Meeting My Spirit Animal Dorothy Draper at The Greenbrier Hotel

Recently Josh, Iris, and I visited the historic Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia while we were vacationing. I went into the prestigious resort essentially blind, not knowing anything about the Greenbrier before our visit except that it has something to do with golf. I am embarrassed to say that I was incredibly underprepared for the visit, with the exception of making sure to wear a dress and sandals, thanks to stumbling upon an article the night before our visit that clued me in to the dress code of the resort. (La-di-dah!) I also happened to see a recent guest’s comment that “day visitors” of the stroller-pushing, backpack-toting variety (ahem, us) were bad for the prestige of the resort. (La-di-dah-DAH!) I wasn’t offended by this because let’s face it, we’ve all seen the decline of social decorum with the rise (and hopefully now the fall) of the athleisure trend, and I would feel the same way if the public had free license to use my neighborhood’s gated pool.  So, in the spirit of “when in Rome…” I decided it was for the best if I tossed on the wrap dress that I packed for church instead of cargo pants and a tank top. I also made like Miranda in SATC when she brings baby Brady to Samantha’s swanky Hamptons party by putting Iris in an iconic American label and double-diapering her bottom. ;)  

On the way to the resort, I decided there was no time like the present to learn a few things about where we were heading.  As a rule, I usually do some online sleuthing about the people we will be dining with when Josh has work-social functions, but in the case of a vacation that this busy SAHM barely had time to pack for, I’ll give myself a little grace for not researching the Greenbrier properly in advance. It’s probably for the best because if I knew the blogger’s paradise we were heading to, I would have driven Josh crazy asking him to take my picture in every room in all manner of cute outfits. I can’t wait to go back someday with a suitcase brimming with clever dresses and accessories.     

So, yes, in the car on the way to the Greenbrier I google searched a bit about the resort, and just in the nick of time, I learned that the Greenbrier is actually a Very Big Deal, rich in history with the reputation of being America’s resort since 1778. For nearly 250 years the Greenbrier has played host to half of the American presidents plus countless other dignitaries and celebrities.  It even has an underground bunker that was kept secret until 1992! AND, it was designed to hold all of Congress in the event of nuclear war! AND you can tour it! Also yes, the Greenbrier is home of the prestigious Greenbrier Classic Golf Tournament, which I *sort of* already knew.

I beg the Greenbrier’s forgiveness for not knowing how amazing it is. Sort of like meeting Jennifer Aniston or [insert any famous person’s name here]and asking, “So what kind of work do you do?” SMH. And I felt worse when I text friends about the place and they chimed in, “Oh, I LOVE the Greenbrier.” Clearly, I have been a rock-dweller related to the G.B. Anyone else live in a rock colony like me? Please say yes.  ;)  

Lack of background knowledge aside, I am the happiest person to confess that my life changed the moment I stepped through the doors of the historic hotel, when my world went from the Dark Ages to total Enlightenment at the hands of the work of Dorothy Draper, interior designer extraordinaire. To wax a bit dramatic, it was like a missing puzzle piece just appeared, making the whole picture of my life clearer and more complete. It was like when things go from black and white to technicolor in Pleasantville. Flowers bloomed. The sun shone brighter. Birds began to sing. Cloaked in Dorothy Draper’s daring taste and aesthetic made me feel entirely at home in a place I knew nothing about mere moments before. Come to think of it, Josh had mumbled something in the car about famous wallpaper or fabrics but I barely heard it over Iris’s joy-infused squeals as she force-fed me Cheerios in the backseat.

Who is Dorothy Draper? Again, please tell me that I am not alone in not knowing her before my watershed visit to the Greenbrier? … Anyone? Here’s what the Greenbrier’s website has to say about Dorothy:

Dorothy Draper was a pioneer in interior design, dominating the field from 1925 to 1960 when she was named the most influential tastemaker in America. The high-society interior designer was hired to renovate the resort after it was used as a hospital during World War II. She left the hotel with a bold new personality, using color and oversized patterns to paint a picture that reflected the luxury of space, elegance and sense of history in every detail. As a result, America's Resort remains a one-of-a-kind property with guestrooms, suites and cottages unlike any other in the world.

Let me sum that up in terms that we can understand today: Y’ALL, Dorothy Draper was the JoAnna Gaines of the middle of the last century. (Albeit with a different aesthetic than farmhouse chic)

Dorothy’s taste is bold. It’s punchy. It’s vibrant, playful, COLORFUL.  A smart mix of Hollywood Regency and Palm Springs with tropical overtones. It will remind you of Kate Spade, Lilly Pulitzer, Draper James—all brands that Dorothy Draper no doubt influenced. Overnight, I have been converted to a Dorothy Draper koolaid-chugging fangirl because, even though I didn’t know who she was until last week, it turns out that she’s influenced my style my whole life and possibly all of yours too with her bold stripes, piping trimmed pillows, banana leaf prints, bamboo armoires, Chinese Chippendale chairs, and crisp white molding punctuated with pops of color.  My guest room, aka the Lady Cave, is decorated with touches of Dorothy’s style, I just didn’t know they were Dorothy’s signature before. Hello Dorothy, long lost sister, distant relative, pen pal I’ve finally gotten to meet in person. Dancing hugs and cheek kisses, girl.  

Here’s  another article that will confirm that Dot Draper (we are so close now that I feel I may call her Dot) is spirit animal to all of us. Bonus: the article includes the names of Dorothy Draper paint colors from Benjamin Moore. Benjamin, you’re so good to us!

Before I introduce you visually to my new bestie Dorothy, let me preface by reminding all of us that it’s important to get a change of scenery every now and again to shake things up and inspire something new inside of you. You must go somewhere that you have not been before.  You must go breathe different air, walk on different soil. If you can, please go sleep in a bed that you don’t have to make in the morning. Go as far as your wallet will let you go, even though it means breaking the kids from their nap schedule and dealing with lots of laundry when you and your family get home. I don’t know about you, but it’s easy for me as SAHM to feel like my world consists of four awfully small walls at times. It’s easy for me to forget about all that extends beyond my little sphere.  As an individual but especially as a mother, you must find a way to go someplace else to gain the necessary perspective to come back and see your home, family, and purpose with fresh eyes and to develop a renewed sense of determination and appreciation, which is exactly what happened with our vacation to West Virginia. I confess, I kept my expectations in check about our vacation, wondering a bit cynically if I would essentially be doing my usual daily routine with only half of my usual resources, and instead, I discovered what turned out to be an inspiring new place that left me all atwitter with new visions and goals as a wife, mama, homemaker, and creative creature.  Much of this inspiration and energy came from seeing Dorothy’s design during our visit to the Greenbrier, which filled me with excitement for summer’s vivid hues, clever prints, and bold stripes.  

Are you certain that you’re ready now to meet Dorothy, AKA our grandmother’s Jojo? Because you must be prepared mentally for the jolt that you cannot unsee. Her in your face design changes you. Consider yourself warned! Now let’s take a peek at her décor sensibilities and some sweet summer looks that her work inspired.

When you walk through the doors of the Greenbrier, which is white, stately, and a bit self-important looking from the outside, you are immediately thrust into the world of Dorothy Draper. Pool. Peacock. Pink. Pistachio. Painted ceilings. Patterned carpet.  Ornate regency-era chandeliers. Gilt mirrors. Oversized florals. Striped arches over checkerboard floors.  What occurs is a sensual experience that makes the hairs on your neck stand up! You know instantly that you have arrived someplace fun and spirited where things happen. What things you’re unsure of but you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is a happening place where you’d be content to live out your life as a fly on the vintage blue wall.   

It’s easy to see how the entryway and foyer of the Greenbrier make a lasting impression. One that stayed with me ever since we got back from our trip and rooted itself in my subconscious.  As I was pulling looks for the shoot, I kept coming back to Dorothy’s color palette of turquoise, red, and classic black and white. Add vintage-look sunglasses and a Sophia Loren style top that would have been right at home among Dorothy’s design. You can shop the look  here.  

Skirt is from Ann Taylor Factory, available in Petite and Misses, and on sale now for $49.99.  Factory doesn’t offer online shopping currently, so if you don’t have an outlet near you, call Melissa Smith and she will ship to you, easy peasy.  (843) 839-9099. You’ll be so glad that you did because the styling options with this skirt are limitless.

Dress below: Ann Taylor Factory available in Petite and Misses. Wrap dress style that is unbelievably versatile. Dress it up or down, layer it for 12 months of continuous wear. (Pardon my Casperian legs!) Isn't that large-scale print carpet so cool? It goes in a room with high ceilings or it won't have the breathing space that it needs, but if you have a tall living room, you could definitely ground the space with oversized leaves. 

A second note:  Early commentary about this popsicle picture I posted is SO kind, with compliments to the tune of old Hollywood glam, so I feel compelled to share that on this day my fairy godmother-in-law was in town watching Iris so I had a little time to rake a comb through my unwashed hair and glam myself up a bit. I wouldn't want you to think for a moment that I live a life unlike yours. I just delight in sharing the fun parts as they are a nice break from a reality that consists of Iris melting down because I won’t let her wear my dirty underwear on her head, which is a typical Tuesday morning for us (hehehe). It’s always a nice break to dress up when so many days I operate in clothes that have been demoted over time to the loungewear drawer of my dresser. You are all so kind in that you scarcely believe that I ever look anything but pulled together on the daily. Let me assure you that my husband and parents can confirm that my house frou look often means yesterday’s makeup (or was it two days ago? I forget), hair that manages to get together with shampoo just once a week, and a holey t-shirt that doubles as a dishtowel/toothbrush/Kleenex. Shaving legs and wearing lipstick is a luxury these days, so on the occasions when I get to carve out time to dress up and show y’all the latest and greatest in fashion and style, it’s a real treat. 


Photo above (wide shot) is from David Colman’s article in the WSJ January 2015

The robin’s egg blue ceiling of the Lobby Mezzanine is every bit as inviting as a turquoise swimming pool, and the light streaming in the floor to ceiling windows radiates off the white floor tiles to create an invigorating glow that I would give up coffee for as I am certain it would work just as well to put some life into my eyes and major pep into my step each morning.     

The pom trim clutch is so fun for summer and is a steal at just $19. You can shop the look  here 

In this stunning yellow room, we saw famed two story tall bow curtains. Imagine yourself just a bit taller than the lamp in the picture and that gives you a feel for the scale of the room. This room has the most southern, Lilly Pulitzer feel. Here is where I met the friendly and exuberant Lauren Vandiver whose blog Vandi Fair is of major influence (check out her IG @vandifair to see her much more amazing pictures of the Greenbrier, including those of the stunning guest rooms and ballrooms. They are next-next-next level!). Lauren cheerfully approached us with an offer to take a picture of the three of us together, which is every mom’s joy since we rarely get a picture of the entire family unit.  In spite of feeling a bit slapped together, I really like how this picture turned out!  We are all wearing happy faces even!  

This scene is so perfect. Add a tray of hot tea and a snuggly cat and you’ve achieved nirvana. 

Lauren and her mom were visiting the Greenbrier to promote the venue on her blog (blogger goals, y'all!), and when we spoke she was photographing a really cute lemon circle skirt. We exchanged bemused giggles that we both thought the curtains in the room were lemon-patterned but turned out to be yellow roses instead, which reminded me of this adorable LOFT dress tucked in the recesses of my closet.  You can find similar looks on Etsy and Modcloth. Shop similar styles  here


The indoor pool at the Greenbrier looks like the set of a fun stylized Target commercial or a well-executed window display for a brand like Tory Burch or Draper James. In fact, it would be an amazing window display with live models swimming and sunning themselves!  This whole throw-back scene makes me want to sip on a madras while I pore over a light summery book.  

Here I’m wearing a breezy little off the shoulder dress from Charming Charlie and a chunky coral necklace from Downtown Diva in Edenton, NC. I love coral style necklaces and this one really caught my eye. In fact, I ordered it in the car after we had just left the Greenbrier. It was an impulse buy, but it was so worth it. This necklace arrived just as I left the house to shoot these pics, and it is chunky and funky and substantial. It’s priced at $30 and it is worth every penny. Shop the look here.  For this specific necklace, contact Downtown Divas at 252-482-0144.

Just past the indoor pool is the gym and around the corner is the bowling alley (yes!) and spa. While we didn’t stop in for a treatment, we loitered outside of the facility for a long time because Iris was hypnotized by the shiny floors while I couldn’t get enough of the wallpaper printed with flowers bigger than my head.


This minty gingham off the shoulder top reminds me of Reese’s brand Draper James but at a teeny tiny fraction of the price (just $25!). It’s southern, sweet, and perfect for lunch with your bestie or drinks on the water with your sweetheart. Shop the look here.  I love this top with dark denim and pretty pumps or with scallop hem shorts and some Jack Rogers kind of flats. 


Nothing says summer like watermelon slices! Here’s a look that was inspired by the dazzling pink flowers that popped beautifully against the checkerboard floor between the pool and the spa. Also how beautiful is that vase?  

I feel confident that Dorothy Draper would approve of the marriage of stripes and a punchy watermelon print as she loved layering prints, and she’d most certainly approve of the hot pink clutch and wide brim hat to protect her face from the sun.  

This watermelon top is just $9 and comes in blue or white. I loved the way the pink jumped off of the blue background and added another color to the look. It’s from a company called She In ( This was my first time trying out the brand known for cheap fashion, and I admit that the shirt is cheaply made with an unfinished hem and tattered polka dots by design. It sort of looks like a very OCD moth got ahold of the top and nibbled perfectly spaced circles all over the fabric. Bless. Still, I am willing to overlook that because I love the turned up cuff on the sleeve and the adorable summer print. I don’t expect this shirt will survive many washings so I will likely hold off as long as possible and simply give it a bird bath in Febreeze. Once a proper washing is imminent, it will go on delicate in a mesh lingerie bag. Must baby the $9 tee. ;)

The pink clutch is my new Tons of Funds crossbody wallet from Melissa Burns, Thirty-one Gifts rep with so much helpfulness and sass (get acquainted with her here and you'll have a friend for life!). She and Dorothy would surely have been friends back in the day. The wallet has plenty of room for the essentials which for me includes ID, debit card, gum, lipstick, cell phone and car keys. Who doesn’t love being hands free when trying to sight see or shop, especially if those hands are actually occupied by the kiddos?  
Shop the look here.

Before I leave you, ladies, you can learn about style and décor from Dorothy Draper herself in her book Decorating is Fun, found here. (Also check Amazon for deals and pre-owned copies of the book plus others by Dorothy Draper including Entertaining is Fun.) 

Just like JoAnna Gaines, Dorothy is cheerful, helpful, spirited, and glad to share the secrets to making a great statement with your décor. And if you’re looking for a unique place to visit this summer, give the Greenbrier a ring to book a cottage or stay off site and make a day trip (toting your backback and stroller!) to see the sights, the décor, the shops and get some lunch on property. I'd love to know what room is your favorite and what Dorothy Draper's style inspires in you! 


  1. Your writing is as delightful as the red and white striped lounge chairs on the patio of The Greenbrier :) the photos are teensy glimpse into the grandeur of the hotel, and your descriptions bring it life! Love your blog, Sarah!!!

    1. Those chairs are pretty delightful so I must say thank you so much for the compliment!! I wish we could pack our bags for the summer and spend the next two months gabbing by the pool about the Dorothy ways we would like to decorate our houses! :)