Inside the Biggest Feud in Interior Design

Are you team Martinique or Brazilliance?

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CW Stockwell

Baseball has the Yankees and the Red Sox; boxing had Ali and Frazier; interior design has Martinique and Brazilliance. If you're a designer, design enthusiast, or even just a pattern fanatic, chances are you have STRONG feelings about which of these—oft imitated, translated, and plain knocked-off—patterns is the world's premier tropical print.

The history of this particular feud goes back decades—with both patterns gaining notoriety thanks to iconic hotels on opposite sides of the country. In 1937, legendary decorator Dorothy Draper designed Brazilliance, a bright, pink-and-green banana leaf for California's Arrowhead Springs Hotel. The pattern would eventually become synonymous, though, with an entirely different hotel some 2,500 miles away—more on that later.

Meanwhile, in 1942, Don Loper installed CW Stockwell's Martinique (shown above) at the Beverly Hills Hotel, then, as now, a hotspot for Hollywood's elite. Just a few years later, in 1946, The Greenbrier hotel in West Virginia was acquired by The Chesapeake and Ohio Railway, which hired Draper to transform the property back into a stylish hotel following its stint as a rehabilitation center during World War II.

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Brazilliance in the mezzanine of the Greenbrier.
Dorothy Draper & Company

Draper, who would remain the hotel's decorator through the 1950s (and made headlines for her exceedingly high fees there), brought her inimitable eye for color and pattern to the property, installing her signature black-and-white floors, wide stripes, and splashy chintz.

What Draper didn't actually install at the Greenbrier was one very recognizable banana leaf print. That came later, thanks to the designer's protégé, Carleton Varney, who took over her firm in the 1960s and remains the Greenbrier's official Curator/Decorator today. It was Varney who splashed Brazilliance over the hotel in homage to his former boss in 2010, as he did in 2014 at The Colony, Palm Beach's Pepto-Bismol pink grand dame.

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Meanwhile, in the decades since their design, both patterns have seen their of imitators and found themselves the center of other beloved spaces (New York hot spot Indochine, for one, bears Martinique on its walls). It's little surprise then, that even today, the subject elicits strong opinions from interior designers.

Me&Ro Celebrates 25th Anniversary at Indochine
Martinique at Indochine in New York.
Sean ZanniGetty Images

For many, these may be rooted as much in nostalgia as aesthetics, a true sign of both prints' power: "I grew up going to the Greenbrier so it's very nostalgic to me," says Jennifer Beek Hunter. "Dorothy Draper was my entrée into interior design. I knew her as a great woman designer, and I wanted to be just like her!"

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Draper’s cafe at The Greenbrier, an homage to Dorothy designed by Carleton Varney.
Dorothy Draper & Company

Meanwhile, Boston-based Kim Macumber makes the case for the opposite coast: "I lived in L.A. in the late '80s and early '90s," she says. "I had no money, and it was always a treat to go to the Beverly Hills Hotel and have a cocktail. A few minutes of glorious luxury and escape!"

Charleston-based Taylor DeBartola agrees: "There is something about the Martinique pattern that tugs at us," he muses. "Not just the depth and variance of color, but something very Shelly Long à la Troop Beverly Hills."

Beverly Hills Hotel
The Beverly Hills Hotel shot by Slim Aarons in 1957.
Slim AaronsGetty Images

Still, there's a place for both depending on your palette of choice: "Martinique is more of a darker green with browns," Hunter points out (Ariel Okin, who prefers Martinique, calls it "muted"), as opposed to Brazilliance's preppy pink-and-green.

This month, though, both patterns are proving their staying power in new ways: A few weeks ago, Dorothy Draper Fabrics & Wallpaper released a new blue version of its most iconic print—in both indoor and outdoor fabrics. And just this week, CW Stockwell upped the ante, releasing a new collection that includes updated colorways of Martinique And while I don't think we could ever really replace the originals, the friendly competition lives on.

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Brazilliance in its new blue version.
Dorothy Draper & Company

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