Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Hollywood Regency Design........Dorothy Draper Style At The Greenbrier

"Dorothy was Hollywood," said Carlton Varney. "She was the movie star of the decorators, because she lived in that period where people longed for Hollywood, real Hollywood and she gave it to them. I mean, she lived it. Draper designed a world where people made glamorous entrances through great doors."

Dorothy Draper (1889-1969) was born to a family in the very top drawer Tuxedo Park, NY. It was an advantage on which she was not afraid to capitalize.She was a debutante, born into a life of old money and privilege. John Singer Sargent drew her. She married and divorced President Franklin Deleno Roosevelt's polio doctor.She was born in 1888, twenty years before the model t came out and ended up the first woman ever to design the interior of a jet airliner.

She said she had no design education except to have been brought up around beautiful things. People trusted her and she made it a success. Stylistically very anti-minimalist, she would use bright, exuberant colors and large prints that would encompass whole walls. She incorporated black and white tiles, rococo  scrollwork, and Baroque  plasterwork. Generally she worked in large spaces, big hotels, restaurants, aircrafts, shopping centers, whatever it was that was a big, Herculean job.

Dorothy Draper’s exuberant interiors at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia featured hugely overscaled and brightly colored versions of classic traditional rooms. Giant white plaster moldings are set off by walls in bright blue, coral, yellow and green. Wing chairs with huge flowers and giant camelback sofas dance on a black and white marble floor. The effect is splashy and fun, yet old fashioned, all at the same time. Dorothy Draper's design advice focused on how to live in the home and entertain, and like Billy Haines she had a flair for the dramatic. Both designers used interior design to make a dramatic impression and to show off the people in the room, and that’s what Hollywood Regency is all about.

For some people who maybe yearn for the era of Cole Porter, which was the time for Dorothy Draper, this is the physical embodiment of that era," "If Porter's music is the sound of it, Draper is the look of it."
Donald Albrecht

The Greenbriar's Northern Entrance

The Greenbrier is widely regarded as one of the finest luxury resorts around the world. Surrounded by the wondrous Allegheny Mountains, The Greenbrier offers exclusive services and amenities such as championship golf, fine dining, more than 50 activities, designer boutiques, 40,000 square foot five-star spa and a 103,000 square foot gaming and entertainment venue. This renowned property offers 710 rooms, including 33 suites and 96 guest and estate houses. The Greenbrier has 10 lobbies, 40+ meeting rooms and a complete conference center facility.In the late 1950s, the U.S. government approached The Greenbrier for assistance, in the construction of an Emergency Relocation Center-a bunker or bomb shelter-to be occupied by the U.S. Congress in case of war. The classified underground facility was built in conjunction with an above ground addition to the hotel, the West Virginia Wing, between 1959 and 1962. For thirty years the facility codenamed Project Greek Island was maintained at a constant state of operational readiness. At any point during those years, one telephone call from officials in Washington, D. C. fearing an imminent attack on the capital would have turned the lavish resort into an active participant in the national defense system. At the end of the Cold War, and prompted by exposure in the press in 1992, the project was terminated and the bunker decommissioned.

I have been to the Greenbrier on numerous occasions while visiting friends who lived close by. It was such a treat when they would take us to dinner or to an event there. It is a BEAUTIFUL resort. They were personal friends of legendary golf icon Sam Snead and it was a treat for my husband Tim to meet Snead and play golf on the Greenbrier courses.

One of Dorothy Draper's most famous designs was The Greenbrier Hotel in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. The resort had almost burned to the ground during the Civil War. It was brought back after the war ended and subsequently purchased by the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway Company, which hired Dorothy Draper to redecorate the entire resort. Draper designed everything from matchbook covers to menus to staff uniforms. This consummate attention to detail revealed how she took control in all design aspects and completely transformed everything about the spaces she designed. Everybody who was anybody was invited to the grand re-opening in April, 1948. The Duke of Windsor played the drums, Bing Crosby sang in Draper's pink ballroom.

The Resort has been restored in the Draper style and it is definitely worth traveling to see. The  new interiors have been designed by  famous designer Carlton Vanrney who had been Draper’s assistant and became President of the company upon her death. The interiors reflect the Dorothy Draper style which will be illustrated in the images below. 

Photos of The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs
This photo of The Greenbrier is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Along with using bright and extreme color schemes, she also employed bold textures and materials in her designs. She combined different colors, fabrics, and patterns together, combining stripes with floral patterns. She was also known for these large birdcage chandeliers.

Dorothy Draper believed the energy of beautiful and bright vivid colors would make people feel happier, so she led design away from the dark color schemes used throughout the Victorian style by introducing bright colorful ones.

Photos of The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs
This photo of The Greenbrier is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Draper is known for putting weird colors together, like red chairs next to purple walls. She loved bright striped wallpaper, bold black and white checkerboard floors and extravagant flower print fabrics.

Photos of The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs
This photo of The Greenbrier is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Photos of The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs

She also chose very dramatic and contrasting color schemes, such as black with white and adding in some bits of color.

Oversized floral and striped patterns were her specialty.

The Pink Ballroom

Draper is known for putting weird colors together, like red chairs next to purple walls. She loved bright striped wallpaper, bold black and white checkerboard floors and extravagant flower print fabrics.

The door itself is a classic Dorothy Draper door. Huge, overscaled, and then on top of than a big neo-baroque plaster or wood door surround. Varney said. "Every doorway had to be important. Doors were it."

Photos of The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs

The Garden Room

She often used large, oversized details and numerous mirrors. Dorothy Draper reveled in the applied surface.All of the colors and patterns contributed to her dramatic design now referred to as "the Draper touch."

Dorothy Draper avoided beige at all costs.

One of many seating areas in The Greenbrier.

The main Diningroom at The Greenbrier

This photo of The Greenbrier is courtesy of TripAdvisor

The hallway in the Main Building of The Greenbrier contains room after room, and each of the sitting rooms and lobbies has a unique design.

Photos of The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs
This photo of The Greenbriar is courtesy of TripAdvisor

The indoor pool area

Photos of The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs
This photo of The Greenbrier is courtesy of TripAdvisor


The Ladies Sitting Room at the spa.

Carlton Varney assumed leadership at Dorothy Draper Designs. I had the privilege of meeting him and receiving a signed copy of one of his decorating books while visiting my West Virginia friends. He had just completed decorating their turn of the century mansion and was there as wedding designer for their daughter, one of my best friends.

Dorothy Draper benches!

The Braziliance commode is a two-drawer cabinet designed by Dorothy Draper in 1939 for The Quitandinha, a resort near Sao Paulo, Brazil.

The recent Green Room at the Emmys as decorated by Dorothy Draper Designs.

Benjamin Moore put together a special palette of their colors that captured the style of Dorothy Draper a year or two ago for a museum retrospective show. Here are the colors they included.

“Draper was to decorating what Chanel was to fashion. She brought color into a world which was sad and dreary.These splashy vibrant colors were used to make the public spaces represent a place for people to come and feel elevated and where the dramatic design could absorb them in the interior. Today…everyone wants color around them again.” –Carleton Varney.


  1. Dear Lisa,
    Thank you for this fabulous post on the legendary Dorthy Draper!! The iconic Greenbrier is not too far from Washington, DC, and someday, I'll visit this amazing resort to experience the D.D. style. And how wonderful that you met Carleton Varney....another design superstar.
    Happy New Year!
    Cheers from DC,

  2. OH DEAR...anything with aqua stripes is in my design book! LISA! This is so stunning. This style rings close to my heart, because living in L.A. as a child and teen really did expose me to this style. I had an aunt who was a seamstress to the stars and often did I catch a glimpse of some of the old Hollywood style homes while visiting her place.

    AND I SEE OUR DEAR LOI was here! I love his style,I love his SHOP! He has a sofa on his post that I must have!

    Have a lovely day my dear, Anita


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