Called “the most creative designer we have ever had” by Billy Baldwin, Frances Elkins has been revered for her classic, erudite, and multidimensional decor. Ahead of her time, Elkins became a successful decorator who by the early 1930s had reached the top of her profession and was considered the only rival to Elsie de Wolfe.
Working throughout the United States, Elkins brought an international perspective and architectural sensibility to her work. Elkins traveled widely with her architect brother David Adler, educated at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, and he was a strong influence on her. Her social circle included interior designer Jean-Michel Frank, couturière Coco Chanel, aesthete Charles de Beistegui, arts patron Misia Sert and painter Salvador Dali, For her clients, she brought a modern European chic as well as a melding of the best of American, English, French,, Asian and Mexican traditions. A talented furniture and fabric designer as well as interior designer, she collaborated with many luminaries, including Frank; architects Adler, Gardner Dailey, and William Wurster; weaver Dorothy Liebes; decorator Syrie Maugham; the artist Bruton sisters; and furniture maker Myron Oliver. Her carefully planned interiors were known for their distinctive sophistication and polish, and an inviting sense of comfort.
Showcasing never-before-published material, Frances Elkins: Visionary American Designer includes more than sixty interiors that illustrate her outstanding sense of color and her gift of mixing periods and styles —from her early work on the Monterey Peninsula, to houses she designed with her brother in Chicago in the 1920s and 1930s, to iconic hotel commissions such as the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Honolulu, to homes for film star Edward G. Robinson, banking heiress Celia Tobin Clark and advertising legend Albert Lasker. With images by top photographers of the day as well as newly commissioned images of extant Elkins interiors, this volume will serve as a revelation and inspiration to fans of design.
Scott Powell is a noted arts and design historian and a frequent lecturer on Frances Elkins. Through his extensive research on her life and work, he has become a leading expert on Elkins’s designs, influence, and biography and has documented more than 250 Elkins commissions, many previously unknown. Powell has gathered the most definitive images of Elkins’s interiors, as well as her extensive correspondence with the leading designers, artists, and creatives of her day.