Dorothy Draper Decorating Weekend at the Greenbrier

Once a year, aficionados of exuberant design gather to celebrate the continuing legacy of Dorothy Draper and her protégé Carleton Varney, as beautifully realized in this legendary resort. Alice Doyle checks in.

Calling all lovers of unapologetic, high-octane decorating—make your plans to attend the immersive Dorothy Draper Decorating Weekend at The Greenbrier Resort beginning March 1, 2024, for three days of nonstop colorful bliss. I went last year, and it was an unforgettable experience, which I summon up often—especially during the dead of winter—by scrolling through my phone to take in all that I love about the decor. Any interior that pairs red and green together in a grand way, and shows off a penchant for chinoiserie, tassels, bold stripes and florals, elaborate bed hangings, and treillage is definitely a place I want to be.

Exterior of The Greenbrier Resort with lawn and bed of tulips in front of the entrance.
Once a year, aficionados of exuberant design gather to celebrate the continuing legacy of the team from Dorothy Draper & Company, who have been working on The Greenbrier Resort for more than 75 years. Photo courtesy of Dorothy Draper & Company, Inc.

While Draper and her protégé Carleton Varney (who worked on the resort for over six decades) are no longer with us, their design work and vivacious spirit continues with Varney’s son Sebastian Varney at the helm as president and Rudy Saunders as design director of Dorothy Draper & Company. And in case you are wondering, you will get to hang out with this talented duo and other members of the team at afternoon tea, an opening night reception, and my favorite part of the weekend, a decorating seminar that explores the history of the firm and its role as the curators and designers of The Greenbrier with some takeaway inspiration for your own home.

Lower lobby staircase at the Greenbrier Hotel with scenic wallpaper.
The lobby stairs with walls covered in Zuber's "The American War for Independence" and "Views of North America" wallpapers. Photo courtesy of Dorothy Draper & Company, Inc.
Upholsterer recovering a sofa in the upholstery shop at the Greenbrier hotel.
One of the weekend tours takes visitors behind the scenes at The Greenbrier Resort to the upholstery shop. Photo courtesy of Dorothy Draper & Company, Inc.

While there are many more activities during the three-day weekend (don’t miss the private tours of the upholstery workroom with its dazzling array of fabrics), there is abundant time to walk about and reflect. Around every corner is something remarkable to take in—the bold orange walls in the North Parlor with its chinoiserie screens and the pistachio green walls in the Trellis Lobby paired with turquoise, floral-print sofas, for example. Some of the combinations of color and pattern border on the outrageous, but in the firm’s competent hands, they are simply transcendent instead.

The Trellis Lobby at the Greenbrier Hotel
The Greenbrier's Trellis Lobby. Photo courtesy of Dorothy Draper & Company, Inc.
It is difficult to name a favorite design detail, or even a room for that matter, but the custom carpets particularly appeal to the maximalist in me, especially a design with floral bouquets and ribbon trellis surrounded by a striped border. You will find your own form of bliss during this weekend, but I do have a few things to recommend.
  1. Look into every bathroom you encounter; each one is a decorating tour de force.
  2. Make sure to visit Draper’s Café for a pick-me-up cappuccino during the day or whenever your sweet tooth calls. Its aubergine-hued walls, whimsical banquettes, and painted murals of the grounds of the estate are delightful.
  3. If your flight leaves early and you can’t attend the mimosas reception in the Dorothy Draper Home shop on Sunday morning, make sure to find another time during your stay to visit; it contains a microcosm of Draper and Varney’s signature joie de vivre, beginning with the façade’s yellow-and-white striped awnings and trellis application. Pick up some pajamas or leggings in one the resort’s signature prints.
  4. If your flight leaves after the official activities end, as mine did, wander around parts of the resort you may have missed. Check out the stripe-canopied swimming pool that feels like an old Hollywood stage set or step inside the cheer-inducing spa. Better yet, go ahead and book a spa appointment when planning your trip. And be sure to take a peep at the tile work around the bar in the Italian-themed restaurant Forum.

Event Dates: March 1 – 3, 2024

Register or get more details about the Dorothy Draper Decorating Weekend here, or call (855) 453-4858.

By Alice Welsh Doyle

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