Frances Elkins, light years ahead of her time

I haven’t even finished reading “Francis Elkins, Interior Design”, but I already need to rave about her. I also feel the need to share a few images.

This dressing room belongs to the lady of the house, from a private residence in San Francisco. Her use of silver tea paper, mirrors and glass is ultra glamorous and incredibly chic. Take a moment to think about how modern, or at least current this room is. It was decorated in 1937. Stunning.

Card room with adjoining bar from the same residence. Her use of colour and materials here is superb. The Elkins designed “spider” chairs are timeless.

This entrance hall is from a residence in New York, decorated in 1931. It may not look like anything special, but even in black and white it clearly shows the unique floor – a geometric pattern of steel inlaid into ebonized oak. I’ve never seen this done before.

Does this image look familiar anyone? Clue: think Miles Redd…(see image below). Elkins was a master at dressing rooms, as this image will attest. Ultra glam all the way.

In the wrong hands metallic silver walls in a bedroom could look cold and uninviting, but Elkins makes this bedroom look rich, warm and full of character. Teaming it with gold of course helps. This room is in an Illinois residence, decorated in 1929.

From the same residence, this time in the library. Elkins has covered the walls with sheets of Hermès goat skin (parchment) and has used a Jean-Michel Frank leather sofa and lacquered coffee table in a tortoise-shell finish (barely visible at the bottom). To me this room is absolutely timeless. And not only is it ultra stylish, it also looks ultra comfortable.

From the same residence (lucky people!), the ladies dressing room in their tennis house (now that’s money…). An ode to Frank in a not so subtle way – walls are paneled in wood with mirror bands and the dressing table is covered in shagreen.

Frances Elkins undoubtedly paved the way for modern designers today like Kelly Wearstler by creating interiors that were a clever blend of styles, periods and genres. It is hard to appreciate her skill and it only becomes obvious when you think about how rooms were decorated in that era, and how modern these interiors still look today. One particular room that shocked me was a restaurant with polished concrete floors – not because of its uniqueness, but because it was created in 1941!

Elkins actively promoted the work of Jean-Michel Frank and his associates (the Giacometti brothers) in the USA, and was one of the first decorators to commission Tony Duquette to produce pieces for her interiors. She mixed in great circles – some of her friends included Salvador Dali, Coco Chanel and Syrie Maugham.

This will definitely be a book in my library that I will go back to time after time after time.

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