Some years ago, Cris Briger was a busy entrepreneur, traveling throughout Mexico collecting antiques and artisan-made goods that she and her (now late) husband, Paul Briger, sold through their company, Briger Designs. The couple also made custom furniture pieces and accessories at their manufacturing facility in New York. Cris admits to loving to entertain in her Manhattan apartment, which often meant racing to her apartment from the airport minutes before guests arrived.
Not one to skimp on decorating for these occasions, Cris grew frustrated that she didn’t often have the time to stop at a local shop to buy fresh flowers, much less spend a morning wandering Manhattan’s Flower District, centered on 28th Street, to source the best English garden roses or frilly, parrot tulips. Having employed a craftsman in Mexico to make beautiful tole wastebaskets for Briger Designs, Cris quickly solved the problem by having that same talented artisan create flowers and topiaries out of tole. These “artificial” creations would allow the savvy hostess to achieve the same effect on her tabletops as if she were putting out fresh-cut flowers. It is true that the best ideas are born out of necessity, for after realizing how convenient the tole flowers were to have in her own home, Cris and Paul began selling these floral creations through Briger Designs, something they nurtured for over twenty years.
Now, Cris and her son, Charles Peed, own Casa Gusto, a West Palm Beach–based company that sells antiques, objets, and artworks, a collection artfully curated to perfection by the visionary mother–son duo. At Casa Gusto, everything is one-of-a-kind, as Cris no longer is interested in wholesaling her goods. Casa Gusto is meant to be a unique source and destination for inspiration. In the last few months, Cris has revived her beloved Briger Designs tole florals through the Casa Gusto lens, describing the process as, “just evolving from one family business to another.”
When asked about the inspiration behind each flower, Cris shares her hands-on approach. “We actually cut things out of our garden, and we take them down to the tin man,” she says. “He crafts them right there from the cut flowers sitting in a cup of water.” Tin is a material that Mexican artisans are used to working with, historically crafting star-shaped lanterns and other decorative objects from this pliable metal. As Cris emphasizes, “tole is as old as anything else.”
After the cutting and shaping, Casa Gusto’s tole petals are washed in a simple white paint to keep the palette neutral and more versatile year-round. Currently, Casa Gusto offers orchids, geraniums, pole beans, carnations, black-eyed Susan’s, pansies, and tulips. When pressed for a sneak-look at what florals are “growing” next, Cris confides, “A large topiary is in the works. I’m actually off to the office to send in the design now. The options are endless and it’s all quite fun.” The tole flowers work well alone but make an even bigger statement when grouped. Yes, Casa Gusto’s tole florals are made from a well-used material, but dotted thoughtfully throughout one’s home, these florals will never get old.
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WRITTEN BY LUCY BAMMAN