Experience a Colorful Christmas at the Greenbrier

Decorator Carleton Varney takes us on tour of the colorful Christmas décor at “America’s resort,” The Greenbrier in West Virginia.


Article Summary: 
Decorator Carleton Varney takes us on tour of the colorful Christmas décor at “America’s resort,” The Greenbrier in West Virginia.

Wendy Griffith tours the Greenbrier Resort with Carleton Barney and gets design tips from the man who decked the halls in America’s second most famous White House.

Wendy: “I'm here with Mr. Color himself, Carleton Barney. And I cannot wait to see the inside of this spectacular hotel.”

Carleton: “Well I'm delighted to have you here in the hills of West Virginia, at the Greenbrier Resort, which is America’s resort. I'm going to show you all of the wonderful Christmas trees we do, and all of the wonderful spirit. And all of you out there in America can come and see for yourself how great this place is.”

Wendy: “All right. Let's go.”

Carleton: “This beautiful building with the columns, it is like the White House. It looks like the White House, except we have rooms in it. We have 800 rooms and cottages and an art colony in it. It has a style all its own. It’s an American baroque.”

Wendy: “Carleton, many, many famous people have stayed here as the Greenbrier over the years. Can you name a few?”

Carleton: “There are so many. When Grace (Kelly) came here with the children, when they were small, we did their state suite here. And Judy Garland has been here, and 26 presidents have been here. And Condi Rice. (Joan) Crawford has been here.”

Wendy: “I have to ask you, how did you get the nickname Mr. Color?”

Carleton: “I got because I don't like anything that looks like, let's say like oatmeal. I think color is the most important thing in decorating. And I think color changes moods. I think if you take a room and I paint the room bright red and then I can change it and paint it light blue, everything says a different mood. I think I was born with the ability to see color, like many people don’t see it. Are you ready to go for a tour of all of the Christmas trees with me? I'll take you around.”

Wendy: “I would love to. Carleton, it is so amazing at the Greenbrier during Christmas. The lights outside are spectacular. And you walk inside, and it is even better. A beautiful Christmas tree in almost every room.”

Carleton: “I love to hear you say that. Everybody thinks that Christmas is green and red, but a Christmas tree need not be only green and red. We are using today some beautiful candied popcorn balls that we made here. And we colored our tree to match the lobby. And these young girls are helping us decorate with ornaments that you can eat. Think of your favorite colors, and bring them into your home and make the tree you.”

Wendy: “I love it. Great idea.”

Carleton: “And we're going to go on to our next tree, and that tree is going to be a patriotic tree.”

Wendy: “Let's go.”

Carleton: “This tree is made for the American soldier and the history of America and the respect we have for a flag. These patriotic trees are in honor of those people who have served our country.”

Wendy: “Every time I pass this tree, I just want to salute and say, ‘thank you.’”

Carleton: “Yes, do that. There are so many other beautiful trees, and I'm going to take you to see still another.”

Wendy:  “Okay. Great, let’s go.”

Wendy: “Well, Carleton, we're here in front of another gorgeous tree in the main lobby of the Greenbrier. This one is 16-feet tall. And you call it the royal tree.”

Carleton: “I call it the royal tree, yes. And I'll tell you why; because it is designed and decorated with royal colors. Now, many years ago, when I was Jimmy Carter's decorator in the White House, I did a Christmas event at the White House. And the honoree was Margaret Thatcher. The English love their purple, and the English love their royal blue, like the Britannia, and they love their red and they love their pink. You have to remember, Lady Thatcher was not in the royal part of the world, as being a royal herself. But I wanted to use all of the spirit of England. So let's go to the presidential suite.”

Carleton: “This tree is about tassels. You know there are certain things that majorettes have and so forth.  And I designed a scarf, and it has all these great tassels.”

Wendy: “Yes, it’s lined with beautiful gold tassels.”

Carleton: “But the tassels on this tree - these are also golden tassels. And we also have strings of pearls.”

Wendy: “Well Carleton, thank you so much for this wonderful, fascinating and very unique tour of the Greenbrier hotel.  I'll tell you what, I'm definitely in the mood for Christmas now. Thank you.”

About the Author