Tradition Meets Modernity: The Southern California Legacy of Interior Designer Frances Elkins
Please join us for cocktails and conversation on this ground-breaking female designer, who Billy Baldwin called “the most creative designer we ever had.”
In this presentation, writer Scott Powell will discuss the wide-ranging influence of interior designer Frances Elkins (1887-1953), placing particular focus on her work in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. Frances Elkins has been revered for her classic, erudite, and multidimensional decor. Through association with her architect brother David Adler as well as her own intensive studies and travels abroad Elkins was thoroughly trained in classical principles. She reached the top of her profession in the 1930s and was considered the only rival to decorator Elsie de Wolfe. Elkins collaborated with noted southern California architects including George Washington Smith, Roland Coate, Wallace Neff, George Kaufmann, Reginald Johnson, and Lutah Maria Riggs, and drew upon the talents of Los Angeles-based artist Tony Duquette and weaver Maria Kipp. Her residential interiors in the region encompassed film star and movie mogul mansions, and the homes of old-money families, while her public commissions in the region included many famous hotels as well as the Los Angeles Turf Club at Santa Anita Park. Powell will illustrate these carefully planned and distinctively sophisticated interiors with rare images not shown in his book or in other talks.
Scott Powell’s new book Frances Elkins: Visionary American Designer showcases more than sixty interiors by the grande dame of early twentieth-century design. The result of more than 20 years of research, the book illustrates the outstanding sense of color and gift of mixing periods and styles Elkins brought to her interiors, and why she continues to influence new generations of designers —from her early work on the Monterey Peninsula, to houses she designed with her brother in Chicago in the 1920s and 1930s, to iconic hotel commissions such as the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Honolulu, to homes for film star Edward G. Robinson, banking heiress Celia Tobin Clark and advertising legend Albert Lasker. With images by top photographers of the day as well as newly commissioned images of extant Elkins interiors, this volume serves as a revelation and inspiration to fans of design.
Since 2002, Scott Powell has been researching the career of Frances Elkins with a multi-volume book in mind. He has documented over 250 Elkins commissions, many of them previously unknown. His research includes close contact with Elkins family members and clients, ongoing review of her project files and photo archives throughout the U.S., and visits to extant Elkins commissions on the West Coast. His interest in Elkins has also led to the acquisition of furniture, textiles, wall coverings and many unpublished period photographs related to her 35-year career. Studying Elkins combines his interests in classical and modern architecture, interior design, landscape design, photography, California history, Hollywood’s two Golden Ages (the silent era and the first three decades of sound film), and textiles.
Scott Powell was born in Palo Alto and raised on the San Francisco Peninsula and on Monterey Bay. He studied journalism at San Francisco State University and City College of San Francisco, and completed extensive coursework in the interior design program at UC Berkeley Extension, including Prof. Malcolm Gutter’s antiques and decorative arts class. Powell has worked as a radio producer, creating and co-producing the international radio series “If You Love This Planet” hosted by Helen Caldicott, M.D. from 2008 to 2012. He was a contributing writer to two books by Dr. Caldicott, and has written articles for The Advocate magazine.
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