style of architecture and saw that it could be opened up. Working with Shea and Simone and contractor Kevin Zhukas, the goal was to bring in more light and functionality for a young family. That and additional square footage was also the impetus for the two-story addition.
“Originally it was going to be unattached and open to the garden, a fun extra living space. Then we realized that what we needed was a bigger mudroom for these extremely active, growing boys so we decided to use one bay of the garage, put down the slate floor and attach it to the new building with the breezeway. We felt the mudroom piece was so essential to our family and an easy transition between the new building and the rest of the house. Now you walk into the breezeway and enter the house looking into the garden, my favorite spot.”
The cedar siding was stained a light gray and the garage black, picking up the black trim on the windows. Dickson wanted a contrast between the old and the new and chose a deep blue for the breezeway and a creamy white for the addition. “The idea was for them to look like separate buildings.”
Adding the breezeway created a private courtyard behind the house. With seating and dining areas, there is still lots of room for Dickson to garden. Her love of flowers came from her mother, and as Dickson transitioned from working full time to stay-at-home mom, she found herself cutting perennials for family and friends. Soon her arrangements were getting attention, followed by requests. “I really had not intended to start a business, but it became apparent that I had a talent and a skill that I wanted to develop and share with others. The business was born very organically.”
Moving from one temporary space to another as the business grew, Dickson longed for something more permanent. She also had always wanted to try a retail store. Finding the space in Aspinwall satisfied both needs. As a bonus, friends who own The Antiquarian Shop in Sewickley, and who had agreed to lend her some display pieces on consignment, ended up opening a second location right next door.
“I want people to walk in and feel inspired. To bring something special back into their life, whether a topiary or a tablecloth or a bouquet of flowers. Our floral arrangements are known for their sumptuous textures, surprising color combinations and bold scale. It’s not a factory here. We really care about the design, the quality, the packaging. There’s a lot of thought and intent that features into what we deliver.
“Like my house, I want the retail store to feel comfortable and accessible. People live and work here! When I welcome guests to my home, I don’t want them to feel nervous about sitting on a certain piece of furniture or spilling a drink. Same with the store. It’s not a museum. It’s a living breathing collection of beautiful things that are meant to be loved, used and enjoyed.”