No matter what your opinion is of our president, everyone loves Carleton Varney. The oh-so-vivid New York City-based designer who was mentored by and inherited Dorothy Draper & Associates, she being one of the most famous interior designers of all time, has a client roster that will knock your bright pink socks off: former President Jimmy Carter, Errol Flynn, the late Joan Crawford, movie stars, New York elite and many members of the Hunt family. I recall the first few times I met Carleton, he had to pause our conversation to take calls from clients who were on their yacht, but had a decorating emergency.
“Darling!” he says, apologizing for taking a call from Errol Flynn’s widow or James Nederlander, “you won’t believe who this is!”
When we joined him at the grand opening of the $80 million Varney-designed Greenbrier Casino in 2010, Brooke Shields and Debbie Reynolds were by his side — our’s too! He is never without his signature scarf-worn-as-tie, and his sparkling, wonderful personality. I am also crazy about his associate Brinsley, his son Nicholas Varney’s jewelry line, which is sold at Neimans. Varney presided over the multi-millon dollar revitalization of the 700-plus room Greenbrier Hotel in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. His legendary mentor, Dorothy Draper, designed the hotel originally. The resort is still a swirl of pink and green cabbage roses and exploding color a la Draper style, but Carleton polished the history visually, as owner/investor Jim Justice & Co. expanded, modernized and enhanced.
Carleton has certainly made a huge imprint on Dallas design, as big as those cabbage leaves he uses in wallpaper, from private residences, the penthouse at the Stoneleigh Hotel, to a one bedroom model condo at The Residences at the Ritz Carlton. It didn’t last long. He has also designed furniture, lighting, dinnerware and linens.