Marion Hall Best was an Interior Design legend in her own luridly coloured lifetime. She was one of the first professionals to call herself an Interior Designer rather than a decorator.
Marion Best’s career spanned a period in which the very concept of an ‘Interior Designer’ was invented, a period of transition from the department store decorators and art furnishers of the 1920s to the independent professional designers of today. She was a founding member of the Society of Interior Designers of Australia.
She was educated at Frensham School, Mittagong. Her early career developed out of contacts made in Sydney’s arts and crafts circles in the 1920s, including those gained while attending art and design classes with Thea Proctor. She took on a series of private decorating commissions in the 1930s and continued to study, enrolling in first-year architecture at the University of Sydney in 1938 and, in 1939-40, completing a New York-based correspondence course in interior decoration
An adventurous and sophisticated use of colour was always the hallmark of Best’s work, which was influenced by Henri Matisse, the Fauves and, specifically, the colour wheels of Roy de Maistre. She believed that colour in interiors was uplifting and adapted the techniques of Justin O’Brien to develop a method of glazing for walls and ceilings. She loved to use deep pinks & red & aquamarine turquoise. She hated beige!
Traveling widely from the late 1940s in Europe, Asia and North and South America, she negotiated at international trade fairs for import agreements with the makers of furniture, fabrics, lighting, wallpapers and accessories including Marimekko, Knoll, Herman Miller, Noguchi, McGuire and Jim Thompson. She also used many Australian designers and artists.
In 1938 Best opened Marion Best fabrics, a workroom with display area in Queen Street, Woollahra, to which she later added a retail business. Up until its closure in 1974 the shop stocked local designs. In 1949 Marion Best opened a small shop in Sydney’s Rowe Street, an enclave of shops and galleries specialising in art, craft and design. These retail outlets were a source of inspiration and was once a hive of artistic activity courtesy of the art students she employed to serve customers.