Frances WHO

Sep 21, 2011 | Designs and Designers

Frances Elkins

Frances Adler Elkins (1888-1953) was a legendary decorator of the early 20th century. Her eclectic integration of various periods and styles, from French country to chinoiserie to art deco featuring avant-garde furnishings, created timeless interiors that were modern and fresh, but still retained a classic traditional style.

Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Frances Elkins was the younger sister of renowned Chicago architect David Adler (1882-1949). When Adler was studying architecture at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris from 1908-11, Elkins accompanied him and they traveled throughout Europe. They met many avant-garde artisans. Elkins was especially drawn to and inspired by the work of the French interior and furniture designer Jean-Michel Frank, and the Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti. Both with whom she would later collaborate and promote. David Adler was the greatest influence on the young designer, and as her tutor, Adler’s mastery of classical design set a standard that would remain throughout her career.

Casa Amesti via Architectural Digest

Frances Elkins’ career began in 1918 after she and her husband, Felton, purchased a rundown 1834 adobe called Casa Amesti in Monterey, California. In what would be the first of many collaborations, Frances Elkins and David Adler transformed Casa Amesti into a masterpiece in architecture and design. Elkins and Adler’s integration of diverse architectural styles and period pieces made Casa Amesti distinctive and original.

Casa Amesti via HGTV

After the fabulous renovation of Casa Amesti, Frances Elkins began decorating friends’ homes in Monterey and Pebble Beach. As her reputation spread, she was commissioned to design many prominent private and public spaces, including the Cypress Point Club and Yerba Buena Club. Elkins was the exclusive importer of Jean-Michel Frank and Alberto Giacometti designs and the first to import country French furnishings. By 1927, Elkins established her own workshop of extraordinary craftsmen, which produced Frances Elkins designs as well as Elkins’ interpretations of fine antique forms in furniture, lighting and accessories.

Frances Elkins and David Adler collaborated on 16 prominent residences and frequently traveled together on European buying trips during the 1920s-1940s. While Adler was meticulous and reserved, Elkins was vivacious and chic. Their combined talents and styles produced some of America’s most elegant and timeless interiors. Most notably, the Mrs. Kersey Coates Reed house on Chicago’s North Shore. The Reed house exemplified the symmetry, balance and elegance of Elkins and Adler while bridging the traditional and avant-garde.

The Reed House via David Adler, Architect: The Elements of Style

The Loop Chair

CIRCA 1770 chairs via The Magazine Antiques

Frances Elkins is notoriously associated with the iconic Loop Chair. The often refered to as the ‘Elkins Loop Chair’, was hailed “The ‘It’ Chair” by The Magazine Antiques. The Elkins version of the Loop Chair was inspired by an 18th Century chair. Elkins is known to have created only eight in the early 1930s for two private commissions (4 for Evelyn Marshall Field and 4 for Mr. and Mrs. Leslie Wheeler). The Wheeler chairs were sold to a neighbor at an estate sale in the 1960s and again by Sotheby’s in 2009. While not an original Elkins design, the Loop Chair exemplifies Frances Elkins’ timeless blending of fine antiques with the avant-garde and solidifies her contributions to 20th Century American design.

Frances Elkins’ Loop Chairs in the Wheeler House via The Magazine Antiques


Inspired Reading…



CIRCA WHO Item # 5519

Set of 6 VINTAGE Loop Chairs

How do you CIRCA WHO?


via New York Social Diary



via Architectural Digest



via Elle Decor



via New York Social Diary


via Architectural Digest



via New York Social Diary

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TV: SamsungChair: Palecek, in Peter Fasano fabricLight: Shades from the Midnight SunWallcovering: Schumacher (foyer).


Every appliance is concealed by painted paneling. Counter stools: Artistic FramePendants: Weplight, with Radish Moon fabricBacksplash: Tiles of Ezra.

Breakfast nook

Bowman chose a seafoam green for the spot where the family enjoys casual meals. Wallcovering: Phillip JeffriesChandelier: Julie NeillChairs: Design Within Reach, in Pierre Frey fabricTable: custom.

Dining Room

Bunk Room

Bowman turned a tiny space into a spare bedroom for the children’s friends. Floor tile: Mirth StudioWallcovering: ThibautPaint: Cloud White (trim, bunks) and In Your Eyes (ceiling), Benjamin Moore.

Girl’s Room

The room was decorated so that (optimistically) it will last through her teen years. Paint: Sprout, Sherwin-WilliamsWallcovering: Pacific Designs International (ceiling). Nightstand: Chelsea TextilesSconces: PalecekCurtains: Lisa Fine TextilesBedding: MatoukBed: Coley Home.

Primary Bathroom


Painted cement tile by Sabine Hill and Perennials performance fabric can withstand post-pool hangouts. Paint: Marry Me (cabinets), Benjamin MooreWallcovering: Pacific Designs InternationalSofa: vintage.


Pool House

Shutters painted in Pink Cloud by Benjamin Moore are a subtle departure from the neighboring homes—yet still wholly Floridian.