Marion Dorn (1896-1964)
In 1939, interior designer, HG Hayes Marshall described Marion Dorn as ‘one of the most prominent and successful designers of our time’. Dorothy Todd, an influential journalist who had first brought Dorn to public attention in 1925, christened her the ‘architect of floors’.
In terms of style, Dorn consistently drew inspiration from nature and classicism while always treating these subjects in a manner which suited contemporary design trends. The composition of designs, with the use of space itself being considered as important as the treatment of motif, distinguishes her work from that of many of her contemporaries. Her role in raising the status of a rug as a significant focus in the room was based on appreciation of trends in interior design and architecture, and her designs were always conceived in sympathy with their surroundings.
Dorn’s bold patterns were complimented by the restrained use of color, with six different tones of white and cream, three blacks and various shades of beige, browns and grays were used as foundations for her designs. Her creations were works of art, with reviewers announcing Dorn as one of the most important rug artists, ‘whose rugs will undoubtedly be collectors pieces’.
Having moved to London in 1923 from New York, Marion Dorn is probably best known for the rugs that she began to design in the 1920’s, designing for many prominent weavers and manufacturers, one being the Wilton Royal Carpet Factory, having a reputation for producing quality products. The association with Wilton Royal was launched by an exhibition of rugs held by Arthur Tooth & Sons Gallery, which gave Dorn significant exposure. The success of this show was followed by a string of important commissions for Dorn. She had a fruitful relationship with Savoy Hotel Group, beginning in 1931, when she designed carpets for the bedrooms in the Berkeley Hotel and several carpets for Claridges Hotel, followed by many carpets for the Savoy Hotel itself, producing in all, the Savoy used 369 corridor and landing rugs in about four different designs.
During that time, Dorn was also engaged in designing for ship interiors, when the Orient Line introduced her rugs and carpets into the Orion, hailed as a revolution in ship design when it was launched in 1935. Dorn’s carpets were used to indicate different functions within one space and were positioned in the first-class public areas of the ship and the special state room. Since Dorn’s rugs were expensive and were considered as luxury items they were reserved for the public spaces and best cabins.
In addition to the well publicized work she did for large companies in England, Dorn accepted many smaller commissions from architects and private clients, until her relocation back to New York in 1940 where she re-established her successful career as a freelance designer and collaborated closely with Edward Fields’ rug company designing custom carpets, lasting into the early 1960s. Her association with Fields would allow her the opportunity to design for important buildings, such as the lobby of the Waldorf Astoria, New York and, then the culmination of her career as a rug designer in America coming to in 1960 when she designed the carpet for the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Washington, her final commission.