Marion Hall Best: The Woman Who Changed the Face of Australian Interior Design

Marion Hall Best with chairs by designers Andrews, Arnio, Saarinen, Colombo, Eames and Bertoia at The Grove, Woollahra, 1970 | Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection, Sydney Living Museums. Photo © Mary White

Happy birthday to Australian interior designer Marion Hall Best, whose lavish interiors popped with color and modern forms, and who was was influenced by modernist as well as minimalist designers. Best played an important role in increasing the recognition of interior design as a profession. She was born on this day April 13, 1905.

Marion Hall Best was a pioneering Australian interior designer who revolutionized the country’s design scene in the mid-20th century. With her bold use of color and modernist aesthetic, she transformed homes and public spaces alike, leaving a lasting legacy on Australian design.

Room for Mary Quant (1967) | Marion Hall Best

Early Life and Career

Marion Hall Best was born in 1905 in Sydney, Australia. She studied painting and drawing at the Julian Ashton Art School before beginning her career as a window dresser for the department store Anthony Hordern & Sons. It was here that she first began experimenting with color and design, creating eye-catching displays that caught the attention of shoppers and passersby. In 1933, she opened her own interior design studio, which quickly became known for its bold use of color and modernist aesthetic.

The Birth of Modern Australian Interior Design

Marion Hall Best was a pioneer in the world of Australian interior design, bringing a fresh and modern perspective to a field that had previously been dominated by traditional styles. Her use of bold colors and geometric patterns was a departure from the muted tones and floral motifs that had been popular in the past, and her designs quickly gained a following among those who were looking for something new and exciting. Today, her legacy lives on in the vibrant and eclectic interiors that can be found throughout Australia and beyond.

Living room of Marion Best’s Darling Point apartment. Rodney Weidland, 1973. Caroline Simpson Library and Research Collection, Sydney Living Museums.

Honors and Recognition

Marion Hall Best’s contributions to the world of design were widely recognized during her lifetime. In 1979, she was awarded the Order of Australia for her services to interior design. She was also made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in London and was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of New South Wales. Today, her work is held in the collections of major museums and galleries, including the National Gallery of Australia and the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney. Her legacy continues to be celebrated through exhibitions, publications, and events, ensuring that her impact on Australian design will never be forgotten.

Curated by Jennifer