Breathing New Life Into Old Masterpieces

Transforming hand knotted carpets into stunning decorative pillows and accents

reprinted from a story about Marianne in Couture Flowers Magazine Spring 2016

Interior Designer Marianne Donahue grew up surrounded by beautiful carpets. Her paternal grandfather was a rug collector, and through him, she learned to appreciate the colorful, hand-knotted carpets he purchased for family homes in Florida and Cape Cod. In fact, a classic Persian Heriz in red, dating back to the 1920s Art Deco period, still resides in her son Will’s apartment – a testament to the enduring appeal of these magnificent works of art.

Marianne’s innate sense of design led to a career in the interior design field. In 1994, she became a partner in the J.Namnoun Oriental Rug Gallery, one of the very few woman working in this specialized field. It has always been male dominated, and doing business as a woman in the Middle East, India, Turkey and war-torn Afghanistan is not for the faint of heart. In fact, it can be downright dangerous. These days, all the rug merchants bring their wares to established markets in the U.S., so she has never needed to travel.

Marianne’s signature look as an Interior Designer combines the old world with the new, and blends classic design in rich colors enhanced with touches of surprising and bold modernism. She specializes in layering looks from different periods with rugs, textiles and antiques. “It’s a look whose time has come,” she relates. Increasingly, her clients are yearning for something beyond the cold “Restoration Hardware” look – those bland grey, creams and monotones so popular and ubiquitous in recent years.    

She guides her clientele adeptly into a new era of color and comfort with a clever adaptation of damaged, though still-beautiful, rugs. Marianne started repurposing rugs by making pillows for herself from carpets she purchased at auctions and from private collections. At Namnoun she began working with skilled weavers and seamstresses on damaged rugs that came into the store. They may have been beyond repair for the floor, so she would turn them into chair cushions, upholstery and decorative pillows, breathing new life into their classic designs.

Hand knotted rugs have been used in home decoration for thousands of years. In fact, the earliest fragments date back to 400 BC. They were treasured by kings, merchants and the average man and woman for centuries and are still among the most revered of all home furnishings purchases. For many, the rugs and intricate designs remain steadfastly confusing, complicated, misunderstood and inaccessibly expensive by all but the experts. Marianne Donahue has found an innovative way to make them accessible and relevant again.

Marianne Donahue Interior Designer

Breathing New Life Into Old Masterpieces

Calming Balsam Pillows To Relax The Nerves

I am writing this post while vacationing on an island in the Penobscot Bay Area of Maine. We are surrounded by balsam fir trees along the water’s edge which fill the air with the most wonderful clean pine scent that reminds us of Christmas. Many of the small local gift shops here sell decorative pillows and sachets which are filled with balsam twigs, ground bark and needles.

When researching the Balsam Fir, I learned that written records of folklore go back over 700 years showing how the balsam was used medicinally by many of the Northeastern tribes. Uses include relieving headaches and congestion. It can help asthma patients to breathe easier. Many people sleep with a small balsam pillow in their beds. It is calming and relaxing to the nerves. Think of the clean fresh scent as additions to a lingerie drawer or closet.

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Tag Sale For Fashionistas

The Wadsworth Atheneum is having its bargain extravaganza POSH sale featuring dresses, shoes and accessories donated from the closets of those with deep pockets and sold at bargain prices to those ready to scour racks and bins of top-shelf merchandise.

read more: POSH SALE

Nov. 2 to 4 at The Design Center, 1429 Park St., in Hartford.

“The Atheneum keeps some of the things that have museum collection value each time there is a sale,” explained society’s president, Marianne Donahue, recently named to Hartford Magazine’s 2012 Best Dressed List for her vintage and classic style. “And the rest we sell to raise money for our projects.”

For more information go to Contact The Wadsworth