Movies may have still been trapped in a black-and-white world in the 1930s, but design—courtesy of the emerging Hollywood Regency style—was decidedly not. Inspired by the alluring styles of designers like Dorothy Draper and William Haines, Hollywood Regency vividly appealed to those weaned on the silver screen. With its touches of Neoclassical nostalgia and progressive Modernism, must-haves for Regency style include brass, lacquer, velvet, and a touch of Chinoiserie. Zebra hide rugs and and silver ombré glassware are optional—but highly recommended.
8 HOLLYWOOD REGENCY IDEAS TO STEAL FROM DOROTHY DRAPER’S GREENBRIER HOTEL
Unlikely nestled into the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia is the Greenbrier Hotel, a mecca-like destination for Hollywood Regency enthusiasts. Opened in 1778, the Greenbrier Hotel was an elites-only destination in Antebellum America, but by 1946—following stints as both a foreign diplomat holding ground and a WWII army hospital—had fallen into a dire state of disrepair. Dorothy Draper, a Tuxedo Park socialite with a strong aversion to resting on her laurels, was famously hired to give the Greenbrier a facelift.
Armed with her self-appointed “Modern Baroque” style, Draper and her staff swept through the six floors of the storied hotel, laying black and white marble tiles on the diagonal, carpeting corridors in Astroturf green wall-to-wall carpet, and hanging chintz-covered drapes—all soon-to-be hallmarks of the Hollywood Regency décor style. Today, the Greenbrier Hotel stands much as Draper left it, but thanks to her protégé Carleton Varney, doesn’t sit stagnant, either. Varney ensures that the hotel updates are ongoing, preventing this Hollywood Regency landmark from becoming a time capsule rather than a flexuous entity.
Given that the Greenbrier is an epitome example of Hollywood Regency style, we’ve gathered 9 tips you can emulate in your space. From the ubiquitous banana leaf to black lacquer furniture, this is how Hollywood Regency décor is done.
YELLOW, GREEN & PINK
To give you a read on the Draper psyche, “she thought an earth tone was something that belonged under a rock.” In accordance, the Greenbrier hotel is awash in color, with the majority of rooms assuming a bouquet-like palette of yellow, green, and pink. Use this sunshine-powered palette in your own Hollywood Regency room, or opt for one of the hotel’s demurer color combos: powder blue and red. No matter your choice, accent with plenty of black and white for the signature Draper look.
“Romance and Rhododendrons” was reportedly Draper’s theme for the Greenbrier, making her choice of botanical fabrics apt. The Greenbrier’s floor-to-ceiling drapes are outfitted in punchy florals while the much-emulated banana print is reserved for wallpaper and carpeting (which sometimes dance cheek-to-cheek). An all-over cabbage rose print was Draper’s de rigueur and today adorns everything from chair cushions in the Colonial Lounge to the bed skirts in the guestrooms. In your space, try reupholstering a colonial armchair in a splashy rose print (or get ahold of a few yards of Draper’s custom ‘Fudge Apron’ fabric to really do it right) to transform a furniture cast-off into genuine Hollywood Regency furniture.
When it comes to Hollywood Regency style, cabana stripes are a neutral, hence the reason why Draper applied them to the Greenbrier in excess. Green-and-white, pink-and-white, and aqua and-white cabana stipes have all appeared within the Greenbrier at some point over the years. To steal a Greenbrier exclusive, if you have an arched doorway, try painting cabana stripes into the interior recess. Draper did this in some of the hotel’s arched stairwells and the undulating effect is truly hypnotic.
Hollywood Regency décor is all about glam and excess, meaning that even floors need to be dressed to impress. While Draper rolled out patterned carpets in the main galleys and parlors, she stuck to solid colors or monotone plaids in the guestrooms. Carpeted floors might feel passé to you, but in a Hollywood Regency bedroom they’ll feel just right—a touch opulent, and a definite treat for the feet.
When in doubt, paint it white. As a rule, Hollywood Regency furniture doesn’t showcase much wood, but when it does, Draper was liable to paint it white. A coat of white paint will brighten everything from Chippendale chairs to imposing stair rails, allowing these pieces to blend seamlessly with chintzy prints and solid colors like emerald and fuchsia. If you don’t love the idea of painting your wood furniture white, but want to try out the look, try black lacquer. It’s subtler than white, but will still feel Regency-like.
Admittedly, Chinoiserie is a much larger element of Hollywood Regency décor as a whole than the Greenbrier makes it out to be, but Eastern-leaning touches are still evident throughout the hotel. The Greenbrier makes way for Chinoiserie mainly in the form of fabric printed with bamboo fretwork and Hollywood Regency coffee tables outfitted with open lattice work. Ming-style tables are also common sights in the Greenbrier, and because they’re lacquered black, they’re often found in the company of more traditional pieces.
Dorothy Draper’s signature style was called “Modern Baroque.” It’s a style that feels elusive until you study the plaster pediments in the Greenbrier. In the hotel, fireplaces and doorways are iced with Baroque-style ornamentation, some distinctively Neoclassical in nature, while others are Federal—a nod to the hotel’s West Virginia heritage. If you’re not looking to install plaster pediments in your home, try a Hollywood Regency mirror, by which we mean a Baroque mirror. Draper used elaborate Baroque mirrors in stairwells and hallways, and their effect is much the same as the plaster.
In yet another nod to its antebellum history, Dorothy Draper made the decision to use predominantly early American artwork in the Greenbrier. While darkly-lit landscapes and presidential portraits may seem an unusual accompaniment to splashy florals and colors borrowed from the punch bowl, the effect is remarkably harmonic. If you’re looking for art for a Hollywood Regency living room or Hollywood Regency dining room, consider a traditional art piece, which will lend gravitas to Hollywood Regency’s candy store palette.