An Old Friend Reintroduces Carleton Varney to the Charms of Decoupage

An Old Friend Reintroduces Carleton Varney to the Charms of Decoupage

By Carleton Varney- Special to the Palm Beach Daily News

Each year I receive emails from talented artists who want to introduce their work to me and my staff. Some offer sculptures and some present watercolors, while others send fabric and wallpaper designs.

In the same way, I often look at samples of new furniture, and sometimes I end up using the pieces in projects or introducing them to others.

You see, exploring new options is a wonderful way to keep abreast of the latest design trends and stay open to new ideas. And sometimes, new ideas for decorating come from old friends.

Recently, I received a call from Jane Cummings, one of my longtime friends. Jane is a woman of distinction who was part of my life in the 1970s and ’80s when we were New Yorkers and, shall we say, enjoying the scene.

Jane also was the owner of a very “in” boutique on Madison Avenue in the ’60s. It was called Cache Cache and the shop helped introduce to New York plastic cocktail glasses with a finish that looked like silver mercury. Those glasses were seen at every cocktail party to which you wanted to be invited in Manhattan or the Hamptons. Jane’s silver glasses were the accessory of the moment.

Jane, who today resides in West Palm Beach, told me on the phone she had a new passion – decoupage, of all things.

You remember decoupage? It became a craft craze in the 1970s, although its origins date back centuries. It’s the technique of cutting or tearing paper, usually with images, and then pasting the pieces onto items with a special glue that seals everything together. Traditional decoupage often employs layers and layers of very thin paper.

Jane was busy with her new craft — cutting and pasting, cutting and pasting.

She asked me: “What would you do with it — or would you do anything with it?”

I thought and answered: “Yes.”

I could decoupage mirror frames and metal lampshades. I might decoupage the walls of a powder room, perhaps with images of different types of roses or with dog breeds I love.

I also can imagine decoupaging beautiful pictures of racehorses on the walls of my coat closet in the house on my farm in Ireland — although that might be a lengthy process. But I think the result would be worth it.

Hearing from Jane — my friend for oh, so many years — reminded me how important it is to keep an eye out for a new creative passion that will keep your mind and hands busy.

If Jane puts her talents to use and creates a room to showcase her new passion for decoupage, I hope she will give me a call once it’s done. I’ll come to see it and share a cup of tea and a good tongue-wagging about times that once were.


  • Julia G Richards on

    Delightful article about your friend Jane’s art. Decoupaging is a wonderful, creative and colorful way to express ideas. The closet idea in Ireland sounds magical…though, anything Irish is, I picture their music, trad tunes, fiddles, currachs, wells, literature, scemery interwoven on those walls. Do it!

  • Elizabeth Green on

    I totally agree, Carleton, about finding new passions to keep your mind and hands busy. I just attended the Tom Bishop International Miniature Show in Chicago this past weekend. I took a workshop to make my first dollhouse, an English Thatched Tudor, from a famous antique restorer from London. It was like my mind was being dusted off as I haven’t done anything like that in my life. The miniaturist artisans I met at the weekend show were more than gracious. They were so helpful with suggestions about creating my idea for a Christmas shop complete with electric lighting. This will showcase my collection of German Christmas miniatures, petit point and a table and chairs I will be making at the Guild School camp in Maine this summer. Yes, do try something new… has changed my whole way of thinking…..I am even going to learn how to use power tools and learn how to construct a miniature Punch and Judy puppet theater….this is going outside my comfort level and it feels amazing.

  • Diana C Fuller on

    Thinking of past things we love – stayed in the Carleton V suite at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. Loved all the wallpaper and fabrics but my favorite was your beautiful heron wall paper and fabric. Would love to see that again! Dreamy and peaceful

  • cecy jones korematsu on

    Ahhh, I remember my mother went through a decoupage faze…nothing wooden was sacred.
    My grandmother wasn’t to thrilled when mom “decoupaged” an antique cigar box of her grandfather’s…But She, mom, did have talent!!!.
    Love it, thank you, memories………

  • Dona on

    Love it
    And love that Carleton sees all things new, even when old

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