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

Carleton Varney, an inside designer who bathed his spaces in emerald inexperienced and melon orange, azalea pink and royal blue, buying the moniker “Mr. Color” with a roster of A-checklist consumers like 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 confirmed his dying but did not cite a bring about.

Mr. Varney was the president and operator of the Manhattan-based agency Dorothy Draper & Co., the namesake of the venerable decorator who employed him as a draftsman when he was in his early 20s and schooled him in the unabashedly vibrant eyesight of style that turned his contacting card.

“Mrs. Draper didn’t like anything at all that looked like it could be poured above a turkey,” Mr. Varney the moment informed the Houston Chronicle. “No fabrics that glance beige, gray or mousy or gravy-like,” he recalled to one more interviewer.

Mr. Varney bought the Draper organization in the mid-1960s. About just about 6 many years, he presented visitors at White Property condition dinners, his marquee private clientele, and readers to resorts which includes the Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. — a single of his signature projects — a vivid antidote to the neutral shades of the modern day environment.

“I when went to a resort on my way back from Bora Bora, and the carpet was a knobby gray, and the walls were beige with white trim, and the curtains were being gray-beige,” Mr. Varney told The Washington Publish in 2020. “Even the artwork was beige. I went into the travertine lavatory, and when I came out, I believed I was bare in a bowl of oatmeal.”

Professional suggestion from the Greenbrier’s interior designer: Embrace color and shun beige

Mr. Varney’s tales about his shoppers were being as virtually as colorful as the coverings he purchased up for their walls. Crawford employed him to decorate the apartment she acquired when she could no extended find the money for the $3,000 month-to-month repairs of her previous one.

She called him in tears, Mr. Varney reported, when her invoice arrived owing and she could not spend mainly because the sale of her penthouse was not but remaining. In the conclude, Mr. Varney claimed, she compensated every single penny she owed. She also presented him a job as her “permanent escort,” which he declined.

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

His colour strategies drew admirers considerably past Hollywood, like in the comparatively staid environs of Washington, the place Mr. Varney was a go-to designer for President Jimmy and initially woman Rosalynn Carter. With only 5 days’ observe, The Post noted, he organized a dinner to celebrate the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt. Less than a yellow, white and orange tent, company dined at tables bedecked in cloths bearing a forsythia sample.

The Carters employed Mr. Varney to beautify their dwelling in the Plains, Ga., as very well as their next home, a log cabin in the Ga foothills. In subsequent Republican administrations, Mr. Varney did work for the Reagans and the Quayles, proving that the appeal of dazzling color transcends get together strains.

Mr. Varney oversaw the refurbishment of the Sequoia, the onetime presidential yacht that Carter offered as an “unjustified and unwanted frill,” as properly as official areas such as the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.

Moreover the Greenbrier (whose colour palette experienced been established by Dorothy Draper), the Grand Resort 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 just about anything but subtle,” a Put up reporter wrote some several years soon after a $50 million renovation curated by Mr. Varney. “The resort … feels like the aftermath of a paintball match held during a backyard bash. Whack — mint eco-friendly. Splat — canary yellow. Oof — teal blue.”

But the model was inimitable, and it was his.

“I have used 54 decades attempting to open up the windows and doorways of The us to colour,” Mr. Varney mentioned in 2020. “I consider colour has a full impact on people’s heads, minds and attitudes. A beautiful sunny home tends to make men and women satisfied. I assume young children who mature up in rooms that are pretty and colourful and magical are far better folks.”

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

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

He taught at private faculties in New Rochelle, N.Y., and in Manhattan ahead of doing work briefly in vogue and then embarking on his structure vocation. He had hoped to be a theatrical set designer, he said, but observed no such career available without a “connection. ”

When he joined Dorothy Draper’s company, he “did anything — vacuuming the floor and emptying the wastebasket,” he told the Chronicle in 2018. “In simple fact, I nonetheless do all of that.” Draper died in 1969.

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

He hosted the exhibit “Live Vividly” on the House Browsing Community and wrote much more than three dozen books, among the them “There’s No Place Like Dwelling: Confessions of an Inside Designer” (1980), “In the Pink: Dorothy Draper, America’s Most Fabulous Decorator” (2006), “Houses in My Heart: An International Decorator’s Colourful Journey” (2008) and “Mr. Shade: The Greenbrier and Other Decorating Adventures” (2011).

Mr. Varney’s marriage to Suzanne Lickdyke finished in divorce. Survivors contain their three 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 taste for vivid colours extended to his sartorial decisions. He was partial to green pants (green was an “influential color” in his life, he stated) and pink socks. He wore a scarf as a tie.

“I’m not hoping to change the planet,” he explained to the New York Instances in 2012, “but I’m attempting to make persons aware of the just one detail I believe most in — that color is magic.”