Jamie Drake. The 1970s table is from Intrex and had been in storage for many years until Jamie resurrected it by spraying the top with Benjamin Moore Mulberry 2075-20. The fiberglass lamp is by Archemede Castiglione and had been originally borrowed for a photo shoot. Lit with a candle, a hole burned through it and Jamie had to ‘acquire’ it.
‘I must have been a willful child…’ says Jamie Drake about his insistence on having black bedroom when he was 11 years old. The decisive and dramatic color for which he has later become known has a risk-taking quality to it, a kind of ‘do-it-and-don’t-look-back’ sense of daring. If that is his design philosophy, then his own home in the Flatiron district, provides ample evidence of someone who is going to have his way with color, like it or not.
You are obviously a bold colorist and we were wondering why you were drawn to decorating rather than say, painting?
Well, I did study painting as a child, but I always wanted to be a designer. My mother was a painter by training. She went to the Yale arts school when that was the only department at Yale that was co-ed.
Were you this aware of color early in your life?
Absolutely. My color sense must have been so influenced by my father, and his father before him who were both in the printing business. We used to go to the plant and we used to see those tubs of ink! The printer’s ink, I can conjure that scent up and the colors were just so intense and shiny.
Above: A Chuck Close self-portrait dominates the dining room. The 1940s chandelier is Venetian and the patinated steel table is from J.R. Scott.
Above, left: The custom mirrored-front console beneath the Chuck Close portrait is by Drake Design.
Above, right:A Louis Renzoni painting entitled ‘The Search Party’ was bought from the Kim Foster Gallery. Jamie works exclusively with Benjamin Moore paints and the color on the walls is Exotic Fuschia 2074-50.
Below: An expansive view of Jamie's apartment; looking from the dining room towards the living room.
So what was it that you wanted to draw upon in choosing decorating rather than being an artist?
Probably a desire to shop! And a desire maybe to satisfy my entrepreneurial spirit, which I’m not sure is as easily guaranteed if one becomes a fine artist or a painter.
But it’s not always guaranteed as a designer either.
No, but there’s a lot of work for designers in New York. [It’s] a specialty market because we don’t have the luxury of exterior space. Everybody here needs to have that kind of cosseting against the concrete canyons and the brutality of our day-to-day lives.
Jamie’s most recent book, New American Glamour, covered in textured purple leather. The prints on the wall in the background are by Gene David
The 1950s vintage Italian ceramics on the corner table are from a flea market in Lancaster in Pennsylvania and the damask on the chairs is from Travers.
How do you go about figuring out the clients with whom you want to work?
You get an initial ‘click’ feeling and I look for clients who have a reality factor. They have to be realistic about the budget they have. In this day and age you’re hard-pressed to do a living room for $50 000. Plus I’m not a ‘crazy’, I’m not a screamer and I don’t attract crazy clients. They’re reasonable people. We’re not doing brain surgery here. If the curtains don’t come this week, we’re not going to die.
At what point did you decide to take up design training?
You know what? I really decided that this was to be a career at the age of seven or so. My best friend [and I] had a fort, which was this pit on a hill behind his house. Over the hill and down through the woods was an abandoned barn and I’d find rusted-out washbasins and crusty bottles – and I was in charge of decorating and antiques!
When I was about 11, I decided to make pretty indoors. My mother was very supportive although she was rather less supportive when I came up with [the design] for my bedroom, which was a black patent leather bedroom with white trim. She was horrified. I must have been a willful child because I said it was black or nothing. And I got my black room.
It sounds like an S&M den. What did your friends think?
They thought it was pretty nice. I don’t know. Was it S&M or was it that high Hollywood chic? It was probably very influenced by Angelo Donghia’s work at the time. He had a dark bottle-green lacquered living room.
The painting in the living room is by Graciella Hasper. The living room Schiaparelli sofa was made by Michael Taylor and the magenta fabric is from Schumacher. A photograph of the garden in East Hampton where Jamie has his summer home is propped on the easel.
Left:The magenta linen couch and round stool are from Clarence House. The French chair to the side was a gift from Jamie’s grandmother which he covered in silk velvet Clarence House ‘Le Zebre’ fabric.
Below: Another view of the living room.
What was one of the most important things you learned at Parsons?
I was taught to explode my mind and not necessarily focus on the first thing that pops into it. It was toward the end of the Bauhaus years and hi-tech was all the rage: industrial gray carpeting, Joe Durso white walls, pull in a pallet from the street to make a coffee table, put a chemical beaker on the table with one lily in it. And I was doing proposals with walls draped in silver-gray silk-satin and polka dot carpets in lavender and cream and metallic gold. I came kind of dressed to match. I had gold Fiorucci cowboy boots on, tight cream jeans and a purple cashmere sweater. At the end of the presentation, they said: ‘We don’t know where to look first, you or your presentation. And we don’t think that’s a good thing.’ I then learned about modulation of space and architectural elements.
What do you find ugly?
Even things that somebody might say were hideous, I’m intrigued by. Even the most horrible ornate furniture from some store on the Bowery, I think, ‘wouldn’t it be fun to actually take that out of its milieu and make it something completely different.’
The guest bathroom sizzles with Benjamin Moore colors and artwork by Lucio Fontana.
I couldn’t have an avocado refrigerator. Could you? Or a bath tub!
Okay, colored bath tubs…but you know, maybe there’s a way to make it work.
What kind of work would you like to be offered?
Specifically I would like to do restaurants. I’ve only done one and I think with my sense of theatricality, I could do something really well.
The mirror above the headboard in the guest bedroom was bought from the Paris flea market and the headboard itself, made out of horsehair with nail heads is by Drake Designs.
Which television shows do you like?
I have a passion for Law and Order. I also like The Sopranos and Big Love, although last Sunday’s episode was rather dull and I fell asleep before the end of it.
What do you think of stores like Pottery Barn or Crate and Barrel?
I love going to [those stores]. In my house in East Hampton I have two Crate and Barrel cocktail tables and everyone always looks at them and says ‘Where did these come from?’ and they cost $259 each.
The master bedroom is painted in Benjamin Moore 319 and the memento mori painting is by a Texan, the late Phillip Core. The Lucite spiral bedside lamps are 1960s and are from Alan Moss.
You have a lovely photograph of your garden in East Hampton on that easel. Do you like gardening?
No… but I like looking at what the gardener has done.
But when you plumped those sofa cushions for our photographer, you did it so well. You put your whole self into it!
That was Parsons. First semester. We all have our strong suits in life.
— Sian Ballen and Lesley Hauge
Clockwise from top left: A view from the living room couch; Jamie's drink of choice: iced coffee; The chair in the shape of a hand, bought from Mantiques, is from the 1960s and was made by a Mexican designer, Pedro Freedburg; Walking through the lobby of Jamie's building; Jamie’s Dolce and Gabbana shagreen shoes. ‘I’m hugely influenced by fashion and fashion reportage. I read WWD every day.’