high tea with carleton varney

This week we attended the What’s New What’s Next event at the New York Design Center at 200 Lexington Avenue. The afternoon and evening was full of interesting presentations in various showrooms in the building where editors and industry representatives shared their views on new trends with interior designers and design enthusiasts from all over the country. The NYDC asked us to be “Blogger Ambassadors” for their event hosted by The Wall Street Journal’s Off Duty Editor Ruth Altchek featuring a panel discussion with Carleton Varney and Sara Story at the Baker showroom. Carleton Varney is a one of the greats in the industry with more than fifty years of experience as an interior designer to the rich and famous. The sheer volume of his work is staggering. Sara Story, his c0-panelist, is an interior designer and contributor to The Wall Street Journal Off Duty section who travels extensively to hotels around the world to gather inspiration for her work.

Carleton is the consummate gentleman, and so when we asked him to take a photo with us, he agreed. This photo is not his best (sorry Carleton!), but we just had to include it in our post!
Among other things, Carleton, who worked for decades with Dorothy Draper, is president of Dorothy Draper & Co. Inc., an interior design firm specializing in interiors for the hospitality industry. The Greenbrier Hotel in White Sulphur Springs, West Virgina, an original Dorothy Draper project, and the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan are two of Carleton’s most celebrated projects. Carleton has just published his umpteenth book, called Mr. Color, The Greenbrier and other Decorating Adventures, and it’s full of beautiful photographs of the Greenbrier Hotel and other projects incorporating his signature bold color schemes. Trust us, this colorful design intent is not easy to pull off, and yet, he seems to do so without breaking a sweat. Carleton is a wonderful storyteller, and he easily managed to charm everyone in the audience (mostly women) with his stories of decorating the homes of movie stars, celebrities and royalty. He loves to quote Dorothy Draper (and Draper enthusiasts like us hang on every word). Dorothy Draper loved color. Apparently, the walls in Dorothy’s design office were painted entirely black, and the desks were all white so that the colors her designers were working with would take center stage. “Show me nothing that looks like gray,” she would say to her designers. No beige or muted grays in her color schemes! Color was her inspiration. Below, the cover of Carleton’s new book. Love the signature tie!

The entry foyer of the casino club at the Greenbrier hotel. The walls are covered in a Brazilliance wall covering. Drama!

The drawing room of one of Carleton’s residential projects.