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Plein Air Dining

Designer Dan Zelen creates an al fresco tabletop with ideas inspired by the fruits of the sea and the garden

Gardening Ideas

Designer Dan Zelen, top, decorated a tabletop for an outdoor party as if he were designing a small seaside garden with plants and objects from the sea.

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Designer Dan Zelen, top, decorated a tabletop for an outdoor party as if he were designing a small seaside garden with plants and objects from the sea.

"When entertaining outdoors, bring the outdoors to the table," says Dan Zelen, a multitasking designer whose Los Angeles-based shop, Zelen Home, opened its doors in spring 2004. (At only 800 square feet, the shop is where good things—furnishings, accessories, and tabletop wares—come in small packages.) Also working as a stylist and the creative director of the trendsetting garden décor shop Inner Gardens in L.A., Dan is known for his instant recognition of what's hot and what's not—and for having an eye for imbuing each of his floral arrangements with all the je ne sais quoi of a fashion statement.

invited to decorate a table for an early-evening party outdoors, Dan worked with L.A. landscape designer scott shrader, who designed the outdoor space, to make sure that table, chairs, terrace and pool environment all worked together. Then focusing on the tabletop itself, Dan looked for inspiration in his own shop, where a set of look-alike

The art of dining well is no slight art, the pleasure not a slight pleasure—m ichel de Montaigne


Seashell Art

■ For more information on Dan Zelen Home, call 323-658-6755. For more information on Scott Shrader, see

sea urchin shell bowls and a candelabra he designed from mesquite wood sparked the idea of designing the table with an ocean motif. in a sense it was just like designing a room, where a single piece of furniture—here a single accessory—sets the stage for every style decision that follows.

Dan's point was to make a table look like a seashore garden. So instead of engineering the usual flowers in a vase, he placed the driftwood candelabra at the center of the table and then set white sand, sea shells, succulents, coral shells and the sea urchin bowls directly on the table, as if the table-top were the beach itself. Like a well-orchestrated still life, every thing became part of the scene— the Martini picks were each topped with a cultured pearl, and even the fruits matched the color scheme.—donna dorian

■ For more information on Dan Zelen Home, call 323-658-6755. For more information on Scott Shrader, see

MAY 2006

At a dinner party one should eat wisely but not too well, and talk well but not too wisely—s omerset maugham tips for outdoor tabletops: Begin with a theme—here Dan drew on objects found along the seashore. ■ Incorporate flowers and foliage from the garden at hand; for example, use grapevines as runners, hosta leaves as placemats—or visit your local nursery for ideas. ■ Before the meal begins, accent the table with food that participates in the color scheme—here the grapes and the wine repeat the purple of succulents and sea urchin shells, while strawberries pick up the colors of the cranberry glass bowls and napkins. ■ After the meal is over, plant what you can back into the garden (which means don't remove their roots!).

Clockwise from top left: An olive pierced by a Martini pick topped with a cultured pearl suggests an attention to detail that never goes unnoticed. The textures and colors of a purple succulent, a starfish and a ceramic bowl designed to simulate a sea urchin shell reiterate the overall seaside concept. To bring the memory of the beach to the table, Zelen scattered sandlike crushed white glass on the table and topped it with a starfish and a succulent. Decorated with the fruits of the garden and the sea, the tabletop is sprinkled with red strawberries on red linen napkins held down by a coral seashell in a coordination of color as well as theme.

Patio Tropical Colors

But where is the man that can live without dining?—OWE N MEREDITH



Dining Set Kenneth Cobonpue


  • Yin Yang dining table by Kenneth Cobonpue: $3,113; Mosaix Athena dining armchairs: $1,250 each, both available from Janus et Cie. Call 800-24-JANUS or see www.janusetcie. com.
  • Dan Zelen's sandblasted mesquite-wood candelabra: $325; vintage stemware: various prices; ceramic sea urchin bowls: $40 to $120; sterling silver Martini picks with cultured-pearl tops: set of four, $225, all available at Zelen Home. Call 323-658-6756 or see
  • Large blue French ceramic chargers: $40 each; Nouvel Studio cranberry glass bowls: $14 each; linen napkins by Libeco Home: $20 each, all available at Barneys NewYork. Call 212-826-8900.
  • Professionali Martini glasses: By Colle for Table Art, set of 4, $120. Call 323-653-8278 or see
  • Placemats by Thomas O'Brien:Target, $4.99 each. Available from Target stores.
  • Shells, starfish and crushed white glass:Wasabi Green. Call 213-629-0068.
  • Assorted succulents: Inner Gardens. Call 310-838-8378 or see

MAY 2006

I am thankful for the mess to clean after a party because it means I have been surrounded by friends—n ancie carmody

Tropical Plants The Pool

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o vat i v e minds in garden design

Philippe Starck Prince Aha Stool Outdoor

Philippe Starck:" think of the outdoors just like the indoors, but without a roof

In the pantheon of contemporary design, Philippe Starck has earned a unique place. Arguably the most influential designer of his era, he is one of a rare few to achieve international rock-star status. Although he is best-known for designer hotels, a genre he helped invent, his work encompasses an improbable spectrum that includes air-traffic-control towers, motorcycles, olympic torches, sneakers and, interestingly for people with gardens, outdoor furniture.

Starck has received myriad awards and has held exhibitions in almost every major city around the world. He's also the recipient of other, less-obvious but perhaps more-coveted accolades. First, he has earned the admiration of his hard-core modern design peers, despite a certain goofiness. This admira

French designer Philippe Starck revolutionized outdoor furniture with the plastic Bubble Club Series and Prince Aha Stool.

Tropical Garden Designer

tion is deserved because he embraces new technologies readily and is a forward thinker whose personal and social agenda is one of rebellion—the core value of modern design. Second, and perhaps more impressive, is that the Italians have embraced and supported him as if he were one of their own. I consider this to be an uncommon trait for Italians since they are fiercely protective of their cultural uniqueness.You'll have to search hard to find French restaurants in Milan, yet chairs designed by this particular Frenchman are common in the chic outdoor cafés near the Duomo.

Radical designs for the outdoors, such as

MAY 2006

Style can make complicated things seem simple, or simple things complicated—j ean cocteau

How Create Tropical Garden

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