Carleton Varney, ‘Mr. Color’ of interior design, dies at 85

Carleton Varney, an interior designer who bathed his spaces in emerald eco-friendly and melon orange, azalea pink and royal blue, attaining the moniker “Mr. Color” with a roster of A-listing consumers such as Joan Crawford and Jimmy Carter, died July 14 at a medical center in West Palm Beach front, Fla. He was 85.

His son Sebastian Varney verified his loss of life but did not cite a result in.

Mr. Varney was the president and proprietor of the Manhattan-based firm Dorothy Draper & Co., the namesake of the venerable decorator who hired him as a draftsman when he was in his early 20s and schooled him in the unabashedly colourful eyesight of layout that grew to become his contacting card.

“Mrs. Draper did not like just about anything that looked like it could be poured around a turkey,” Mr. Varney once informed the Houston Chronicle. “No fabrics that seem beige, gray or mousy or gravy-like,” he recalled to an additional interviewer.

Mr. Varney acquired the Draper firm in the mid-1960s. Over nearly six a long time, he made available company at White Residence state dinners, his marquee private clientele, and readers to resorts including the Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. — one particular of his signature jobs — a vibrant antidote to the neutral shades of the modern day earth.

“I as soon as went to a resort on my way back from Bora Bora, and the carpet was a knobby grey, and the partitions had been beige with white trim, and the curtains were being gray-beige,” Mr. Varney informed The Washington Post in 2020. “Even the artwork was beige. I went into the travertine rest room, and when I arrived out, I thought I was bare in a bowl of oatmeal.”

Professional idea from the Greenbrier’s inside designer: Embrace coloration and shun beige

Mr. Varney’s stories about his shoppers were as almost as colorful as the coverings he requested up for their walls. Crawford hired him to embellish the condominium she obtained when she could no lengthier pay for the $3,000 regular monthly upkeep of her preceding one particular.

She named him in tears, Mr. Varney explained, when her bill came because of and she could not fork out simply because the sale of her penthouse was not yet last. In the conclude, Mr. Varney said, she compensated each penny she owed. She also provided him a task as her “permanent escort,” which he declined.

For Ethel Merman, Mr. Varney built an condominium in a purple, white and blue motif for the emotionally fragile Judy Garland, he recalled, he “put comfortable yellow backgrounds in her dwelling … that made her delighted.”

His shade strategies drew admirers significantly further than Hollywood, like in the comparatively staid environs of Washington, where by Mr. Varney was a go-to designer for President Jimmy and 1st girl Rosalynn Carter. With only five days’ detect, The Article claimed, he structured a supper to rejoice the Camp David Accords amongst Israel and Egypt. Below a yellow, white and orange tent, friends dined at tables bedecked in cloths bearing a forsythia pattern.

The Carters hired Mr. Varney to adorn their residence in the Plains, Ga., as well as their second residence, a log cabin in the Georgia foothills. In subsequent Republican administrations, Mr. Varney did operate for the Reagans and the Quayles, proving that the attractiveness of brilliant colour transcends party strains.

Mr. Varney oversaw the refurbishment of the Sequoia, the onetime presidential yacht that Carter marketed as an “unjustified and unneeded frill,” as properly as formal destinations like the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.

Moreover the Greenbrier (whose coloration palette had been established by Dorothy Draper), the Grand Hotel on Michigan’s Mackinac Island, the Colony Palm Seashore in Florida and the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan all bear his mark.

That mark was not to everyone’s liking.

“The Greenbrier is something but refined,” a Article reporter wrote some many years following a $50 million renovation curated by Mr. Varney. “The resort … feels like the aftermath of a paintball sport held all through a backyard social gathering. Whack — mint eco-friendly. Splat — canary yellow. Oof — teal blue.”

But the design and style was inimitable, and it was his.

“I have expended 54 years attempting to open up the windows and doors of The united states to coloration,” Mr. Varney said in 2020. “I believe shade has a complete impact on people’s heads, minds and attitudes. A stunning sunny area makes individuals happy. I feel children who increase up in rooms that are quite and vibrant and magical are better men and women.”

Carleton Bates Varney Jr. was born in Lynn, Mass., on Jan. 23, 1937. His father ran a sporting goods store, and his mom was a homemaker.

Mr. Varney was a 1958 graduate of Oberlin College or university in Ohio and obtained a master’s degree in education and learning from New York College in 1960.

He taught at private educational institutions in New Rochelle, N.Y., and in Manhattan before working briefly in vogue and then embarking on his design and style profession. He had hoped to be a theatrical set designer, he claimed, but located no these occupation offered without having a “connection. ”

When he joined Dorothy Draper’s organization, he “did everything — vacuuming the flooring and emptying the wastebasket,” he instructed the Chronicle in 2018. “In simple fact, I however do all of that.” Draper died in 1969.

Mr. Varney’s design and style empire also bundled the textile and wallcovering organization Carleton V Ltd.

He hosted the exhibit “Live Vividly” on the Property Browsing Network and wrote extra than a few dozen books, between them “There’s No Position Like Residence: Confessions of an Inside Designer” (1980), “In the Pink: Dorothy Draper, America’s Most Incredible Decorator” (2006), “Houses in My Heart: An International Decorator’s Vibrant Journey” (2008) and “Mr. Shade: The Greenbrier and Other Decorating Adventures” (2011).

Mr. Varney’s marriage to Suzanne Lickdyke finished in divorce. Survivors incorporate their 3 sons, Nicholas Varney of West Palm Seashore, Seamus Varney of Edmeston, N.Y., and Sebastian Varney of Stanfordville, N.Y. a sister and a grandson.

Mr. Varney’s flavor for shiny shades prolonged to his sartorial selections. He was partial to eco-friendly pants (green was an “influential color” in his lifestyle, he reported) and purple socks. He wore a scarf as a tie.

“I’m not hoping to adjust the planet,” he informed the New York Occasions in 2012, “but I’m making an attempt to make persons conscious of the 1 factor I think most in — that color is magic.”

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