Book reveals Greenbrier designer's true colors

In "Mr. Color," his lavish new 232-page coffee table book, Carleton Varney provides plenty of proof to back up his nickname.

The book, subtitled "The Greenbrier and Other Decorating Adventures," takes readers on a tour of the greatest hotel projects of Dorothy Draper, the midcentury Manhattan decorator (and Varney mentor) whose style could be called Park Avenue Rococo.


Varney, now president of Dorothy Draper and Co., updated the venerable interiors of The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va., and the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island in Michigan, and his book lovingly describes the method to his colorful madness.

"Mr. Color" also serves as a guide through Varney's clients' homes, which run the gamut from a Christmas-colored lake house to a Moroccan casbah. Sometimes, as in the case of carousel horses marching around the pink and white cove above a Moorish kitchen equipped with Tiffany lamps, they boggle the mind. By contrast, Varney throws open the doors to his own Palm Beach "villa," a three-bedroom 1950s condo, to reveal a restrained palette of navy blue and white.


Those who love exuberant rooms can't help but be charmed by this collection of interiors. Unlike so many decorators who barely annotate their books, Varney tells you what he used and why it works.

"I use color to define the architecture of a space, to connect one room to another. I use it in fabrics, carpets, draperies and accessories to add glamour and vibrancy to a room," he writes, adding, "Living with color changes your life."

Varney is also the inspiration behind a series of one-week interior decorating courses being offered next year to guests of The Greenbrier. "The Dorothy Draper School of Decorating," as designed by Varney, includes 20 hours of class in subjects ranging from "Creating the Wow Factor" to "Tools & No Rules." Classes begin Feb. 26, March 25, April 29 and June 10, and the enrollment fee is $5,000.

The book is more affordable. "Mr. Color" is produced by Rooster Books for Shannongrove Press. The suggested retail is $95 but at last check was selling for less than $60 on Amazon.