Scott Powell, Independent Author
In this presentation, Scott Powell will discuss the wide-ranging influence of interior designer Frances Elkins (1887-1953), who worked primarily in California, Illinois and New York. This special lecture for the ADAF will place particular emphasis on her work in the San Francisco Bay Area. Elkins frequently collaborated with northern California architects Gardner Dailey, William Wurster, Clarence Tantau, Lewis Hobart, and Robert Stanton, among others. She drew upon the talents of the San Francisco based weaver Dorothy Liebes, subject of a new book and a summer 2023 exhibit at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum. Elkins championed many San Francisco and Monterey Bay Area artists, including Myron Oliver, Francis and Gene McComas, the three Bruton sisters, and Jane Berlandina. Her residential interiors in the region encompassed San Francisco mansions, cliffside Belvedere houses, large Peninsula estates and Mid-Century Modern ranch houses. Her public commissions included three buildings at the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition; iconic San Francisco hotels, shops and restaurants; and country clubs on both sides of the Bay. Frances's work incorporated all manner of decorative arts, including fine European and American antiques, French modernist furniture and lamps; Asian and Mexican ceramics; historic and modern textiles; 17th to 19th century European paintings; and modern art. Powell will emphasize how thoroughly trained Elkins was in classical principles, not only through association with her architect brother David Adler, but also through her own intensive studies and travels abroad.
Scott Powell has been researching Frances Elkins since 2002, working closely with Elkins’ family members and clients. To date, he has documented over 250 Elkins commissions, many of them previously unknown. His interest has also led to the acquisition of furniture, textiles, wall coverings and many unpublished period photographs related to Elkins’ 35-year career. This summer, his book, Frances Elkins: A Visionary American Designer was published by Rizzoli. Born in Palo Alto and raised on the San Francisco and Monterey Bay Peninsulas, Scott studied journalism at San Francisco State University and City College of San Francisco, followed by extensive coursework in the interior design program at UC Berkeley Extension. His research into Elkins’ remarkable career combines his interests in classical and modern architecture, interior design, textiles, landscape design, photography, California history, and Hollywood’s two Golden Ages (the silent era and the first three decades of sound film).