Designer of the Month - December - Jamie Drake

1 December 2007

Jamie Drake

Jamie Drake, the man behind some of this country’s most dynamic, distinctive and livable interiors, knows how to create seriously delightful environments. "There is little that doesn’t inspire me,” says Drake, whose favorite device is color—used boldly, fearlessly and with great flair.

Drake graduated from Parsons School of Design and launched his firm, Drake Design Associates in 1978, after completing an internship with Angelo Donghia. Since then, notable residential projects and clients have included a Los Angeles showplace for Madonna, vacation retreats in Martha’s Vineyard and some of Manhattan’s most stylish residences. He has completed multiple projects for New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg—a client for almost 20 years—including the 2001 renovation of Gracie Mansion, the longtime ceremonial residence of the mayor of New York.

Throughout his career Drake has received numerous professional awards including a 2003 induction into Interior Design Magazine’s Hall of Fame. His work is widely published in Architectural Digest, Elle Décor, House Beautiful, The New York Times Home and Garden, and his book New American Glamour published in 2005. He is frequently invited to participate in prestigious events like the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Decorator Show House, and nationwide restorations of historic homes.

Jamie Drake’s vibrant style and professional accolades make him a genuine eminence in American interior design today.

FRETTE Q&A – Jamie Drake

1. You are known for your exuberant use of color. If you could live in only one season year round which would it be?

Well, with global warming we're pretty much heading there, aren't we? I may like extremes interiors-wise, but with weather I'm much more temperate. Spring or Fall. Spring infuses with budding optimism, but Fall has that romantic ghostliness. Obviously Fall has all those rich colors, but bright Spring greens are always fresh and blossoming tulips epitomize the pastel palette I am favoring these days.

2. What influences the color palette you work with the most?

I don't have any one color palette I work with. Sometimes I just spin the color wheel and use whatever I land on as a jumping off point. I can make anything work. It's all about balance. A trick I often utilize, however, is to pick a color and use different tonalities in different finishes. Rather than being overwhelming, it sort of "neutralizes" the color.

3. Are you a believer in the new age "color therapy" philosophy?

I can't say I subscribe to any "color therapy" but the phrase "new age" is enough to send me drinking. I never embraced those color studies that draw conclusions between behavior and color, but maybe that’s why I always feel peckish in my red library

4. If you can describe the ideal atmosphere you'd like to evoke in a room, what would it be?

Well, it would depend on the space obviously, but I need a sense of order in a room- the function and flow determined by the floor and furniture plan. Then I crave a bit of drama, romance and glamour.

5. When you redesigned the interiors of Gracie Mansion, the mayor's official residence in New York, what was your biggest challenge? What was the easiest part of the project?

I have an encyclopedic knowledge of interior design which helped make me a perfect candidate for the job, but at the time, I had yet to complete a historic preservation project. So the biggest challenge was getting up to speed in the short time frame I had.

The easiest part was working with all the positive energy. The Mayor turned Gracie Mansion from a private residence to the People's Home. He wanted the restoration to symbolize New York's resilience in the aftermath of 9/11. Everyone involved truly rallied to complete a monumental task in a very short time.

6. Is it easier to work with clients who give you total creative freedom or those who are collaborative and choose to get involved every step of the way?

Clients who hire a designer they like and allow him to do his job always end up happy. The finished space has polish and clarity of vision. These by far are the clients I prefer.

7. If you can name your dream client, who would it be and why?

I have to say I am lucky to already have my dream client. He is a restless visionary whose private success spurred public benefaction and he inspires me to replicate his gusto in my work for him.