Editor’s note: This is an abbreviated version of a more in-depth obituary. The full version can be found here.
Palm Beach resident Carleton Varney, the internationally known interior designer whose “Your Family Decorator” column appeared for more than 40 years in the Palm Beach Daily News, died Thursday, July 14, 2022, at a hospital in Palm Beach Gardens. He was 85.
Mr. Varney was nicknamed “Mr. Color,” thanks to his liberal use of what he called “happy colors” in his decorating projects.
Mr. Varney was president of Dorothy Draper & Co., one of the country’s oldest interior design firms, which he bought in the mid-1960s after working at its office in New York City for several years. The firm was named for its founder, a pioneer in the decorating field and Mr. Varney’s mentor.
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His worldwide commissions included designs for residences, commercial establishments, hotels and stores, including many projects in Palm Beach. He also designed collections of furnishings, wallpaper, carpets and dinnerware, among other items.
In 2014, he completed a multi-year renovation and redecorating hotel project at The Colony in Palm Beach for its previous owners in collaboration with Brinsley Matthews, his right-hand man at Dorothy Draper & Co. and his longtime companion.
Mr. Varney has also designed major Palm Beach projects at The Breakers, the Everglades Club and The Brazilian Court. His company for decades has been the design firm for The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, and for many years was the decorator for The Grand hotel on Mackinac Island in Michigan.
Mr. Varney authored more than 30 books about decorating and regularly lectured about the design field.
He served as a design consultant for state functions at the White House during the Carter Administration and redecorated the official vice president’s residence in Washington D.C. He also decorated homes for Hollywood stars that included Joan Crawford and Judy Garland.
Mr. Varney was a Massachusetts native born in Lynn on Jan. 23, 1937. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Spanish and fine arts from Oberlin College in Ohio in 1958 and his master’s degree in fine arts education in 1969 from New York University.
Mr. Varney was predeceased by his ex-wife, Suzanne Varney.
In addition to Matthews, Mr. Varney is survived by his sister, Vivian Varney; sons Sebastian Varney, Seamus Varney and Nicholas Varney (Victoria Bratberg); grandson Bowie Varney; niece Amanda Guyler; and grand-niece Luisa Chan.
Arrangements have not been finalized.