Greenbrier’s Casino Club opens amid glamour

Greenbrier’s Casino Club opens amid glamour
By Carleton Varney

Special to the Daily News

The famed Greenbrier resort at White Sulphur Springs, W. Va., has undergone a reinvention that included the July 2 opening of its new 120,000-square-foot Casino Club with five restaurants for which my firm provided the interior design.

Guests at the opening included Hollywood’s Ben Affleck and his wife, Jennifer Garner, who hails from Charleston, W. Va., as does actress Ann Magnuson, who also attended. Other stars at the grand opening included Brooke Shields, Jane Seymour, Debbie Reynolds, Elliott Gould, Barbara Eden, Raquel Welch and Jessica Simpson, plus golf legends Lee Trevino, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson, the resort’s golf pro emeritus.

The Greenbrier, with its 18-hole golf courses, has always been a favorite among Palm Beachers, and several of the island set attended the opening, including James and Charlene Nederlander, the theater producers who also are clients of mine. As usual, Charlene lived up to her status as one of the best-dressed ladies in America.

The opening-nighters were entertained by Lionel Richie and Tony Award-winning actress and singer Christine Ebersole.

Of the new restaurants, one is named Draper’s to honor my mentor, Dorothy Draper, the late “first lady of decorating” who designed interiors of the resort starting in the 1940s. The restaurant — which will remain open almost 24/7, except for two hours per day — is colored in her favorite hues: aubergine purple with crisp white on the Baroque details and wood trimmings. Carpeting is a Dorothy Draper red, sculpted with bright pink and red roses entwined with green leaves. Ceilings are aqua blue, highlighted with crystal chandeliers handsomely detailed with pink-quartz pendants. It’s a “wow” color scheme, if I do say so myself.

Other big news at the resort is the new PGA Greenbrier Classic, which will take place from July 25 to Aug. 5. Since the purse is some $1 million, I’m sure many great players will want to be on the course.

The man responsible for all the recent inventions at White Sulphur Springs is Jim Justice, an American original and a fine businessman and humanitarian from Beckley, W. Va. He also coaches the Lewisburg, W. Va., high-school girls’ basketball team.

At the Greenbrier, a steak restaurant has been named for local basketball legend Jerry West, a West Virginia native who managed the championship Los Angeles Lakers. West, when he’s in West Virginia, resides at the Greenbrier Sporting Club, where homeowners enjoy the mountains, lake fishing and the general sporting life. Whitewater river rafting also is popular at the Greenbrier resort, as is falconry.

The new private casino facilities at the Greenbrier have interior designs by yours truly and my European design partner, Brinsley Matthews, who hails from Cavan County, Ireland. The return-to-Tara architecture of the Casino is by a brilliant young architect, Oliver McClung, who just happens to be from Lewisburg, W. Va., but today likes living and practicing in South Norwalk, Conn.

I have been working on the property for several years but only recently under Justice’s leadership have I seen the Greenbrier become what it always was meant to be — the very best, in every way.

Palm Beachers who appreciate the spirit of great design and color may recognize the work of two super talents — Palm Beach County-based artists Alice Bear Ludwig and Susan Kent. We retained both to create wall art at the resort that will be admired for generations to come. Ludwig, who recently helped restore the decorative ceiling at the King Library of the Society of the Four Arts, painted scenic wall murals of Greenbrier architecture and landscapes in Draper’s Café. She also created angelic-themed decor, combined with ice cream sundaes and banana splits, for the ceiling of the Draper’s Ice Cream Parlor.

Kent designed and painted dramatic diva-esque opera-style murals for the coffee restaurant, named Café Carleton. No, I did not ask to be immortalized at the hotel — and on a neon-lighted sign. I was thrilled and honored, of course, that Justice has given me a legacy at White Sulphur Springs, just as Dorothy Draper’s name will be forever linked to the resort.

Kent is also designing and painting the murals at the Greenbrier’s newest restaurant, The Forum. Her murals depict familiar scenes of Italy, from the gondolas of Venice to the Trevi Fountain of Rome to the Ponte Vecchio of Florence.

You can find out more about Kent’s work by e-mailing her at or phoning 968-9492; and about Ludwig’s work by e-mailing her at or calling 842-5032.

Lots of adventure is available to folk who visit the Greenbrier. And if you do visit the hotel, enjoy an iced cappuccino at Café Carleton, and do tell the hostess in the cafe that Carleton himself sent you.


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