As a fan and critic of the fabulous Carlton Varney I find the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island to be the shopping addicts equivalent of a black Amex. I could spend weeks inside the hotel discovering new things; feeling trapped in a world that sometimes borders on Mad Hatter meets Queen Elizabeth. Is it chic or is it crazy? Whether you love him or hate him, Carlton Varney is one of America’s most famous interior designers and colourful inspirations.
One step in to the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island you’ll instantly see Varney’s aesthetic – imaginative and seemingly impossible colour combinations, stark contrasts of colour and texture, the use of bold prints and wall colours. I have written about Carton before, where I mention his deliberate attempt and personal commitment to rejecting all that is drab, impractical and uncomfortable. He is the King of Fuchsia – I always say I love a good fuchsia bathroom even if it does induce a seizure.
I think what most people misinterpret is Varney’s use of contrasts and colour as ‘tacky.’ Granted sometimes it borders on that to some but we have become used to whites and neutrals. Look at most modern designers, any new home – all neutral. We never paint in the colours we love anymore, we have all become practical and drab. When someone shows us a fuchsia wall, we duck for our sunglasses.
Carlton Varney’s vision for the Grand Hotel was just that – grand and he has modelled it into an almost living and breathing personal portfolio. I have always been a fan of Varney’s opulent use of colour in a time where many designers are all about ‘neutrals’ with a ‘pop’ of colour. Modern minimalism is not Varney’s or my own aesthetic. I love modern eclectic, daring, avant garde designs so for the most part I appreciate Varney’s vision. I find the younger generations are enthralled by his eclectic designs and colours but tend to think it’s tacky (which I guess to them is over the top). The mid twenties and up find it inspiring and beautiful. I think it’s a win if your demographic is 20 to death.
I love that you rarely if ever, get a plain neutral wall. (Other than white) In the Grand you will see yellow and white walls in stripes but this is the most muted Varney tends to get. The interiors of this hotel are breath-taking – whether you love them or not. They inspire something in you to go home and change something – to make your own living space more opulent and colourful and I think that’s what makes Carlton one of the best designers. He stays true to his aesthetic and makes you want it too.
Carlton Varney is the president of Dorothy Draper & Co. Inc. (NY) the oldest established interior design firm in the United States. He is also the author of a biography on Dorothy Draper, The Draper Touch – The High Life and High Style of Dorothy Draper‘ and ‘In The Pink-Dorothy Draper – America’s most fabulous Decorator.’ He also released, “Houses in My Heart.” and ‘Mr Color‘.
*All images are mine
Have you been to the Grand Hotel? What did you think of the interior?