Mary Candace Evans on Channeling Dorothy Draper

Originally designed by Dorothy Draper, the Stoneleigh Hotel’s penthouse is getting a makeover with help from her protégé, Carleton Varney.

Channeling Dorothy Draper

Carleton Varney is renovating the Stoneleigh penthouse Draper designed 68 years ago.

Carleton Varney is set to consult on the restoration of the Stoneleigh Hotel’s penthouse, originally designed by his famed mentor, Dorothy Draper.

photograph courtesy of Dorothy Draper and Co. Inc.

Dorothy Draper, the grande dame of American interior design, is hot again. NYC spent the entire summer worshipping her with “The High Style of Dorothy Draper” at the Museum of the City of New York. She is the woman who put rhododendrons on walls and brought elegance and thoroughbred WASP style to the emerging middle class of the 20th century with her designs on everything from hotels to airplanes to textiles. Realtor Douglas Elliman hired Draper to decorate a block of NYC tenement houses (now called Sutton Place) that no one fancied but cockroaches. With black paint, white trim, and colored doors, Draper proved that looks are everything.

In 1938, Draper was hired by Colonel Harry Stewart to design the penthouse at his Stoneleigh Hotel on Maple Avenue. Stewart, who had purchased oak paneling, stained glass, and stone mantels from William Randolph Hearst, was advised by Hearst to hire Draper. Now about to undergo a yearlong, $28 million dollar renovation, the Stoneleigh has just struck a deal with Draper’s equally famous protégé, Carleton Varney, to consult on the restoration of Draper’s original penthouse.

“It will definitely have a Dorothy influence,” Varney says. “We’re going to bring back the imagination, charm, and spirit of an age gone by that everyone yearns for right now.”

On a recent trip to the Stoneleigh, he greeted Caroline Rose Hunt, Vivian Young, Frances Campbell, Carolyn Lupton, Winn Morton, and Ebby Halliday who were invited to a luncheon presentation hosted by social scribe Julia Sweeney. Proud father, he took a quick trip to Neimans to check out the high-end jewelry line designed by his son, Nicholas. (“People are always asking me, am I related to Nicholas Varney?”) Père Varney has written a book about his icon mentor, “In The Pink: Dorothy Draper, America’s Most Fabulous Decorator,” published by Pointed Leaf Press.

And the Lone Star State will soon be doubly Draperized: Varney will consult on the renovation of the St. Anthony Hotel in San Antonio, which he re-decorated under Draper in the ’60s.


Brook Rydman Goes Home
Three years ago, Brooke Rydman kept weaving and smiling at Neiman Marcus’ In Circle holiday party at NorthPark Center. She was just starting to tease the fashion world with her one-of-a kind, handwoven accessories—shrugs, scarves, and shawls. Soon her Textile Designs by Brooke was everywhere. Now, Rydman has a line of table runners and placemats at a new store in Snider Plaza, At My Table, owned by Claudia Armstrong, formerly of Forty Five Ten, and Charlotte Browning. The line is similar to her fashion accessories, utilizing soft ingredients such as bamboo fibers, denim silks, novelty yarns, and metallics for accents, handwoven on looms.

Crafty Yanks
When Craft opened at the W last June, owners Foodcraft LLC and Tom Colicchio brought in more East Coast design influence, this time from Long Island, including Peter Bentel of Bentel and Bentel Architects/Planners. Bentel, whose firm designed Craft NYC, is gearing up for a trip to LA next year to plan a third. For his Dallas creation, Bentel knew he wanted something unique to the city and the food. “We did not want to have the restaurant feel as if it was flown in from NYC,” he says. The design supports the simplicity of Colicchio’s food. “Tom doesn’t rely on sauces, garnishes, and 12 ingredients,” he says. “It’s all about simplicity, which we followed in our design. Use the best materials and let them speak for themselves.” Like the main dining room chandeliers. Look at the light element itself, the electricity is unfettered and unvarnished. It’s like seeing the manifestation of the electrical current, Bentel says. Craft required mucho local talent from Brad Oldham of Studio 3-0 who built most of the restaurant’s metal work, particularly the bronze columns.

“To simulate a cast bronze look with sheet metal, we took a bronze sheet, laid it out on a piece of wood on the floor, and, pardon me, beat the crap out of the bronze with a whacker, creating voids using river rock and a hammer,” Oldham says. Though that may have been one of the more therapeutic tasks, Oldham says the Craft opening was an exciting but stressful event. When not beating bronze sheets, building the 12-foot long plexitube lights, hoisting the 9.5-foot tall bronze and steel mesh door, or designing the wine rack, he was managing more than 45 people to get the job done. “I think I had all of the vendors I work with in Dallas and Waco down there working on that job,” he says.


The Longest Yards
Local weaver and passementerie maker extraordinaire, Ellen Holt, crafts handwoven trimmings, tassels, and fringe for residential and commercial interiors. A former technical illustrator, she was weaving table runners, bed linens, and wall hangings when her “knotted fringe” trimmings caught the fancy of buyers and designers in 1984. The rest is history. One of only two companies producing custom trimmings in the U.S., Ellen S. Holt Inc. has made commissioned replicas of historical passementeries for the Abraham Lincoln home, Monticello, and replications of the original passementeries in the Supreme Court and Senate Chambers. She produces yards of trimmings for an A-plus list of interior designers from across the nation and VIPs such as Avery Johnson, Bill Clements, and Oprah Winfrey. On a recent visit to her studio, the first lady’s mother purchased a beaded evening bag for Laura Bush.


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