A Carleton Varney Masterpiece, The Grand Hotel Takes You “Somewhere in Time”

Carleton Varney (aka Mr. Color) is the president/owner of Dorothy Draper & Co. Inc., one of the oldest established interior design firms in the United States, named after the founder of the company Dorothy Draper. As Draper’s protégé, his work serves as a continuation of her legacy.

In addition to numerous private residences,Mr. Varney is associated with the restoration and decoration of countless hotels and resorts throughout the world, and today we will take a peek inside The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan! Varney was in charge of redecorating the Grand Hotel in the late 1970’s, and it remains today a timeless testament to Draper/Varney style.    
Image courtesy of The Pink Pagoda
Before we begin our tour,I would like to extend a Texas-sized thank you to the amazingly talented Jennifer @The Pink Pagoda, one of my absolute favorite blogs!  It was her photo documentary of her visit to the Grand Hotel and Mackinac Island that first introduced me to this historic destination, and she was gracious enough to let me “borrow” some of her images!!  Thank you, Jennifer!
For more than 125 years, the Grand Hotel has embraced its rich history, but kept up with the times.Today, guests enjoy modern amenities while the hotel’s original architecture,charm and relaxing ambiance have been tastefully preserved. Contributing greatly to the hotel’s ambience is the relaxed atmosphere of Mackinac Island (pronouncedMACK-in-awe), where cars are not allowed and the horse and carriage and bicycle are favoured modes of transportation. It is like stepping back in time.
Image courtesy of the Grand Hotel
Appropriately, the 1980 movie Somewhere in Time – a spell-binding time travel love story starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour – was filmed at the Grand Hotel.Reeve is a playwright who becomes smitten by a photograph of a beautiful actress(Seymour) at the Grand Hotel, and he travels back in time to the year 1912 to follow his love. This has always been one of my favorite movies, and now I love it even more knowing it was filmed at this magnificent hotel!  I will have to watch it again… with a big box of Kleenex, it is such a tear-jerker.
Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, Somewhere in Time
Mackinac Island and the Grand Hotel became one of the nation’s favored summer resort destinations during the Victorian era. As a nod back to a period of time when more formal period attire was de rigueur, after 6:30 p.m. gentlemen are required to wear coat and necktie while ladies dress in their finest.  As it should be!
Image courtesy of the Grand Hotel
The Grand Hotel’s famous 660-foot-long Front Porch is the largest porch in the world. Gracing the porch are 2,500 geraniums – the hotel’s trademark flower – in 260 planting boxes with seven tons of potting soil. More than 5,200 geraniums can be seen in all the hotel flower beds combined.
More geraniums inside! Image courtesy of The Pink Pagoda
There are even geraniums on the carpet! Image courtesy of The Pink Pagoda
Here is a close-up, via Flikr
 And next BE.STILL.MY.HEART!!!!!!!!!!
It is my Brazilliance wallpaper in the Cottage Restaurant!!! I have written about my obsession with Brazilliance (here) before, it is just too fabulous!  Image courtesy of the Grand Hotel Here are more images of my beloved Brazilliance…
Image courtesy of the Grand Hotel
Close up of the curtains, from the Grand Hotel blog
Image courtesy of the Pink Pagoda
The walkway passes many Grand Hotel shops and Art Gallery. Image courtesy of the Grand Hotel
Image courtesy of The Pink Pagoda
Astor’s Salon is a full service Aveda Salon inside the hotel. Facials, hair styling, massages, manicures, pedicures can be enjoyed inthe salon or in your Grand Hotel guest room. I wonder if it is named for Brooke Astor, Draper’s former secretary? Hmmm….
How could you resist these pink and white candy stripes?
A mani/pedi in this girly-girl salon would be a must on my agenda!
Images courtesy of the Grand Hotel
Classic Dorothy Draper style includes black and white checker-board tiles, plasterwork (those palm tree lamps are to DIE for!) and a bold mix of colors.  She loved the combination of red and green. Image courtesy of The Pink Pagoda
Beautiful fretwork on the staircase, and a bold red and green trellis carpet. Image courtesy of Pink Pagoda
This pink Venetian glass mirror is so beautiful! Image courtesy of The Pink Pagoda
This Venetian glass chandelier is stunning! And note the oh-so-Dorothy blue and white striped ceiling. Image courtesy of The Pink Pagoda Next on the tour are the guest rooms. The Grand Hotel has 385 rooms, featuring 264 different wallpapers and 22 registered colors throughout,which means no two walls or rooms in Grand Hotel are alike. (Remaining images courtesy of the Grand Hotel)
There’s that plaster palm tree lamp again, I want one!!
Additionally, six suites are named for and designed by six former First Ladies of the United States, including the Jacqueline Kennedy Suite (with carpet that includes the gold presidential eagle on a navy blue background and walls painted gold), Lady Bird Johnson Suite (yellow damask-covered walls with blue and gold wildflowers),Betty Ford Suite (green with cream and a dash of red), Rosalynn Carter Suite (with a sample of china designed for the Carter White House and wall coverings in Georgia peach), Nancy Reagan Suite (with signature red walls and Mrs. Reagan’s personal touches) and Barbara Bush Suite (designed with pale blue and pearl and with both Maine and Texas influences).
Barbara Bush Suite
Rosalynn Carter Suite
Jacqueline Kennedy Suite
 And last but not least on our tour…. The Main Dining room:
View from the Main Dining Room
After looking inside the regal and timeless images of the Grand Hotel, it is easy to see why Carleton Varney was named as one of the 30 “Deans of American Design” by Architectural Digest in 2005.Stay tuned for more posts on Mr. Varney and his work!


  1. LOVE this! Saving my money to buy Brazilian! Such inspiration as I am a CV & DD groupie from way back! Great post! Also saving my $$$ for Growing Wild the CV fabric.

    • Thanks, Junell! The Growing Wild is sooo Palm Beach Chic, I love it! You must keep us posted!! I also adore Fudge Apron. I scooped up two comforters a while back that Mr. Varney had produced for HSN. One for the bed, the other for extra bargain-priced fabric!

  2. Many Thanks on a cold winter day to relive the memories of our Favorite Hotel! You have such Beautiful photo's I feel like I'm stepping into each one ! Very Nice !

  3. My fav suite is the Lady Bird Johnson suite. Great views of the Mackinac Bridge at night. Oops I just gave away my fav room to my other friends who join us for the Labor Day Jazz Festival. Jaleta Ford Boyd

  4. astor was the name of the owner's ex-wife's golden retriever … before they were divoriced some years ago … astor was a wonderful dog !

  5. Interesting question about the Astor salon. John Jacob Astor had a fur trading company (monopoly) headquartered on the island and was one of the wealthiest people in the US in the late 1700/early 1800s. You can read more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Jacob_Astor. Brooke Astor was married to Victor Astor who was a several-grate grandson of John Jacob Astor.


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