When our hosts arrived energetically to pick us up, their air of excitement told me this was not just going to be a garden tour. Instinctually, I made the dash back to my room to grab a suitable sport coat. And thank God.
The experience of arriving at Casa Amesti, the former Monterey, California home of Frances Adler Elkins, was akin to the first time one sees a great work of art. The first time I stood at the base of Winged Victory, or stared up at Picasso’s Guernica, and understood suddenly what all the fuss was about.
Now a private club, Casa Amesti was built in the 1830’s in the traditional adobe style colonial architecture. Once inside it is a world unto itself, fortress like, but with the flirtatious air of a movie set. Grace Kelly could have turned the corner in a hoop-skirt at any moment, ready to make her entrance in High Noon. With high walls, artistic flair, modern considerations, and epic elegance, the deluge of good taste began…
Three of the rooms in the house, the “museum rooms,” are preserved as Mrs. Elkins left them, listed by National Trust for Historic Preservation. Her sensibility and the lasting improvements made on the house are everywhere. Her famous Giacometti lighting still in its place, and by contrast, her basket chandeliers. Her china and crystal still reside in the butlers’ pantry. Smartly dressed gentlemen played cards in several of the rooms, seemingly unaware of our presence.
The drawing room makes a bold impression. On the second floor, it is a testament to the design talent of Mrs. Elkins, and the true meaning of the word modern. Every piece has a function. Wingchairs by the fire. A partners desk anchors the room – and a Jean Michel Frank coffee table sits in front of a print sofa. A single chair floats perfectly by the window - the obvious choice for an afternoon of reading. Mrs. Elkins' chicer-than-anything blue and white Chinese rugs still grace the creaking floors. Space. Thoughtfulness. Flow. Style. Balance. These are the fundamentals…take a note from Mrs. Elkins inside and out.
A must read on Frances Elkins is Frances Elkins: Interior Design by Stephen Salny.
-Written by Matthew Kowles.