Honoring Carleton Varney
Enthusiastic and exuberant Interior Designer Carleton Varney died on July 14, 2022 in Palm Beach, Florida. He was 85.
His use of color in hotels, castles, palaces, presidential estates and the habitats of film and stage royalty earned him the nickname Mr. Color. I first met Carleton in 2013 as he addressed a group of Interior Designers. He claimed, “Decorating is about making memories.” I wholeheartedly agreed as I have inspirational memories from my childhood visit to the Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island, Michigan re-designed by Varney in the 60’s.
Mr. Varney was trained by the maximalist decorator Dorothy Draper, whose company he ended up purchasing in the 1960s. From Dorothy, Carleton learned that every room needs a touch of black and perhaps a mirrored wall. He became skilled at mixing at least three or four prints and patterns per room. He also studied how vertical stripes make any space seem taller. Of all Mr. Varney’s hotel work, the Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., is the most extravagant.
In 2020 Mr. Varney said, “I have spent 54 years trying to open the windows and doors of America to color. I believe color has a total effect on people’s heads, minds and attitudes. A beautiful sunny room makes people happy. I think children who grow up in rooms that are pretty and colorful and magical are better people.” He loved telling his story and educating everyone. He will be missed as one of the world’s first master designers!
Credit Scott Smith for The New York Times.
Lisa Stewart is an interior designer serving the Triangle area of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, NC.
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