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-listing purchasers such as Joan Crawford and Jimmy Carter, died July 14 at a healthcare facility in West Palm Beach, Fla. He was 85.

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

Mr. Varney was the president and owner of the Manhattan-based mostly firm 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 colorful eyesight of style and design that became his calling card.

“Mrs. Draper did not like everything that seemed like it could be poured about a turkey,” Mr. Varney at the time instructed the Houston Chronicle. “No fabrics that appear beige, grey or mousy or gravy-like,” he recalled to a different interviewer.

Mr. Varney bought the Draper firm in the mid-1960s. Over virtually 6 many years, he provided friends at White Home state dinners, his marquee non-public purchasers, and people to resorts which include the Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. — one of his signature projects — a vivid antidote to the neutral shades of the present day environment.

“I the moment went to a resort on my way back again from Bora Bora, and the carpet was a knobby grey, and the partitions ended up beige with white trim, and the curtains were being grey-beige,” Mr. Varney explained to The Washington Post in 2020. “Even the art was beige. I went into the travertine bathroom, and when I arrived out, I believed I was naked in a bowl of oatmeal.”

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

Mr. Varney’s stories about his purchasers ended up as just about as vibrant as the coverings he purchased up for their partitions. Crawford employed him to embellish the apartment she acquired when she could no longer manage the $3,000 monthly maintenance of her former 1.

She known as him in tears, Mr. Varney stated, when her invoice came due and she could not pay out due to the fact the sale of her penthouse was not yet remaining. In the end, Mr. Varney stated, she compensated every penny she owed. She also provided him a position as her “permanent escort,” which he declined.

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

His colour strategies drew admirers considerably beyond Hollywood, such as in the comparatively staid environs of Washington, wherever Mr. Varney was a go-to designer for President Jimmy and initially girl Rosalynn Carter. With only 5 days’ detect, The Write-up documented, he structured a supper to rejoice the Camp David Accords among Israel and Egypt. Less than a yellow, white and orange tent, guests dined at tables bedecked in cloths bearing a forsythia pattern.

The Carters hired Mr. Varney to decorate their household in the Plains, Ga., as perfectly as their second house, a log cabin in the Georgia foothills. In subsequent Republican administrations, Mr. Varney did perform for the Reagans and the Quayles, proving that the charm of bright shade transcends party strains.

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

Besides the Greenbrier (whose shade palette experienced been set by Dorothy Draper), the Grand Resort on Michigan’s Mackinac Island, the Colony Palm Beach front 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 delicate,” a Post reporter wrote some many years soon after a $50 million renovation curated by Mr. Varney. “The resort … feels like the aftermath of a paintball sport held for the duration of a yard party. Whack — mint eco-friendly. Splat — canary yellow. Oof — teal blue.”

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

“I have spent 54 a long time trying to open up the windows and doors of The united states to color,” Mr. Varney claimed in 2020. “I imagine colour has a complete outcome on people’s heads, minds and attitudes. A wonderful sunny room can make individuals happy. I think young children who increase up in rooms that are quite and vibrant and magical are far better individuals.”

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

Mr. Varney was a 1958 graduate of Oberlin College in Ohio and obtained a master’s degree in schooling from New York University in 1960.

He taught at personal educational institutions in New Rochelle, N.Y., and in Manhattan just before performing briefly in fashion and then embarking on his design and style occupation. He had hoped to be a theatrical set designer, he claimed, but identified no this sort of position out there without a “connection. ”

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

Mr. Varney’s style empire also included the textile and wallcovering firm Carleton V Ltd.

He hosted the clearly show “Live Vividly” on the Home Searching Community and wrote extra than 3 dozen books, amongst them “There’s No Place Like House: Confessions of an Inside Designer” (1980), “In the Pink: Dorothy Draper, America’s Most Incredible Decorator” (2006), “Houses in My Heart: An Intercontinental Decorator’s Colourful Journey” (2008) and “Mr. Colour: The Greenbrier and Other Decorating Adventures” (2011).

Mr. Varney’s relationship to Suzanne Lickdyke finished in divorce. Survivors contain their three sons, Nicholas Varney of West Palm Seaside, Seamus Varney of Edmeston, N.Y., and Sebastian Varney of Stanfordville, N.Y. a sister and a grandson.

Mr. Varney’s style for dazzling hues extended to his sartorial selections. He was partial to inexperienced trousers (green was an “influential color” in his life, he stated) and purple socks. He wore a scarf as a tie.

“I’m not hoping to alter the environment,” he advised the New York Situations in 2012, “but I’m hoping to make people knowledgeable of the just one point I think most in — that color is magic.”