About a month ago, my beautiful wife, Stacey, planned a weekend getaway at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, WV. The resort location has welcomed visitors since the late 18th century. In the mid-20th century, the resort underwent a massive redesign. Dorothy Draper, a world-famous interior designer out of New York, was recruited to lead the effort. And lead the effort she did.
When we arrived at Greenbrier, my first impression of the decor was far from positive. I found the colors and oversized prints to be garish. Nothing seemed to work together. Well, they didn’t work together in the way I expected or wanted. After a bit of time, the colors and prints began to coalesce into something quite striking and beautiful. I began snapping pictures of areas that caught my eye.
By my second day at the resort I began to understand why they called Dorothy Draper a “tastemaker.” She was literally redefining my tastes with each room. I never expected the colors she forced together to actually work, much less actually move me. I never expected over-sized floral patterns to work alongside black and white checkerboard floors. But they did.
I quickly realized that my sense of color in my own artwork is very traditional and expected. This color obviously goes with that color. Oh, no, that color can’t possibly go with that one.
In fact, I now think that a person with sophisticated tastes and a well-honed eye can practically will or force any two colors together. The Greenbrier vibrates with astounding confidence. It feels like there was no other option than for those spaces to be decorated in that specific way. Any change would simply fail.
The experience of visiting The Greenbrier has caused me to re-think my use of color in the studio. Instead of finding the obvious pairings of color, I’m going to instead try to push beyond my present understanding of color. I want to find two colors that seemingly have no place being side by side and find a way to make them work. To make them say more together than I ever thought possible. To open new ways of seeing.
Admittedly, I know very little about interior design in the mid-20th century. Draper may be an over-rated hack and I wouldn’t know the difference. But, on that particular weekend, at this particular time in my life, the spaces and experiences set up by Dorothy Draper have inspired me profoundly. I’m excited to see where this all leads. Perhaps I will find a new level of beauty in my work, or perhaps I will determine that indeed some colors should never, ever be used together. Regardless, it should be challenging and it should be fun.