Best Friends for Frances

Frances Elkins arrived by post on Monday, swaddled in brown paper, and promptly changed my life.  It may be a week, a month, a year of Elkins, but for now, here is the dining room of Mr. and Mrs. Kersey Coates Reed, Lake Forest, Illinois, 1929.  This room came up last week (and you can see the later version of the room here) and many readers referred to the room as Elkins originally designed it.

The hidden door and the camouflage screen are both there, but indeed, no chandelier (and certainly not two) and then there are the wonderful bamboo chairs.  And, yes, if Mrs. Elkins sat next to me on a plane, I do think we would be friends.

Image from Frances Elkins Interior Design by Stephen M. Salny; photography by Luis Medina.

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10 thoughts on “Best Friends for Frances

  1. OH , I would hope it would be a three seater……Ms Elkins in the middle. There might be a muzzle involved. It would only be used on me!

    and……You would ask her polite questions……and I would listen…….and not talk………..(because of the muzzle)

    The woman was so brilliant… is the author of that book……he also wrote a book about her brother; David Adler…the best architect…….arguably of the century!


    I met him at the Pacific Design center…… at West week a few years ago……..before the r word……which is really the d word…..and the design center is going to become an office building…..

    OH well……we decorators are happy to have jobs!


  2. I wrote the best comment……it disappeared. I will write more in a few days.

    this is a perfect example of the difference between McMansions……and lovely houses…..the "Look at ME and Be impressed!!"

    and the understated elegance of that dining room with the bamboo furniture to keep it down….keep it comfortable…..

    that antique Chinese hand-painted wallpaper today is worth millions……and, could a client afford it…..I would still pair it with understated bamboo dining chairs……

    Her brilliance cannot be overstated! and they both got it! Her brother David Adler…..and she!

    So glad Steven Salny wrote the books about them!


  3. And those are definitely some very impressive chandeliers. But the simplicity of the first edition with the great bamboo chairs allows the wall paper to be front and center–love! Mary

  4. Thank you for sharing both images. So interesting to see the differences. I think the bamboo chairs look close to the color of the new chairs you brought home this week. Hmmm…

    Who wouldn't want to eat bread & jam with Frances in the space? Or run away and hide under the dining room table in this room?

    I will admit, I don't hate the chandelier.

  5. Hard to believe that was 1929. Is that a sculptured rug? The bamboo must have been daring those days, unless you could see water from the room. Ann

  6. You always have the best tricks up your sleeve… how totally interesting! I love this room. I love those walls! They need so little to finish the room…

  7. Penny – it is a great book – more next week. And, yes, the three of us on a plane would be a blast. Champagne is a must.

    Mary and Emily – she did use similar chandeliers in other projects – though the absence here does put the focus on the walls. Which I love.

    Nutbird – it is a sculptured rug and yes, I do think the chairs were quite daring. In fact, so much of what we think of as given now are due to her daring.

  8. That sculptured rug is by the very great Marian Dorn, who was among the brilliant and creative designers that Elkins used. This photo, incidentally, was commissioned by Mrs. Coates' grandson, Peter Reed of MOMA, after her death, to record the house before it was dismantled, and though a little stiffly styled, it shows exactly that sometimes, it's not what you put in a room, but what you leave out…

    oh, those bone colored T'ang horses! And oh that rug….

    This, the silver leafed guest room, and the leather walled library are as good as rooms get.

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