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Design Weekend: The Dorothy Draper School of Decorating

Plan your trip to the Greenbrier Resort's first ever Dorothy Draper School of Decorating

Written by Cathy Whitlock

Calling all budding decorators, interior designers, and lovers of all things Hollywood Regency, the Greenbrier Resort will be hosting the first-ever Dorothy Draper School of Decorating. Held Friday, March 2, through Sunday, March 4, at the world-class resort and National Historic landmark located in Sulpher Springs, West Virginia, classes will be offered in color introduction, practical insights on design, and how to uncover your personal tastes.

The historic Greenbrier Resort

Designed by one of the 20th-century’s most famous decorators, Dorothy Draper, the one-of-a-kind resort is a classic example of her storied work. An expert colorist, Draper was a trailblazer from the 1920s through the 1960s and one of the first to design everything from residential projects, hotels, restaurants, theaters, airline interiors, and department stores to menus, matchbooks, barware, and even hotel bellhop uniforms. She also put the interior designer profession on the map, opening the first firm on record in 1925.

Premium accommodations at the Greenbrier

Her trademark use of cabbage-rose chintz and neo-baroque plasterwork made Hollywood Regency and ”modern baroque” designs popular, a trend that has transcended time. The design doyenne’s bold use of color, decorative plaster friezes, black-and-white tile entrance halls, black lacquer doors and console and curio cabinet pieces is still used today.

A striking Trellis Lobby corridor

Thankfully, Draper’s work carries on through another legend in his own right, Carleton Varney. As president and owner of Dorothy Draper & Company, the colorful Dean of American Design has been the keeper of the Draper flame for over 50 years, overseeing her line, design aesthetic, and traditions. In a design world where minimalism and serene monochromatic colors are the trends of the moment, the company’s design philosophy stressing the “use of bright colors and the rejection of all that is impractical, uncomfortable, and drab” (think vibrant corals, reds, and greens, large floral chintzes, and bold contrasting designs) is a welcome reprieve.

Carleton Varney in the Greenbrier's Victorian Writing Room

Varney has created designs for Dorothy Draper Fabric & Wallcovering since 1962, which are available through design showrooms across the country. The collections, ranging from the large palm leaf patterned “Brazilliance” to wicker-styled wallpaper with “Bali Hai,” create a beautiful showstopping statement in just about any room.

Greenbrier Avenue

Taking a page from Draper’s savvy marketing skills (she was the original Martha Stewart), Varney has namesake products, fabrics, and furniture (Ficks Reed and Rombocher for Kindel) lines, written numerous books, and like his mentor, is never one to shy away from color when designing hotel and resorts all over Europe, Asia, the Caribbean, and the United States.

The Trellis Lobby

The school will be hosted by Carleton Varney, Brinsley Mathews, executive vice president of the company, and Professor Joellen Kerr (who ran the Carleton Varney School of Design at Charleston University for 28 years). Attendees of the event will also receive an added bonus with a tour of the Greenbrier Resort’s historic stately rooms. Draper touches are prevalent throughout—from the old-world charm of the Victorian Writing Room, the sepia-toned scenic wallpaper of the Virginia Room to the tufted floral banquettes of the restaurant aptly named Draper’s, and her Fudge Apron chintz, rhododendron wallpaper, and decorative plasterwork. And don’t miss the grand designs of the Casino Club, famously known as “Monte Carlo Meets Gone With the Wind.”

Draper's restaurant at the Greenbrier

It’s a design-on-steroids weekend and all worth the price of admission.

All photos courtesy of the Greenbrier