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Breakfast with Carleton

by habituallychic

02 . 24 . 09

I’m not much of a morning person so I am glad I got up early this morning to attend a Designer Seminar Series event at the D&D building featuring Carleton Varney and sponsored by Traditional Home. Mr. Varney tells wonderful stories of his unplanned life as a decorator that includes clients such as President and Mrs. Jimmy Cartner, Joan Crawford, Ethel Merman and even Joe Nameth. Of course, he also spoke about his mentor and boss for 7 years, the legendary Dororthy Draper. Mr. Varney believes that the younger generation is entranced by Dorothy Draper and her style since she represents an era of American glamour that they never experienced. Even what we think of as glamorous today has nothing on the 1940’s and 50’s. He also sugested that in this uncertain time, color will become even more popular in decorating. Aren’t we all in a little need of a little uplifting color?!

After the lecture, Mr. Varney signed copies of his two fabulous books In the Pink and the latest, Houses in My Heart, in the Carleton V showroom which is run by his son, Sebastian Varney (above). My friend Kelly Reynolds was a designer at Dorothy Draper and worked on the Oscar Greenroom last year but now she helps run Carleton V with Sebastian who owns a country house near Christopher Spitzmiller who I was excited to finally meet today. Christopher has a great farm (with chickens!) that he has been restoring for a few years and I can already imagine that it will be just as gorgeous as his New York abode! Their new country neighbor is Eddie Ross who’s home I can’t wait to see! Talk about small chic world!

During the week, Sebastian Varney lives in a beautiful apartment on the Upper East Side that just needs a few finishing touches before I can photograph it for the blog. While his father’s work is full of bold bright color, Sebastian’s is a little more subdued but by no means boring. I am going to keep pestering him to complete the last projects because I know you will love it (if he doesn’t strangle me first!). I’m sure Sebastian has heard his father’s stories a million times but I haven’t so I thoroughly enjoyed listening to him this morning. I will also try to remember his advice as I establish my own design firm, “successful rooms have soul.” Amen!

Comments Closed

  1. sheista February 24, 2009 | 10:37 pm

    Thanks for sharing this.

    I’ve had the opportunity to stay in the Carlton Varney suite in the Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island(which, I’m sure you know, is his work). I couldn’t wait to come home and share with my fellow design junkies 🙂

  2. Ms. Wis./Each Little World February 24, 2009 | 10:45 pm

    Nice post and you are certainly right about small chic world. If the mantra is “Successful rooms have soul,” then — for me — that is exactly what the Tranquil Townhouse lacks. Gorgeous, comfortable, current — but where’s the heart, the personality, the life that’s come before? This is not meant in any way as a criticism of you; rather a criticism of so much of what we see in the magazines. I think that’s why so many of us like WOI — the quirkiness of it!

  3. Habitually Chic February 24, 2009 | 11:27 pm

    Sheista – I’m sure that was a wonderful experience and trip! Lucky you!

  4. Habitually Chic February 24, 2009 | 11:32 pm

    Ms. Wis – As much as I love Carleton Varney, I don’t know if I could live in any of his designs. They have way too much color for me which is why I like the Tranquil Townhouse. I also think that because I work with so much color and pattern on a daily basis that I need a more neutral home. I also couldn’t live in a stark white home because that is too far the other way for me but I appreciate that for some people that is ideal.

    That being said, there are no right or wrong designs. It all depends on what you are more comfortable with and that is different for everyone.

    P.S. For those of you who don’t know what WOI means, it’s World of Interiors magazine.

  5. Renee Finberg February 25, 2009 | 1:33 am

    too funny,
    i just did an interview with mr. varney on my blog about 2 or 3 weeks ago.

    he looks pooped in that shot.

    hey, how goes it with you ??


  6. Habitually Chic February 25, 2009 | 1:46 am

    Renee – I was supposed to interview him too but I saw yours and cancelled. Carleton always looks the same to me so I didn’t think he looked pooped but it was early so maybe he was tired too. I know I was! Things are busy here but good!

  7. annechovie February 25, 2009 | 2:14 am

    I am a color freak, so I really like CV’s work. Looking forward to your post on Sebatian’s place, too, Heather. That would be a cool series to see top designer’s children’s homes.

  8. pve design February 25, 2009 | 4:47 am

    you brave morning girl.

  9. Anonymous February 25, 2009 | 3:01 pm

    I used a Carleton V wallpaper in my son’s (3 yrs. old) room and it is several shades of beige on white and absolutely beautiful – just perfect for a little boy – maybe it’s something from Sebastian as it certainly isn’t bold/colorful. However, I like the wallpaper in the background behind the 2 gentlemen for perhaps my mudroom. I recently picked up a sample of a similar paper (flower pots) from Pierre Frey but it looks like the one in the photo is even better. Thanks again HC for such a wonderful post. – KN

  10. Susan's Snippets February 25, 2009 | 9:34 pm

    HC –

    How cool was that? Glad you made the extra effort…foregoing a little shut eye so that you could share, share, share!

    we care

  11. Porchlight Interiors February 27, 2009 | 4:46 am

    Wow, I would have loved to have heard him speak. We love this glamourous American style and are doing our best to bring it into some Australian homes – one home at a time! Tracey xx