Wednesday, 10 October 2007

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.


girl meets glamour said...

Beautiful work and great post, I love all the images, I think I'm going to have to get this book. Thanks for sharing.


Brilliant Asylum said...

I must get this book. I have a thing for dressing rooms and closets and this top image is beautiful (and probably the reason Windex was invented). Great post!

Things That Inspire said...

I love the idea of timeless interiors. It is amazing that these were done in the thirties and remain appealing even today. Is this because of the resurgence of interest in 30s decor, or is it because they are timeless? What do you think?

franki durbin said...

From 1937? Are you serious? They look so of-the-moment. I realize we are in the throes of our looking back moment in style, but this is really on-point for her time. And to count CoCo and Dali amongst're right, that's mixing in great circles!

What a lovely discovery. Definitely a book Ill have to add to my library. Wonderful!

Suzy said...

Hi Kate, glad you enjoyed! I wasn't sure if I would get into trouble for copyright violation for posting a few images, but if it makes a few people go out and buy a copy I don't feel too guilty. It's a great book, I really recommend it.

Suzy said...

BA - there are a few other special dressing rooms in the book, and I could have done a whole post about them, but I thought it best to leave some suprises. You should definitely get the book!

Suzy said...

That's a great question TTI, I think it may be both. These interiors to me don't scream 30's or Deco which is partly why they are so timeless, that and the colours and furniture selected are beyond chic.

Suzy said...

They're quite incredible aren't they Franki - I really didn't know much about Elkins before I bought the book, so it was a very pleasant suprise. I really recommend getting the book!

ALL THE BEST said...

Off to find this book...I can't believe that room was decorated in 1937, it’s so fantastic!! Thank you for sharing these great photos!

Suzy said...

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did ATB!

katiedid said...

Just so timeless! That second photo looks like it could have been in the latest magazine! Thanks for the look-see!

KMF said...

u have beautifull shots
and i love your dream house
have a nice day

studio wellspring said...

ms.elkins is an inspirational lady in every way.
we have this book at work , but i haven't bought it for myself yet. maybe it'll go on the holiday wish list. ;o)
btw ~ from one "studio" to another, i love your blog!

Suzy said...

Thanks KMF!

Suzy said...

Thanks Studio Wellspring, I will check out your blog!