Opened in 1999 by Elizabeth Cronin, Asrai Garden is more than a flower shop. “Because I don’t think of this as just a flower shop,” Elizabeth explains, “this shop is literally where I put all the things that I love.” Named after an aquatic faerie found in English folklore, Asrai Garden sells fresh flowers and succulent plants, as well as locally designed jewelry, small batch scented candles, and artisanal chocolate.
The interior design is a direct reflection of Elizabeth’s personal taste. “I grew up in an 1860s home with landmark status (in the Edison Park neighborhood of Chicago), the only Gothic Revival style house left in the state of Illinois.” Her parents bought her childhood home from a gay couple, one of whom was a florist, who had been together since the 1930s. “They had put so much love into the house.” The couple had traveled the world collecting design elements from far-flung places: the front yard had a street lamp from Copenhagen, the backyard had cemetery gates from New Orleans, and the front doors were reclaimed from an opera house in Paris. It was not extravagant, though, it was just a little farmhouse on the north side of Chicago “that just happened to have a magical character.” It’s no surprise that the design of Asrai Garden communicates this appreciation of eclecticism and a passion for the unexpected.
But there’s more on display in this space than a collection of attractive oddities. It’s immediately apparent that Elizabeth puts her emotional intuition into her décor, creating a delicate balance of the contemplative and the whimsical. There’s genuine emotion here. She doesn’t think that a space can effectively convey a feeling unless the person designing it has actually experienced that feeling. “The most authentic space,” she says, “has your feeling in it.” —Aria
Photography by Erik M. Kommer