Here come the men in pink! Famous interior designer, Carleton Varney, stands in the middle – celebrating the publication of his book “In the Pink” written about his mentor Dorothy Draper.
“In The Pink” – Varney’s best seller and a favorite with design bloggers. The cover shows the famous Draper Door.
Varney’s newest tome is “Houses In My Heart.” Did you know he has written over 17 books, mostly on design and now, mostly out-of-print? A few books he wrote are novels – one is titled “Kiss the Hibiscus Good Night” while another novel is simply “The Decorator.” My favorite out-of-print title is, of course for my husband, “There’s No Place Like Home.” Most of these books are available on Amazon. Despite Varney’s success as an author, he is decidedly more famous for his interior design.
The lobby at The Greenbrier – Dorothy Draper’s largest and most famous commission. Varney recently completed a renovation of it’s interiors. Draper’s famous black and white marble floors remain in place, as does the white plaster over mantel seen here - another Draper trademark.
Carleton Varney took over the helm at Dorothy Draper, Inc. after Draper, his mentor’s, death. He continues as owner/president to this day. Draper was famous for her Neo-Baroque design style, along with her use of bold colors in, then odd, combinations such a “pink and aubergine, with a splash of chartreuse and a touch of turquoise.” She favored huge cabbage rose chintz along with stripes, black and white checked floors, and fantastic plaster moldings – everywhere. Draper’s influence is still felt today and her designs are as in vogue as ever. The popular Hollywood Glamour style owes a huge debt to Draper, as do all the white ornately framed mirrors on the market today.
The sweeping stairs at The Greenbrier. Varney’s restoration was faithful to Draper’s original design.
Today, Varney runs his successful business with one eye on Draper’s legacy and another on his own. While some of his work is a direct nod to Draper, he also designs the Carleton V way. Make no mistake though, Varney adores Draper’s eye – and her playfulness and saturated color schemes can often be seen in his present day interiors. Published repeatedly in Architectural Digest, Varney is at the height of his career, still creating and still active, even after almost 50 years at it. Remarkable!
Carleton Varney’s latest work, the restaurant Union Prime, is located on East 16th Street in Manhattan and is set to open next week. The menu is a marriage of contemporary American steak and modern sushi. The restaurant’s owners hired Varney to deliver a chic, fashionable and glamorous interior. With a backdrop of lipstick red, the playful lights, reminiscent of a woman’s hat, are eye catching. The white scrolling cartouches along the walls are pure Draper.
The large cabbage roses, Draper’s famous Princess Grace Rose fabric, provide more chic drama. This fabric remains one of the most popular and recognizable of Draper’s designs. To tone down the atmosphere at eye level, Varney uses a modern check in taupe and oatmeal colors. The deep colored floor and leather chairs forces the eye upward to where all the action is.
A close-up of the row of pendant lights, designed by Varney.
The white plaster mirrors are a further example of Draper’s lasting appeal.
The bold black and red stripes are a design element that Draper made famous. The architecture of Union Prime was created by Scott Bromley, of Bromley-Caldari Architects PC. And the talented Chef Duhame is behind the menu’s fusion of sushi and steak. If you plan to be in New York next week, be sure to stop in for drinks and a meal, or just to take a glance at Carleton’s latest greatest.
Draper’s famous Princess Grace Rose chintz is everywhere these days. This year, I saw it at Two’s Company showroom used with beautiful, pale turquoise walls. Without a doubt, this showroom was the prettiest one I saw this season – solely due to the Princess Grace Rose.
Here Carlton Varney designs without the influence of Draper. This is my favorite Varney room, a French inspired guest room in a New York apartment. I love the yellow wallpaper used with pink toile and a red indienne fabric. Just try and count all the different fabrics used in this room – yet it’s effect is serene. The ability to use a multitude of fabrics in a pleasing combination is a gift of a talented designer.
Another bedroom in the same apartment uses Scalamandre’s Oriental toile paper on the walls. The owners later moved and Varney designed another apartment for the couple – both are published in Architectural Digest.
Another recently Varney designed space in lower Manhattan is Ella Bar whose owner is a nephew of Varney’s. Here, red, black and white, along with a vintage Draper chintz, are used to create an homage to Draper.
The black and white checked floor and striped ceiling is all Draper!
The white mirrors with their shell motif and large red leather booths create a perfect backdrop for this stylish bar.
For more on Carleton Varney, pick up his latest book, Houses In My Heart, from Amazon here. Varney has a charming web site here, designed in a Draperesque style. And if you plan on being in Manhattan, be sure to stop in at Union Prime on East 16th to experience Varney’s wonderful new design in person!