Brazilliance wallpaper and photos of the famous visitors and entertainers decorate the entrance leading to the Polo Lounge at the Colony Hotel.
Poolside at the Colony Hotel. New blue and white striped umbrellas and colorful towels add to the cheerful vibe.
The veranda between the pool and the Polo Lounge now sports the blue and white check with a banana leaf canopy.
Red room at the newly refurbished Colony Hotel in Palm Beach.
The Colony Hotel's famous Polo Lounge now features photo murals by photographer Harry Benson, gingham and cowhide fabrics grounded in a deep green background.
Guests check out the new 1,300 pound crystal chandelier in the lobby of the renovated Colony Hotel.
The Careton blue hall at the redecorated Colony Hotel in Palm Beach.
A view of the Colony Hotel villas which were also redone by Carleton Varney.
Every detail of the Colony Hotel redo was attended to by designer Carleton Varney and his team down to the privacy/housekeeping door tags.
Signature Carleton Varney/ Dorothy Draper bold green stripes. In a bedroom suite at the newly redecorated Colony Hotel in Palm Beach, Fla.
The lobby outside of the curtained entrance to the Colony Hotel's popular Royal Room cabaret celebrating its 14th year.
A framed Colony scarf by Carleton Varney in the Millbrook green hall of the refurbished hotel.
Double yellow room at the newly refurbished Colony Hotel in Palm Beach, Fla.
The Dorothy Pink floor at the newly redone Colony Hotel in Palm Beach.
Carleton Varney's Big Fish fabric is on the chair and drapes in the Navy room at the Colony Hotel which recently held an opening night party to show off the new look.
Interior designer Carleton Varney.
Story and Photos by Patricia Sheridan
PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Facelifts are as common as blue skies in Palm Beach, so it was only a matter of time before the famed Colony Hotel had some work done.
Taking the 67-year-old hotel from worn to wonderful, from staid to stunning was renowned interior designer Carleton Varney. Known as “Mr. Color,” he used pinks and greens, sea blue and coral to bring out the Southern charm of the family-owned hotel that is steps away from the shopping mecca of Worth Avenue. Since 1947, the hotel has hosted the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, President Bill Clinton, John Lennon, Frank Sinatra and many more famous names.
Updating and redecorating all 90 rooms, suites and villas has cost between $9 million and $10 million, according to hotel manager Roger Everingham. “The bills are still rolling, in, “ he says.
Mr. Varney was the obvious choice to give The Colony a fresh look. He has redone many of Palm Beach’s major hotels including The Breakers and The Brazilian Court.
The renovation’s grand re-opening celebration was held last month, with Mr. Varney hosting a soriee for nearly 400 guests including Rosamond Clark, the matriarch of the family who owns the hotel, along with her daughter, Valarie McNally, and son, Larry Clark. Guests also included Pittsburgh Varney fans Nancy Kmiec and Sandy and Richard Roberts of Roberts Jewelers.
As president and owner of Dorothy Draper & Co. the oldest design firm in the United States, Mr. Varney’s signature style is rooted in that of his mentor, Ms. Draper, and her flair for the dramatic and dynamic.
“The real secret is color,” says Mr. Varney.
It’s one of the reasons clients seek him out. His fearless use of the entire spectrum has kept his wall coverings, fabrics and other products in demand. The first obvious change to The Colony is its exterior, now painted salmon.
“We call it Wolcott Salmon for Mrs. Draper’s ancestry. She was related to Oliver Wolcott, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence,” he explains.
Mr. Varney has always believed people are happier in warm, pretty colors. The hallways on each floor are done in different shades -- Carleton Blue, Dorothy Pink and Millbrook Green. The wallpaper in the halls below the chair rail was designed by Mr. Varney’s son, Sebastian.
“It’s very Monticello,” Mr. Varney says of the trellis-like pattern.
The walls of the main lobby are covered in Jasper Peony, the same pattern he used in Tory Burch’s showrooms. It comes from the Carleton V limited wallpaper and fabrics collection. “For the Colony, we did it in silver with peach,” he says.
The firm’s iconic white birdcage chandeliers, which Ms. Draper first used in New York City’s Metropolitan Museum cafeteria, are scaled down for the hotel’s lobby. Two of the originals are at The Grand on Michigan’s Mackinac Island, and one graces the entry hall of West Virginia’s Greenbrier Hotel. The centerpiece of the entrance at The Colony is a large green crystal tiered chandelier. It weighs 1,300 pounds and contain 637 individually hand-hung crystal pendants.
“You can’t miss it!” says Mr. Varney, smiling.
One pattern that is repeated throughout the hotel is Brazilliance. Its oversized banana leaf covers chairs, the underside of the poolside canopy and hallways, including the curved wall leading from the lobby to the famous Polo Lounge. Each room has its own personality, including lamps, artwork and colorways.
“Carleton used 19 colors on one floor! We stayed true to our British Colonial architecture while the effect is new and crisp,” Mr. Everingham says. “The end result is lively, kind of bold with some whimsy -- happy,” he adds.
The most famous room in the hotel is The Royal Room, considered one of the country’s top cabaret supper clubs.
The adjacent Polo Lounge has been updated with mural-size polo photos from Wellington by legendary photographer Harry Benson. Blue-check tablecloths pick up the blue of the Florida-shaped pool. Even the pool towels -- bright green, yellow, pink -- add to the happy vibe.
To see The Colony’s new face and enjoy lunch with interior designer Carleton Varney, jet in Feb. 13-15 for “The Spirit of Palm Beach with Carleton Varney,” offered by the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh Travel Program. For information, call 412-578-2618 or go to carnegiemuseums.org and click “travel program."
On Saturday, Mr. Varney will be conducting the “Dorothy Draper School of a Decorating” at the Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. Go to greenbrier.com or call 888-598-4302 to register.
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