Monday, July 20, 2009

Adventures with Carleton




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.)

19 comments:

  1. What a fun week-end! Charleton Varney is one of a kind... it takes a lot of courage to go against the current design trends of linen and beige. Thanks for bringing the process to us.

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  2. What a great insiders view! It kind of takes some courage for him to step out into such a new medium for high end design I think. But it shows that no matter how famous or experienced one is, it's important to try something new. Meanwhile, he reached a ton of people I'm sure.

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  3. She is with all the while still.

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  4. Thanks for the ace reporting Jennifer! It's so great to see you on set with one of your heroes!

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  5. I love his decorating style - I just have to tone it down a little.

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  6. You. Are. So. Lucky!!! Love the set, and I wouldn't expect anything else. Just looking at the set I see why I just love Dorothy Draper and Carlton Varney's style.

    He looks so dapper and I like the look of the chair in the Shannon Stripe. I'll have to check out the website for the other items.

    How great that you got to speak with him AND get a picture! I am so jealous!

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  7. The new sheets will be a fun change. Show me no gravy is the best line ever.

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  8. Jennifer- fantastic and fun post. I am so glad to hear the vibrancy of CV prints is present in the hsn line. the sheets sound great. la

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  9. Jennifer, I actually watched the evening time slot for a kick and was contemplating those Versailles sheets (which kind of remind me of the wallpaper in Joe Nye's bedroom). Your post (especially the details on the whole quality control process) pushed me over the edge and I now have a green set on its way to me. EEE

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  10. wow, sounds like a great experience to be there and meet him! Thanks for sharing it :-)

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  11. Oh how wonderful-a dream come true. Reminds me of all my times at the Greenbrier.

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  12. Anonymous11:43 PM

    What a fun behind-the-scenes visit. I so much enjoy this blog.

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  13. He looks like the definition of fabulous!

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  14. How fun and I think his new line must be fab, xv.

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  15. Jennifer,
    What a wonderful treat for you & for Mr. Varney! He looks charming!Thanks so much for an interesting behind the scenes look. I am so glad that you posted about him as I still thought that HSN was all about stain cleaners & jewelry! Shows you that I need to watch something other than the news & CSI. Always great to visit Pic of Chic! Lisa

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  16. Great post! We love Carleton and his son Sebastian too!

    Xo
    Eddie + Jaithan

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  17. Such an exciting day for you I'm sure and what wonderful information! I had no clue! Did read your post after writing about Dorothy Draper last week and I would love your insight-
    http://highglossblue.blogspot.com/search/label/Dorothy%20Draper

    Very best Jennifer-
    Claire

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  18. Great Post! You should check out his son Nicholas Varney's amazing jewelry. He makes the most stunning one of a kind pieces from shells, lava rocks, and other unusual things--along with diamonds and anything else rare and fabulous. Definitely worth seeing!

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  19. Gotta say - don't love Carlton's work. In my opinion, verges on Tacky - to overdone, and it's lost the Dorothy Draper touch. Just one mans opinion.

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