Tales of the aesthetic variety from the wallpapered headquarters of Dorothy Draper’s wildest adventure: designtripper correspondent D. Graham Kostic delivers a special report from the legendary Greenbrier Resort, which he visits every summer with his family.
The journey is half the fun when you travel, and there is nothing quite as beautiful as the hike from the Roanoke Virginia airport to White Sulphur Springs. You wind through two national forests, down roads that double back on each other, lots and lots of lawn ornaments and then, finally, you’re on a bit of a highway that is a straight shot to The Greenbrier Resort. It’s right over the border in West Virginia, and a big sign welcomes you to the state: “Welcome to West Virginia, Wild and Wonderful!” And the Greenbrier, which proudly calls itself America’s Resort, is a magical place, indeed. Each stately room is decked out in quintessential Dorothy Draper style: bold floral prints with black and white checkered floors; neon stripes and gaudy chandeliers that you’d turn your nose at anywhere else. The rooms are like little dollhouse rooms with different wallpaper and matching curtains and rugs (one year, i stayed in one with colorful French tulips; another year it was pink peonies; Chinese pottery with flowers). Staring down the main corridor is ballroom after ballroom, all working together in an odd way–a raucous, elevated mash-up of colors, shapes and patterns.
Word of warning: You may want to run home and wallpaper every wall in your house and dig out the loud, heavy curtains your grandma used to have in her sitting room. There is afternoon tea (which I sometimes think is overrated and cliche, but here, it just works) and you have to wear a jacket to dinner. The place is pulsing with life and as you walk down long hallways, the floral wallpaper seems to creep along with you.
Just recently, they renovated the hotel to include a brand new casino and a few extra shops. The design is seamless from old to new. And a new addition is this vibrant, tropical green leafed Carleton Varney-designed wallpaper that encompasses the entire new passage to the casino. It’s insanely over-the-top and every color under the rainbow is represented in the furniture. A giant clam shell shaped fountain is the focal point! But my favorite place is perhaps a long, winding back porch outfitted with rocking chairs that makes for a perfect retreat for a mint julep (which was supposedly invented here!).
Related note: My good friend Meredith, who designs the accessories line Meredith Wendell, grew up very close to the resort. She shoots all of her lookbooks (see here and here) on the property and they really speak to the boldness and design of the place.