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