Natalie Marcus, who spearheaded the American Tile Co.’s (later known as Amtico) design department in the 1950s and ’60s, earning 15 awards from the American Society of Interior Designers in the process, died at her home in New York City on Jan. 20. She was 94.
Marcus was born in Brookline, Mass., graduated from Smith College in 1938 and later went to graduate school at McGill College in Montreal, something at the time that was foreign to women. In 1939, she married her husband of 53 years, Robert, who headed up American Tile, the flooring operation of American Biltrite, located in Trenton, N.J.
“The first thing I remember when we were putting Amtico together was Robert asking if I wanted to go back to work,” she recalled in an interview a number of years ago. “He said, ‘I want you to make Amtico the best product on the market.’ I told him, ‘OK, but it will cost you money!’ And that was the beginning of a very successful period.”
Marcus was not shy when it came to her work. “I believe we were the first to tie in flooring with other areas of the home, like fabrics and wall coverings,” she said. Amtico was also the first to produce designs in 3-D patterns, like white and gold. “They said it couldn’t be done, but in my language there is no such word as ‘can’t.’ A month later they came back with what I wanted.” Marcus retired in the early 1970s.
Her son Roger, CEO of Congoleum, which merged with Amtico in the early 1990s, said his mother always left an impression on anyone she would meet. “It is unbelievable how I can still meet people today who remember not only her, but her contribution to the floor covering industry. Her contribution extended beyond her design competency; she was also the queen of entertainment.
“She had an unforgettable personality—very vivacious, very outgoing and extremely persuasive when she wanted to be. She was also very caring. If anyone had a problem— employee, family or friend— she was right there looking to help.”
When her husband passed away, Natalie Marcus became an active member of the American Biltrite board. “She attended every meeting from that time until the day she died, albeit the last few meetings she attended via telephone,” Roger said.
She was also a philanthropist, heading the effort to refurbish the Greenwood House, also known as The Jewish Home for the Aged, in Ewing, N.J. The home is now known as the Robert and Natalie Marcus Home for the Jewish Aged.
Marcus is survived by two sons, Roger and Richard; four grandchildren, Elissa, Julie, Teri and Todd; and six great-grandchildren. She was predeceased by her husband.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial contributions be sent to Greenwood House Foundation, 53 Walter St., Ewing, NJ 08628.