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PaperCity May 2024 Dallas

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accommodation remains as it was in the '30s. In Honolulu in 1916, Elkins met Felton Broomall Elkins, a polo-playing millionaire, whom she married in 1918. They settled in Monterey, three hours south of San Francisco, and undertook the restoration of Casa Amesti, a historic adobe of great charm, with David Adler. By the time Elkins completed the renovation, her marriage was over. "Imagine a young woman with a young daughter in 1922, and her husband had fallen by the wayside," says design author Stephen Salny, who wrote the first monograph on Elkins, published by W.W. Norton in 2005. "She had to figure out how to support herself. By the time she'd finished her stylish remodel of Casa Amesti, her friends were building houses in nearby Pebble Beach, and they clamored to have her help with the interiors." The social set of San Francisco — old-money families looking for weekend coastal escapes and golf courses close to home — were drawn to the dramatic coastline of Pebble Beach and soon snapped up all the best Pacific-view sites. Elkins, with her European sensibility, impeccable client list, and professionalism, was their chosen designer. Her stylish friends, plus golf courses, privacy, and handsome houses appealed to Hollywood stars such as Clark Gable and Mary Pickford, as well as European royalty, including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor Elkins' superb interiors, social connections, and celebrity clients soon attracted New York magazine editors. Her rooms were captured by top photographers including Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Cecil Beaton, George Hoyningen-Huene, Maynard Parker, and André Kertész. "Frances Elkins' design looks fresh and startlingly current," Salny says. "Some of her rooms, with white plaster tables and sconces and glossy lacquerwork, look avant-garde even today." California design historian Scott Powell — whose monograph Frances Elkins: Visionary American Designer was published last year by Rizzoli — says "From the auspicious beginning of her career, Frances Elkins was creating rooms with perfection of proportions and harmony … All Elkins rooms, even grand ballrooms and formal dining rooms, were designed with the intimacy of a human scale." Her decor was polished and always at a couture level, with great subtlety. If there were leather wall coverings, they were rare goatskin by Hermès. If there was trim, it was handcrafted silk from Paris. Hand-printed fabrics were by Fortuny. Carpets and fabrics were custom. Every detail was couture-level. Powell, who has been researching Elkins' life and career for more than 20 years, admires her methodology. "For three decades, Frances Elkins worked from her simple studio in Monterey with just one assistant," he says. "In the Monterey area and in San Francisco, she developed a top-quality roster of upholsterers, lamp crafters, curtain makers, and specialists with esoteric talents to carve and gild frames, hang paintings, build cabinetry. She worked with California textile specialist Dorothy Liebes to custom-craft avant-garde carpets and woven fabrics. In Paris, she worked with "F rances Elkins' work transcended convention. Hers was a world of rarefied clients for whom she created original designs with sophisticated elegance. Her rooms were functionally profound and visually enchanting. To this day, I study her work, her sense of balance, her obvious restraint, and her exquisitely edited eye for design." — Suzanne Tucker MAYNARD L. PARKER, COURTESY THE HUNTINGTON LIBRARY SAN MARINO, CA COURTESY DAVID S. BOYD Above: Mr. and Mrs. Sol Wurtzel powder room, Bel Air, California, 1933-1939. Left: Frances Elkins in her office at the Robert Stevenson House, circa 1940. 103

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