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Monday, August 27, 2007

Doyenne of Design

As some of you may know Mark and I come from not only the same country but the same city, Brisbane. Although we never knew each other in Brisbane we both have a passion for design and an eye honed by Australian experiences. So I thought while Mark was away I’d share with you the doyenne of Australian interior design, the grand dame who started the modern design revolution in my country, Marion Hall Best.

Kim and I love showcasing the best in interior design, or as we call it, room porn from around the world. When we first started Desire to Inspire I knew that I would definitely be featuring Australian design on the blog. Not only are Australian interior design and architecture world class they’re so little known in North America and Europe (from where most of our readers hail) that I knew they would be something fresh and fun to most of you. Names like Dorothy Draper, Billy Baldwin, Sister Parish and Eames are iconic in the States. David Hicks and a stampede of Scandinavian designers including Saarinen and Alto are worthy European representatives but how many of you can name an iconic Aussie designer? Florence Broadhurst comes to mind and America and Europe are finally recognising her great talent for pattern. Marion Hall Best deserves the same sort of recognition for her even now outrageous use of colour and glazes. She detested beige and was responsible for introducing Australians to Marrimeko, Scandinavian glass, Eames furniture, Noguchi, Bertoia and providing a platform Australian furniture designers such as Grant Featherston.

Best developed her love of fabulously saturated colour in the 20s and 30s while studying and moving in the bohemian art circles of the time. She was drawn to interior design because she “knew that she wanted to work in big areas of colour in a three-dimensional way which belonged to living spaces.” From 1938 until its closure in 1974 her shop stocked local designers and the best of European and American imports. In the 60s at the peak of her career she was the designer of choice for major corporations and the Sydney society set. She became the arbiter of the latest styles. Her interiors showcased the best of what the design world had to offer. It helped that it was often exclusively available in her showroom. In a post war world of “porridge” colours Marion is probably best known for her vivid glazed walls, colourful undercoats with contrasting translucent glazes; yellow over red, pink, black, blue or green producing intriguing tangerines, olives, aquamarines and chartreuses.

And the lessons to be learned? It isn't about the retro. It's about the colour. Be bold, have fun. Explore the international design classics but support your local emerging furniture and fabric designers. Be outrageous if you dare. Look to those who have gone before you and take inspiration but make it your own. Oh yes ..... and Aussies are pretty hot stuff when it comes to design! If Marion Hall Best’s work intrigues you I recommend Best Style: Marion Hall Best and Australian Interior Design 1935-1975 as very little exists on the internet. Thanks Mark for the opportunity to share! Jo


Peggy said...

Great post, Jo. Thanks for the info. The only thing I really know about Australian design is that I love Australian Vogue Living. Looking forward to more posts like this.

franki durbin said...

nice to have you fill in, Jo! Good design is universal, bt it is lovely to see a well-known designer from Australia and marvel at subtle differences in style and approach. The use of color is astonishing!

Jordan Cappella said...

Love this Jo. I was not able to post a comment on your blog! I must meet Mark when he returns from his trip.

Rael said...

Those are truly a bold mix of colors! I was also asking myself how come the first pic was of green, and the last three were all fiery. Best's rejection of beige must have been her response to European mainstream.
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