Top Interior Designers: Marion Hall Best
Renowned for her adventurous use of vibrant color and exquisite sophistication, Marion Hall Best will forever be remembered as a true pioneer in the world of interior design. Born on April 13, 1905, the New South Wales native was the youngest of her four siblings, donning the nickname “Youngie” throughout the course of her remarkable life.
Before she discovered her passion for interiors, Marion trained as a nurse at the Coast Hospital in her hometown of Dubbo, New South Wales. In 1927, she married the love of her life and respected dentist, John Victor Hall Best. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, Marion attended embroidery classes to enhance her sense of textures and fabrics perfect her attention to detail. In 1929, Marion put her talents to the test. She decorated her first space at Farleigh, her mother’s house in Palm Beach, Australia, where she spent many of her summers growing up. Her familiarly with the interior inspired her vision, where she combined white walls and yellow ceilings with her furniture of her own style and design.
Marion’s personal flare was vastly influenced by the simplicity of her coastal lifestyle and her mother’s use of color in her childhood home, perfectly harmonizing to craft a distinct look of her own. Her unique eye was praised by many, leading her to create even more fabulous spaces worldwide. She went on to design the Elanora Country Club, the Queen’s Club, the Royal Exchange Club and the repatriation hospital Berida, at Bowral. She strived for three-dimensional portrayal of bold colors, which became her signature. Marion wanted to further her knowledge of design in all aspects, attending lectures in architecture at the University of Sydney in 1938 and completing a correspondence course in interior design from New York. These courses donned her a more professional, reputable brand which inspired her work on colored isometric projects, and gave her a newfound appreciation for architects, eventually employing them in her own business.
Following her family’s move to Queen Street, Woollahra, Marion opened her retail business Marion Best Pty Ltd, established in 1938. One successful decade later, Marion added a smaller ship in Sydney, winning her large commercial commissions such as a new block of flats on the esteemed Elizabeth Street. A slim, smartly dressed woman, she was vivacious and generous. Although small in stature, Marion had incredible energy. She worked tirelessly during the war at the Havilland Aircraft factory, and continued to push her business forward despite times of hardship. After the war, Marion Hall Best expanded her client base to a broader audience. She became sought after for her “Classic Modern” and “Young Modern” interiors, landing her features in home and lifestyle magazines that reached thousands of readers.
A slim, smartly dressed woman, she was vivacious and generous, with incredible energy. Marion Hall Best led the David Jones Art Gallery in 1947-48; helped to found the Society of Interior Designers of Australia in 1951; and addressed a conference of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects in 1956. Her residential and commercial creations flourished in the 1960s and 1970s, where she designed the ‘20th Century room for the Rare and Beautiful Things exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, a room for Mary Quant, a room for Mr Peter Sculthorpe, Moonbah Ski Lodge, and many other fabulous interiors.
Marion’s revolutionary spirit and passionate risk taking paid off, making her an inspiring visionary design lovers will praise forever. Her vivacious interiors were awe admiring, locking our gaze through glazed painted finished, uplifting color and eccentric patterns. Marion Hall Best embodied modernism in design through her career, which was a new concept during her time. Her shops in Sydney and Woollahra brought joy to so many, and inspired local and international design profession.Examples of her work are held by the Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales, Sydney, and the Australian National Gallery, Canberra.
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