PROPERTY FROM THE KERSEY COATES REED HOUSE
LAKE FOREST, ILLINOIS
AFTERNOON SESSION AT 2:00 P.M.
'Don't let us make this a stuffy house' - This was the request of Mrs. Kersey Coates Reed when she engaged David Adler and his sister, Frances Elkins, to create her summer residence overlooking Lake Michigan in the early 1930s. The result would not disappoint. Both Adler and Elkins were celebrated leaders in their respective fields of architecture and interior design and they had already partnered on other projects. From its inception, the Reed house has been acclaimed as one of their most successful collaborations. As typical of their working relationship, the Reed house demonstrates Adler's propensity toward classicism as balanced by Elkins tendencies toward the avant garde, producing an innovative and energized result. The Reed house is truly a timeless work of beauty: a brilliant juxtaposition of traditional Georgian and 1930s modern aesthetics.
It was David Adler (1882-1949), with his Beaux-Arts training who informed his younger sister Frances Elkins (1888-1953) in classical design. After his education in Paris, he based his architectural practice in Chicago. Elkins settled in Monterey, California with her husband where she transformed her own 1830s adobe house Casa Amesti into the showpiece that launched her career. Although Elkins has only recently gained wide recognition for her talent, she has always been considered a legend within the design world. Billy Baldwin once called her 'the most creative decorator we ever had, and perhaps the greatest', and Michael Taylor, her greatest disciple, celebrated her 'pure genius'.
The house was initially commissioned by Helen Shedd Reed, the daughter of John G. Shedd, president of Marshall Field, and her husband, Kersey Coates Reed, director of Field's department store and an attorney. Their discussions to build the house began by early 1929 but Kersey Reed died unexpectedly in that same year. Mrs. Reed continued to collaborate with Adler and the Georgian style fieldstone house was under construction by 1931.
The interiors of the Reed house reveal the unmistakable touch of Elkins. Built within a classic symmetrical layout, mirrored rooms, geometric steel-inlaid ebony floors, and the twisted glass balustrade of the main staircase are just some of the unique details that lend an element of modernity and surprise to an inherently Georgian design.
Each room makes a very individual statement. 'The cool glamour that greeted you the second you stepped into the entrance vestibule' was acknowledged by Mark Hampton fifty years later. This entrance hall is a study in black and white. It is flanked by the iconic Womens Dressing Room lined in bolection-bordered mirrored panels and paved with its steel-inset ebony floor. The spare Mens Dressing Room has an inset mural by Giacometti and parchment-covered furniture by Jean-Michel Frank, a friend of Elkins, who provided other furniture for the house. A selection of these pieces was sold by Christie's in June of 2003.
The Gallery is noted for its vast elegant proportions, a continuation of black and white which culminate in the massive black marble Ionic columns framing the spiraling staircase with its alternating glass twisted balusters and Moroccan carpeted steps.
The downstairs Guest Bedroom is papered in silver-foil, a backdrop for the pair of ivory beds and a selection of silvered furniture purchased in Europe. By contrast, the library walls are covered in rich buttery Hermès leather as supplied by Jean-Michel Frank and Adolphe Chanaux in juxtaposition with woodwork imported from Grove House, an English country house in Surrey. The dining room provides a sumptuous backdrop of Chinese wallpaper framed by Adler's inventive fretwork paneling.
Mrs. Reed's daughter's bedroom is also furnished in the Chinese style with its hand-painted wallpaper and Regency style bed with faux-bamboo uprights designed by Frances Elkins's close friend Syrie Maugham.
Adler and Elkins worked closely together, purchasing much of the furniture, fabrics and papers in Europe - primarily London and Paris. While the records are incomplete, there are a small number of invoices, and shipping lists that show the frequency of shipments, particularly from London. No less than eight shipments are recorded between 1932 and the spring of 1933. Sadly, some of the more iconic pieces that are original to the house do not appear among these extant papers and so their purchase history remains unknown.
The property has remained virtually intact for all these years since its original inception. The house and its contents were purchased by the current vendor in 1976 following Mrs. Reed's death. Now that the house has been sold again, Christie's is honored to be entrusted with the sale of this historic property. In the words of Dianna L. Monie, Executive Director of the David Adler Cultural Center: 'This is the end of an era. A piece of history is now being placed in the hands of others and it is my hope that they will continue to cherish and preserve a lasting legacy to Frances and her brother, David.'
LITERATURE WHICH FEATURES THE KERSEY COATES REED HOUSE
AND ILLUSTRATES VARIOUS LOTS IN THE SALE
R. Pratt, David Adler, The Architect and His Work, M. Evans & Company, New York, 1970
M. Hampton, Legendary Decorators of the Twentieth Century, New York, 1992.
S. M. Salny, The Country Houses of David Adler, W. W. Norton & Company, New York, 2001
M. Thorne, ed., David Adler Architect: The Elements of Style, The Art Institute of Chicago with Yale University Press, New Haven, 2002
L. Goff, Stone Houses: Colonial to Contemporary, Harry N. Abrams, Boston, 2002
K. Coventry, D. Meyer and A. Miller, Classic Country Estates of Lake Forest, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 2003
S. E. Cohen & S. S. Benjamin, North Shore Chicago. Houses of the Lakefront Suburb 1890-1940, Acanthus Press, New York, 2004
S. M. Salny, Frances Elkins: Interior Design, W. W. Norton & Company, New York, 2005
A. O. Patterson, 'On the High Bluffs of Lake Forest near Chicago', Town and Country, 15 January 1934, pp. 20-25
S. M. Salny, 'Historic Interiors: Frances Elkins. A Surviving Example of the Noted Designer's Work', Architectural Digest, July 1980, pp. 87-91
Architectural Digest ('One Hundred Years of Design'), April 1999, p. 330
S. M. Salny, 'Frances Elkins: A Forward-Looking Icon of European Chic and American Style', Architectural Digest ('Interior Design Legends'), January 2000, pp. 164-167
S. M. Salny, 'Country Estates by David Adler', Chicago ('The 30 Most Beautiful Houses'), March 2000, D. Rodkin, pp. 70-71
D. Kowalski, 'Symmetry and Splendor: David Adler sets the stage for gracious living', Architectural Digest, April 2001, pp. 282-283
Cititalk, 27 September-10 October 2002, pp. 6-10
'I have always felt strongly that we should use our own creative force to express our own era. I felt that, as our needs were different, we should liberate ourselves from European ideas and spirit and design articles suitable to our own way of life.'
- Frances Elkins
'Delightfully done and by far the best house of its kind that I have ever seen.'
- Henry Francis du Pont, 1933
'I was simply astonished by its perfection, by the impeccable finesse with which traditional Anglo-American decoration and up-to-the-minute thirties design had been combined.
You can imagine the many layers of style and design that, woven together, made up the extraordinary luxury, glamour and chic of this American house built on the shores of Lake Michigan sixty years ago and decorated in a way that, over the years, was never outdated and today would make headlines as a new, fresh interpretation of everything that is thought to be strong, architectural, and beautiful.'
- Mark Hampton, 1992
(Legendary Decorators of the 20th Century)
'The Kersey Coates Reed house is without a doubt the greatest collaboration between David Adler and Frances Elkins. She was avant-garde, he was a traditionalist. He tempered her. Nothing touches this house both architecturally and interior-wise. It is one of the greatest houses in the United States.'
- Stephen M. Salny
Author of The Country Houses of David Adler and Frances Elkins: Interior Design