I just returned from Tampa, and let me start by staying that I'm now completely smitten with Carleton Varney (that's him above on the HSN set). Any man who wears bold scarves in lieu of ties and who decorates with such flair is sure to be a colorful character. But what I didn't know was how friendly, personable, and down to earth he is. Of course the fact that he peppered his conversations with anecdotes about Dorothy Draper only endeared him to me more. I could have listened to him for days!
Carleton's new home accessories line for HSN bears the tagline "Live Vividly", something which suits Carleton to a tee. Vivid certainly described the set. One side featured Carleton's "work" area, replete with bold aqua and white striped walls and a replica of that famous Dorothy Draper door from the Camellia House restaurant, not to mention the black and white tiled floor laid on the bias. The armchairs are shown in Fudge Apron and Shannon Stripe with the matching ottoman. The Camelot rug is a reproduction of one from the Kennedy White House.
The other side of the set was more of the "selling" area (my term) where Carleton's line was displayed. It really is a reflection of his (and to an extent Draper's) aesthetic. Many of Varney and Draper's classic prints like "Fudge Apron", "Shannon Stripe", and "Versailles" figured prominently in the collection. There are duvets, shams, sheets, and pillows which bear these prints, not to mention headboards, chairs, ottomans, and poufs. If you're not a print person or are averse to floral chintz, the upholstered pieces also come in an array of solids, including everyone's favorite, black. Carleton relayed the story about how Draper used to enter the office and say "Show me no gravy", meaning "spare me the beige". Carleton's quip is that he only wants to see oatmeal for breakfast, not in a room. This may not convince you neutral devotees to come over to the side of color, but it's amusing nonetheless.
I ended up ordering a set of the Versailles sheets in pink because 1) Carleton inspired me to think beyond basic white and 2) "Versailles" is based on a swag print that covered the walls of the stairwell in Sybil Connolly's Merrion Square home, and I was a big fan of Connolly.
One thing that really impressed me was the quality of the line. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was very pleasantly surprised. The upholstered pieces are made in the USA and are very sturdy and well-made. Carleton had me sit down in the boudoir chair, and I was amazed at how solid it seemed. And see those red socks that Carleton is wearing? He started doing so on the advice of the late actor Van Johnson.
Something else to mention about the quality- I got a tour of the Quality Assurance building. You can't believe the amount of testing that the items go through. Textiles are weighed, then washed numerous times, then weighed again to determine if there's any shrinkage. When an item is received from a vendor, there's a drop test where the box, still sealed, is dropped from a specific height on all sides and then opened to see if there is damage inside. It's a fascinating process.
Being behind the scenes of the show was truly amazing. Behind Carleton and me (he was explaining the concept of the line- live vividly and live happy) you'll see the Serious Skincare set. Well, during Carleton's show they would break away for a minute to give a sneak peek of the following show which happened to be Serious Skincare. The cameras would just flip around and film the other side of the set. It was fun to catch Jennifer Flavin Stallone on the set. She looks good in person; maybe I need to start using the Serious Skincare.
Carleton's next show will be in September with all new products, and I can't wait to see what he has up his sleeves. What I really wish is that you all could have joined me on set and behind the scenes at HSN. It was truly a fascinating experience to see what home shopping is really like!
What can I say? I'm star-struck. I admit it!
(Thanks to Steve Nesius for taking the photos.)