Immediately after The Colony Hotel opened in 1947, it became Palm Beach society’s favorite place to be and be seen. The following 68 years witnessed visits from a host of fabulous patrons that included royals, presidents, and Hollywood A-listers. With a prime location just a block from the beach and steps away from tony Worth Avenue, the hostelry with Florida-shaped pool, brilliant flower and herb gardens, restaurants, and Royal Room for cabaret nights, remains an enduring symbol of old Palm Beach.
But its recent $9 million “re-imagining” by renowned decorator Carleton Varney, President of Dorothy Draper & Co., has reinvigorated its normal buzz, and added a hefty dose of sizzle. Varney, who was mentored by Draper, is clearly enjoying the overwhelming reaction to his dramatic color-infused scheme.
“When people say, Oh it’s so Palm Beach, I say, What would you expect here? You start with the building and its location—that’s its identity. The Colony, with 90 rooms, suites, and villas, has the best location in town. It has hibiscus and palm trees. All a decorator has to do is walk the land and get the feeling.”
Underscoring that he does not “do oatmeal rooms,” Varney emphasizes his love for color, and his mantra to make guests feel as if they were stepping into a fine private home. Throughout, he has used 289 different fabrics in surprising combinations, including fresh florals of purple violets, aqua daisies, blue cornflowers, turquoise cymbidium orchids, and huge banana leaves. Add a veritable rainbow of paint colors that ranges from the Wolcott Salmon exterior and soft Carleton Blue ceilings to Shannon Lemon Chiffon, Cameo Azalea and Dorothy Pink, by Dorothy Draper/Carleton Varney Collection for Fine Paints of Europe, and it’s easy to see why guests are charmed—and energized—by their surroundings. “They do seem to love it,” says Varney. “The hotel is booked solid.”