PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity May 2024 Dallas

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Page 103 of 115

F or more than three decades — from 1918, when she launched her design career in California, until 1953, when she died in San Francisco — the prodigiously talented interior decorator Frances Adler Elkins ruled the international style world and influenced generations of designers. Her signatures included silver-leaf ceilings, Hermès goatskin upholstered walls, V'soske custom carpets, simple cotton muslin curtains with couture-level craftsmanship and custom trim, neoclassical decor with modern art, and the heady opulence of 18th-century Venetian antiques with hand-woven silk velvet. Working from the all-white interiors of her Monterey atelier in a former sardine-canning warehouse on a pier with the Pacific Ocean lapping beneath, she introduced the avant-garde furniture of Jean- Michel Frank and Diego Giacometti to America in the early '30s. With her vast repertoire of specialized ateliers, Elkins limned a dazzling array of influential interiors for clients in Paris, Venice, Chicago, Biarritz, Montecito, Pebble Beach, New York, Illinois, Hawaii, and Los Angeles. Her mastery of luxurious classicism and inventive modern decor has deeply delighted leading interior designers, from Michael Taylor and Charlotte Moss to Michael S. Smith and the late Suzanne Rheinstein. B orn in Milwaukee as Frances Adler in 1888, Elkins was sent to finishing schools in Paris and Switzerland, where she studied design and the arts. She spent summers studying art history in Italy and spoke French, Italian, and German fluently. Thanks to her cosmopolitan family, who took grand tours of the Continent annually, she was at home on transatlantic liners and in grand hotels. Her generous banker father funded Elkins and her brother, renowned architect David Adler, to live and study in Paris in the early 1900s, where they crossed paths with Picasso, Matisse, and Gertrude Stein, and became life-long Francophiles. Upon graduation, David Adler, who was six years older than Frances, launched his architectural career in Chicago in 1912. The siblings began collaborating on residential projects, first restoring and then decorating Elkins' classic Monterey adobe Casa Amesti. Over three decades, they collaborated on more than 20 projects including a private club, hotels, city apartments, and country houses. Their most striking work together was the 1932 ground-up residence for Mrs. Kersey Coates Reed in Lake Forest, Illinois, north of Chicago. Notably, the library with walls paneled in Hermès goatskin leather is still in place, and the decor of the Tennis House guest JESS SMITH/PHOTOSMITH ALL IMAGES FROM FRANCES ELKINS: VISIONARY AMERICAN DESIGNER, RIZZOLI, 2023 There Ever Was The International Influence and Continuing Inspiration of Frances Elkins By Diane Dorrans Saeks The GREATEST DESIGNER Mrs. Kersey Coates Reed tennis house, ladies dressing room, Lake Forest, Illinois, 1929-1932. 102

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