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Monday, February 9, 2009

My Conversation With Carleton Varney

My Conversation With Carleton Varney-

On January 21st 2009 I was running late, caught in traffic,
on the cell with Margaret (Carleton Varney’s Assistant), asking her what she would be wearing, explaining what I was wearing………trying to make this interview happen.

Margaret Landry was as nice as you ‘ wouldn’t imagine .’ I expected a ‘Gate Keeper’ of sorts, but she was nice, friendly and genuinely helpful
After telephone tag, about 4 calls within 25 minutes, we found each other in the DCOTA ( Design Center of The America’s in Dania Beach, Florida ). There she was, just as she had described herself, and in addition, cute as she could be.
Margaret then led me to Carleton Varney ( CV ) who ( thank G-d ) was expecting me.
And there he was…all Carleton Varney-ish !!
He was the ‘Real Deal.’ And He Was Fabulous !!!
He was dressed in a white linen suit; he was tanned, and had gorgeous lightish-blondish hair, and a disarming smile. Carleton Varney is very handsome , yet still retaining a boyish quality, which as all we ladies know, is so attractive!!!’
I ask you, is there anything more perfectly Palm Beach than that ?
Here are some of the things we talked about.
His happiness, his favorite design projects, art, his hobbies ,
his favorite places to be, words for young designers,
and will he retire ?
Q's & A's
The 1st Question:Are you happy ?”
Answer: Carleton Varney ( CV ) told me he was happy to be alive. He had a great big smile and leaned back. Them he proceeded to tell me about how wonderful his parents were, and that they just wanted him to be happy. They taught him not to be wasteful, and to give of yourself without expecting anything in return.
Q: What is your favorite color ?
A: My favorite color is green, and I love blue as well.
I had to nail him down on the blue that he loved , and I came away understanding it to be ‘ AZURE Blue‘ ( which is my fave too ) .

Q: What was your favorite finished project ?
A: CV thought that is was The Greenbriar, he loved the black and white floors , the wallpaper and fabrics. He loved all of the colors and patterns and the way it came together.

Q: Favorite Job ?
A: He said ‘ THE WHITE HOUSE’ ( JIMMY CARTER . 1977-1981 ).
CV told me that the experience was incredible.
Carleton Varney got to know President Carter and the 1st Lady on a personal level. Everyone treated him with kindness, and in addition, he was exposed to international dignitaries, and some of the world’s most powerful political players. CV was clearly moved when discussing the relationships he established with some of these people.
The experience, I am sure, was an awesome one.
( please note pictures included in this post as it relates to the players in President Carters White House )

Q: What is your favorite place to be ?
A: CV said that ‘In Jamaica, lying on a boat, in a beautiful lagoon’ with the breeze blowing through the leaves of of the trees. Just feeling like he “never had to move again”, surrounded by swaying palms , blue skies, and the turquoise water

Q: What have you not done yet, and you still want to do ?
A: CV told me that he wants to be able to ‘ follow through’ on all that he has to do.
He wants to be able to ‘ find commitment’. ( have the time to actually start and finish )
He wishes that he had more time. Carleton Varney told me that Ethel Merman once told him; “ Get On The Boat Before It Leaves The Pier “.

Q: What are your favorite things to do ?
A: CV said to me that he loves painting, and so he told me another cute story….
CV was friends with Anita Young, who was Georgia O’Keeffe’s sister. One day while CV was over at Anita Young’s house, Anita Young was rummaging through a closet of hers that was stuffed with her sister’s ( Georgia O’Keeffe ) work.
Miss Young did not like ( not even a tiny bit ) Georgia O’Keefe’s work.
Anita Young looked at Carleton Varney and asked him if he wanted some paintings ?
CV did not accept the offer , he told me.
And laughing , he said; “ I sure wish I had ! “

Q: Will you retire ?
A: No.

Q: What is the ‘PIECE’ ( furniture or fabric ) that you have designed,
that is your favorite ?
A: Mr. Varney had to really think, I came back to this question several times trying to pin him down. And finally he told me that it was a fabric that he designed for the Shah of Iran & Queen Farah.
What was left over of this fabric was still lying around in his bedroom.
It was a woven ,with pale yellows and turquoise. The fabrics name is: ‘Faraldhi’. Carleton Varney’s one regret with this design is that he did not create the Wall-Covering.
( my regret as well )
Q: Do you have anything to say to the new designer ?
A: Yes, “ You Must Be Born One. “. He told me that even if you have a proper interior design education, it is the way a real designer sees the world. It is placement and presentation. And to put it really simply , he said; “ You don’t prepare a dinner plate with steak , cauliflower and mashed potatoes” , “ it’s just not pretty.”
“ Use carrots or peas.”
I agree completely with him, Carleton Varney has a design school , here is an article he wrote :

Mr Varney has done so much, if you listen to his Life-Time Achievement Award Acceptance Speech on my other blog; Design EXPOSED , you will hear how brilliant and accomplished he is, yet still a man who retains humility and gratitude.
As much as I am in awe of his life’s achievements, I find this to be his crowning achievement.
I felt very fortunate to have met him, and to have been surrounded by his warm energy and generous nature. And for sharing with me some of his wisdom, and a few great little stories.
Thank You for the interview Mr.Varney. xx
Some of Carleton Varney’s products at Ficks Reed:

( enlarge any picture for more info and a closer look )

Renee Finberg 'TELLS ALL' in her blog of her Adventures in Design......
Carleton Varney, renee finberg, renee finberg, ,Carleton Varney
carleton varney


  1. Absolutely fabulous and intriguing and filled with great little tidbits.
    xo xo

  2. thanks V,

    if it weren't for you hocking me ,
    i never would have finished the post !


  3. Hi Renee
    What a fascinating man he is. I love his outlook on life. I must take some time to look at all the links on your post. Great Interview. Thanks

  4. Great interview Renee.....I enjoyed it thoroughly. CV is quite the Renaissance Man, I think. Fascinating and intriguing to say the least! Your post was so well written, as always, Renee!

  5. Great interview Renee.....I enjoyed it thoroughly. CV is quite the Renaissance Man, I think. Fascinating and intriguing to say the least! Your post was so well written, as always, Renee!

  6. How wonderful to meet him... LUCKY you! Thanks for sharing.

  7. Thank you for that wonderful interview.
    What a treat to get a glimpse into the mind of a master. What fun!


  8. Wonderfully personal, and entertaining interview, Renee! Bravo!

  9. That was a great interview! Great job.



Thanks for participating!!

About Renée Finberg

I have been in this business since the age of 22.

I love what I do and cannot imagine my life without Design.

Design Challenges are great.

And because of those challenges

I have imported fine antique pieces from Paris,

Designed and Manufactured Furniture,

Created Fantastic Window Treatments,

And solved all kinds of spatial & architectural issues

With my unique style.

If I can't find it, I create it.

My rooms would make excellent movie sets.

I am a visual, tactile and audio sensitive individual.

Creating is what I live for, not math, not spelling, not science.

Just Great Design.

Just imagine how it would be if each of us,

If only for a few hours of everyday,We could be in a space that is our very own.A place that is exactly the way we want it to be

Surrounded by all the things we wanted to see,

The atmosphere we wanted feel, smell and the sound we wanted to listen to.

Private Paradise



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