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Secret Garden

Asiel Design grows a Gothic fantasyland

By Aaron Robinson

A FEW years back, I met a young couple—Jonathan and Linnae Gomez. She did flowers, he did paintings, and together they started a small floral design shop out of his father's rose brokerage in San Francisco. Linnae's ability to construct breathtaking and idiosyncratic arrangements quickly became the talk of the town, and brides all over the Bay Area lined up for her services.

Hundreds of weddings later, it's no surprise that the couple's combined talents have taken them out of that small space and into something bigger. I just wasn't sure how much bigger until the grand opening of Asiel Design in San Jose on Saturday, June 19.

Stepping into the 10,000-square-foot warehouse is like stepping through the looking glass. More than just a floral shop, Asiel is a Gothic sanctuary. Statues, chandeliers, candelabras, even a 150-year-old horse-drawn carriage pack the place with weird romance—an impression that is only heightened as you gaze up at angelic stone faces while breathing in the sweet scent of black Baccara roses and white Jiffet orchids. A granary in the early 20th century, the warehouse is an antique itself. Wooden floors are plated to cover holes; the glass in the skylights is splintered; and the corrugated steel walls are frail and rusted. "It is such a major part of the mood we are trying to create," says Jonathan, 25, whose own wavy brown shoulder-length tresses match the mood.

Jonathan always had a passion for things derived from the Gothic European era. He spent the past two years roaming the world, determined to accumulate a unique collection of statuary, urns, relics and fountains. During his search, Jonathan stumbled across a chateau in France that re-creates 17th-, 18th- and 19th-century architectural ornaments using ancient French craftsmanship that entails reconstituting stone through original casts, hand-finishing them and allowing them to age naturally. Some familiar pieces include a 7-foot-tall Winged Victory, the beautiful Femme Grecque and a Four Seasons fountain. There are also pieces that are one-of-a-kind, like the 15th-century church tabernacle and a gargoyle bench that once sat in the Vatican. Most the other relics come from 19th-century castles and churches.

It's up to Linnae, 24, to complement all this with flowers. She's not shy about the challenge. "I want to bring bold colors into weddings," she says. "The whole washed-out pastel look is exhausted." Berries, twigs, copper wire, spray paint, ivy and baby pomegranates twist and wind through exotic flowers. Even Tim Burton might be jealous of Linnae's creativity.

The rare flowers come from another exclusive connection that Asiel established with a private farm in Ecuador. Which explains why the fist-sized roses are so robust in color and appearance.

Linnae and Jonathan know that not everyone has the means to buy a Winged Victory, so they've decided to make their Gothic warehouse available for private parties and receptions. They even built a Gothic wrought-iron altar for actual wedding services.

"We feel very fortunate in what we've been able to achieve, and we encourage people to stop by anytime to experience it," says Linnae, cutting pieces of yarn to weave through yet another uncanny arrangement.

Asiel Design is located at 245 McEvoy St., between Park Avenue and West San Carlos Street, San Jose. It's open 11am-6pm, Tuesday-Saturday. For information, visit www.asieldesign.com or call 408.280.7079.

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From the July 28-August 3, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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