The interior designer, Frances Elkins was exceptional in that she combined American styles with European classical style to create a unique blend. She was one of the early female designers to succeed in the art of interior decoration. Her masterpieces have secured an exalted position for her in the minds of designers and art lovers.
Frances Adler Elkins was one of those legendary decorators of the early 20th century and was renowned for her inspired designs. Elkins was born in 1888 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and is the younger sister of the celebrated Chicago architect David Adler (1882-1949). David Adler was an architect specialized in the French architecture movement know as The Beaux Arts, and both Adler and Elkins worked together in Chicago and the Bay Area from the 1920s to 1930s. Some of her works in the Bay Area includes interior designing of Yerba Buena Club at the Golden Gate International Exposition and the 1939 fair at Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay. Her designs integrate the prevailing style of various places with changing timeline in history, and ranges from country French to Chinoiserie to art deco.
In the beginning she was influenced by the works of Jean-Michel Frank who is a French interior and furniture designer, and Alberto Giacometti, a sculptor who designed fixtures. She promoted these designers through her California-based interior design business established in 1918.
Elkin’s career started when she and her husband Felton moved to Monterey, California where they purchased the historic abode Casa Amesti and transformed it into a masterpiece in architecture with their diverse architectural styles and periodic transformations. She showed exceptional talent in interior designs with classical details such as a dentil cornice and fluted door casings being added to the plastered wall and plank ceilings of the residence. Elkins had her own design principles which she tried first in the dwelling itself by arranging various English, French and Chinese furnishings on the polished redwood floors. She had a special affection for white, blue and yellow colors.
Elkin’s creativity was enhanced by her friends who often urged her to decorate their homes. Her initial masterpieces include the clubhouse of Cypress Point Club which she designed in 1930. The same period saw her reputation spreading to San Francisco where she was the chosen interior designer for the city’s famous families such as the Haases and the Zellerbachs. The Zellerbach mansion in Broadway contains some of Elkin’s original designs. She was one of the architects among the trio who was elected by the San Francisco society. Her interior design works have influenced designers such as Michael Taylor.
Her usage of colors within her interior design schemes were accepted with great enthusiasm during the early periods of the twentieth century, due to the unique style and fineness she had incorporated into her works. Her contemporary furnishings have the combination of fine antiques blended into them and the combination set a trend in the ‘eclectic’ style which had become popular ever since. Her designs stood ahead of the time they were designed and attract art lovers even today.