Q & A with Floral Chair, Dan Zelen


When reflecting on this year's FLOWER POWER theme, we decided to sit down for a chat with our go-to flower afficionado and Floral Chair, Dan Zelen. An interior and exterior designer with an appreciation for natural materials, subtle colors, and antique style, he creates stunning floral arrangements that take all aspects of a space and its inhabitants into consideration.

As the Show's long-time Floral Chair, Dan brings together the Bay Area's finest floral designers who generously donate their skills and beautiful fresh flowers to create arrangements that compliment the vision of our Exhibitors' booths. 

As Floral Chair, what do you love most about The San Francisco Fall Art & Antiques Show?

Connecting the many Exhibitors with the florists from the Bay Area and seeing the creativity of arrangements donated to each booth has been the most enjoyable. The combination of exquisite art and antiques with creative florals adds another dimension of interest and is another wonderful virtue for the Show and for this city to be proud of.

The 2017 Show theme is FLOWER POWER: Floral Imagery in Art, Antiques & Design. As a floral designer, what does the theme mean to you?

It recognizes that flowers have been a part of art and ornament in almost every culture throughout history.  Even in modern design and art, flowers are a timeless element.

What do the floral arrangements bring to the Show?

Many Exhibitors sell garden and floral containers, and showing them filled with an arrangement often sells the container. The addition of a floral arrangement with furniture also adds a living aspect to a booth as well as a softness that hints at how the piece might appear in a home.

What are your favorite flowers to work with in the fall?

Spider Mums are my favorite fall flower. The shape of the petals reminds me of fireworks exploding in a wide array of colors, and they have a long-lasting elegance perfect for any floral design.

What kind of things do you take into consideration when designing a bouquet for an Exhibitor’s booth?

I always create designs that accentuate an Exhibitor’s booth and their antiques. Over the years, I have had the pleasure of creating elegant arrangements for jewelry exhibitors as well as creating Ikebana inspired florals for Japanese antiques – totally different booths and looks. The challenge of creating arrangements for specific antiques is something that I really love to do.

What are key things to keep in mind when creating floral arrangements for a room?

I always ask a client what color they hate first and if they are opposed to fragrance. That always seems to get an answer. I take my cues from the style of room, the colors in a space, and often I like to add to a color that is not in the room at all, but that works so the flowers stand on their own while in total harmony with the space. I often look at my client’s attire, and I am not afraid of looking in their closet to see what color shoes or handbags are there… that’s always a clue to a person's love for color.

What’s your favorite flower?

I have two favorites. Lily of the Valley flowers are available in San Francisco for such a short amount of time that I snap them up as soon as they become available. For so much scent to come from such a tiny stemmed flower is intoxicating to me. Garden roses are my favorite flowers that are available all year in the California flower markets. They are luxurious in shape and smell, and they continue to look beautiful even as they begin to die.

How would you classify your style of floral arranging? 

I have always been intrigued by Constance Spry for her fearless combinations of foraged elements in classical designs paired with beautiful containers. I hope that I create different styles for different times, places, and moods, always adding something in my work that is not expected… an element of surprise in some way.


To view a list of the 2017 Floral Designers, please visit our Florists page here. Stay tuned for upcoming Q&A's with other prominent voices from the art, antiques, and design world leading up to the big Show!