Simply the Best: The Colourful Life of Marion Hall Best

The Museum of Sydney have recently confirmed the dates for an upcoming exhibition (Aug 5- Nov 12) about Sydneysider and style guru Marion Hall Best. 

Marion Hall Best (1905-1988) was a champion of Australian and International mid-century design. Best’s two Sydney store’s Queen St, Woollahra ( 1939-1974) and Rowe St, Sydney (1949-1961) were destinations for those who sought out the latest in modern design. 

Interior of Queen St, Woollahra shop, c.1960s.

Best was highly influential in establishing a demand for the modern style in Australia, and in 1951 helped found The Society of Interior Designers of Australia. Best had a strong sense of personal style which came through in the many commissions she received to transform the interiors of public and private spaces. 

Known for her bold use of colour and dramatic patterns, Best was not a member of the beige brigade, her vibrant wall and ceiling glazes were a glossy celebration of colour. Best was a trailblazer, importing the latest in international contemporary design to be sold in her shops, including furniture from the U.S and Italy, and fabrics by Marimekko of Finland. She was also a big supporter of Australian designers Clem Meadmore, Grant Featherston, Carl Nielsen and Gordon Andrews, stocking their furniture alongside cutting edge designs from around the world. 

The Marion Hall Best Collection located at the Caroline Simpson Library and Research Collection  provides a fascinating insight into the world of one of Australia’s first interior designers. Best was a trendsetter whose vision for domestic living was sometimes challenging and other times transformative. Best clearly had a vision that centred around the role of design in the home, she even designed the occasional piece of furniture. 

Lounge chair designed by Marion Hall Best, c.1960s. 

With so many contemporary homes slavishly adopting safe neutral tones, more than 60 years later Best’s riot of colour is still a breath of fresh air.

To find out more about Marion Hall Best get yourself a copy of Michaela Richard’s ‘The Best Style : Marion Hall Best and Australian Interior Design 1935-1975’.  The book is now out of print, but can often be found in public libraries. If it’s a personal copy you’re looking for, you will need to check eBay or secondhand bookstores. 

Don’t miss the upcoming exhibition MARION HALL BEST: INTERIORS at the Museum of Sydney from Sat 5 Aug – Sun 12 Nov, 2017.  


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