historical sf decorator maven: frances elkins (1888-1953)

“independent, revolutionary, avant garde” is one description given to frances elkins in her prime. her office in san francisco drew some of the most illustrious society names in the city to her door. her portfolio included commissions from choicest clients ~ from the albert laskers, to the james d. and richard zellerbachs, the marshall fields, the albert schlesingers and in hollywood the david o. selznicks and the edward g. robinsons.
“frances elkins was a chic arbiter of taste,” concludes stephen salny in his 2005 comprehensive monograph of the decorator’s work frances elkins interior design (norton). she was an ingenious orchestrator of color, using mustard yellow damask for curtains, for example, piped and lined in wedgewood blue, with crenelated valances. she would fearlessly match a hand-painted chinese wallpaper with a contemporary carpet made in portugal for a dining room furnished with chippendale and sheraton antiques, and accessorized with picasso and mexican ceramic vases. conventional rules about what goes with what were tossed out, just what the next generation of san francisco decorators was looking for. and this peak of chic, mid-century style remains the creme de la creme today.
{an elkins game room for the zellerbachs was later restored for norah and norman stone. sfgate}

{two images of an elkins interior shows the designer’s penchant for an american country aesthetic that was inspired by english country homes emboldened with her favorite blue and white accents. sfgate}

{an elkins dining room. sfgate}

below are several highly sought after furniture pieces frances elkins designed. found on christies, ebay, vol1 antiques, and downtown inc.

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