Friday, May 2, 2014

Jamie Drake

By Sian Ballen & Lesley Hauge
Photographs by Jeff Hirsch


Even Jamie Drake himself seemed surprised when he told us he had been in the design business some 36 years (“36 years!!”) and he has packed a great deal in, from designing for Madonna and Michael Bloomberg to designing the interiors of a radiation oncology clinic in Florida and the City Clerk’s Office (aka the Marriage Bureau) here in New York. We interviewed him in our ongoing second-time-around series in his new, very grand apartment way over on the West Side—the building that everyone knows because each apartment has its own garage with an elevator that glides your car up to your floor. Well, hypothetically “your car” and “your floor” – the stars whom Jamie refers to as “Mr. Jagger” and “Mr. Dolce” live there … not to mention Nicole Kidman.

I’ve written here “playboy after dark” … someone said that about the way your new bedroom looks, but you don’t strike me as a playboy after dark, or any time, really.

I’m not sure I’m a playboy after dark but it’s interesting that you’re seeing [the apartment] on a lovely clear sunny day. I do very much like to entertain and I’ve definitely arranged this apartment for entertaining. There’s a massive amount of seating and there is no dining table because I don’t really do sit-down dinners. I can have cocktails and a buffet for 75 to 100 people here.
Jamie made clever use of an existing support column by transforming it into storage, bookcases and a media center. The ebony, lacquer, stainless-steel-and–brass clad structure effectively divides the space into two distinct areas.
An oversized photograph by Thomas Ruff, "Substract 24-1" dominates a wall of the living room seating area.
A 13-foot sofa is topped with gold metallic, plum and citron fabric pillows. The walls of the living room are painted in Benjamin Moore's Sidewalk Gray, with a Venetian-plaster finish by Alpha Workshops.
A view across the seating area into Jamie's open kitchen. Jamie designed the marble and granite coffee table.
An ingenious two-tier island comprises a lower gold leaf cabinet and a sweeping Corian counter with an inlaid gold-leaf pattern across its surface. " I wanted to create a feeling of water on a river," says Jamie.
An ink drawing on paper of a fantasy skyscraper by Ruben Toledo hangs on wall near the home bar.
A 2013 "Designer of the Year" award from the Fashion Group International stands next to ceramic sculpture by New York artist Reinaldo Sanguino and an often-used Nespresso machine.
So, were you just sort of sick of your old apartment?

I was … it was a fabulous, beautiful apartment. It appeared on the cover of Elle Décor in 2002 and when, I guess it was ten years later, the same shot was on the cover of Florida Design Magazine, I said, “What is this saying about my work? I have to move on.”

How did you go about looking for a new place?

I looked for a while … there wasn’t any rush. At the time there was a lot of construction and you couldn’t actually look at something in person but I read about this building in the Sunday Times.  I went to the sales office that day or the next day and just like every real estate transaction I’ve done in the past, I set an upper limit in my mind of what I wanted to spend and of course I spent much more!
A faux-antelope head sculpture by Michael Combs watches over a living room seating area. The L-shaped sofa covered in a Sahco fabric from Donghia and a marble cocktail table were both designed by Jamie.
A gold leaf floor lamp by Alpha Workshops, a non-profit that provides training for people living with HIV/Aids , and for which Jamie has been chairman since 2006, stands next to the large L-shaped sofa.
Floor-to-ceiling bookcases camouflage a structural column. The two photographs on the far wall are by Alexandra Penney.
Living room bookcases are filled with novels, art books and favorite objects.
I think everyone does that. Do you like living in this area? Do you go to the galleries more often because they’re right on your doorstep?

I love living here. It’s certainly very far west but I love contemporary art. If I happen to be strolling down the street and it’s before six and the galleries are still open, I might think, hmm that looks intriguing, and I pop in. In the beginning it seemed like a very long walk to 8th Avenue but then I realized I didn’t need to go as much … you know there’s Fresh Direct and other deliveries.

And you have your car right there … the garage thing! How does it work?

You come in from 11th Avenue and you have like an EZ Pass so the door automatically lifts. You come in; you turn; the elevator doors open. You drive in forward. It ascends to my floor and then you back up into your space. When you go back down, you go headfirst to get into the elevator and head out on to 24th Street.

It’s very cool …

We’re not going to take pictures of it, but it’s very cool.
Atop the living room coffee table a black marble tire sculpture by Fabio Viale stands next to a Jurliska black glass chalice, presented to Jamie as "Design Innovator" by Connecticut Cottages & Gardens. A painting by Jean Lowe, "Bumble Bee," hangs between the apartment's oversized (and extremely soundproof) windows by Wausau.
Pedro Friedeberg's 1960s "Hand Chair" was one of the few furnishings retained by Jamie during his move from his former Flatiron loft.
A sofa table displays a bronze melting clock sculpture by Salvador Dali. The "faux eyeglasses" were a gift from a close friend.
Photographs by Alexandra Penny hang on a wall between the oversized mirrors that overlook the Hudson River. Jamie was a bit hesitant at first about moving into architect Annabelle Seldorf's 'way west' apartment building but was won over by the views and living in the center of the art gallery district.
Oh, okay. Didn’t Madonna want to live here because of the privacy?

Well, I guess … we have Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban, we have Mr. Jagger and Mr. Dolce … I’m not revealing anything.

I remember thinking when we first interviewed you how confident you seemed—have you always been confident?

I was definitely confident with décor—in my childhood, you know my black patent leather [bedroom]. I had a vision.

So you don’t second guess yourself much in life, generally speaking?

I do want to get a consensus. I have a staff of 14 people and so depending on whose working on the project, I’ll sometimes say, “What do you think of that?” Sometimes I’ve already made up my mind and I’ll just want a confirmation or an affirmation or somebody to tell me why they don’t like it. And I’ll say, “Explain to me why you don’t like it?” But I’m a pretty decisive and confident decision maker. My luckiest clients—and the ones who end up with the most fabulous projects—are the ones who allow me to continue on that route.
In the master bedroom Jamie made a glamorous twist on the outside once-gritty neighborhood by lacquering the walls in a dark charcoal-gray color. As a contrast to the walls, he designed a bold crocodile-patterned headboard and coral-lacquer night tables. The bed linens are from E. Braun.
A coral pink leather covered French chair, which belonged to Jamie's maternal grandmother, is positioned near a Edward Fields rug that was based on a design by Van Day Truex.
A recessed mirrored ceiling coffer brings gives a slightly risqué feeling to Jamie's bedroom.
The bedroom desktop displays family photos and personal objects. Hanging above the desk is a flat screen TV.
A photo manipulation by San Francisco artist Debra Oropallo hangs above a squirrel sculpture by Rune Olsen.
In the master bath a sculpture by Michael Beatty hangs near a circular work on paper by Christopher Tanner.
A double sink is outfitted in hardware from Boffi.
A Lifochrome by Dieter Rehm, "Herrenchiemsee" 2007, hangs above the master bath vanity.
Plump white towels by Ralph Lauren fill the double vanity of Jamie's bathroom.
What did Michael Bloomberg say he liked about your style?

Shall we get the AD 100 list and read his quote from that?

No. What is it about your style that he likes?

I don’t know. I guess you’d have to ask him. He’s the most wonderful client. He will look at a concept, sign off on it, let you go for it and then he always calls to say thank  you and to say how fabulous it is.

I see that you’re a judge for the Sub Zero National Kitchen Design …

It’s every two years and I’ve done it seven times—I’m now the senior judge on the panel! I’ve just agreed to do it an eighth time.
Etchings by Francoise Gilot, "Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall," fill a wall of the guest bath. A pair of sconces, "Chapelle" by Jonathan Browning are mounted atop "Newport" wallpaper, hand painted in a custom plum color by Alpha Workshops.
Near the front entrance a painting by Denis Ashbaugh, a gift from the artist, hangs above a silkscreen by Op artist Bridget Riley.
A self-portrait of artist Chuck Close hangs on a wall in the front entryway.
A pair of acrylics on paper painted by Jamie when he was a teenager hang on a wall near the master bedroom.
You’d be good on television—you’re very articulate.

I don’t think I’m articulate enough and I think I speak too fast.

So Jamie, tell us something personal … I mean do you cook or anything like that? What do you when you get home at night?

Um … I usually get home at night and I continue, like we all do, to either go on my iPhone or on my computer to check emails. My moment of relaxation is usually with CNN or NBC news on or catching up on the newspapers.  I read the papers for about half an hour. I read the print version still. And then I change and get dressed to go out.
In the guest bedroom a "Flybaby, 2007", by New York artist Andrea Champlin hangs above a robin's egg blue chest of drawers. The walls are covered in a Phillip Jeffries grass-cloth that Jamie had cut into squares and laid in a parquet pattern.
The guest room, which is furnished with a daybed designed by Jamie, opens to a private terrace.
Fresh flowers perk up the guest room bedside table.
Reflections of the guestroom from a wall of mirrors. The lagoon green curtain fabric is from Taffard.
You go out every night?

I go out every night.

Gosh, do you have enough friends? I don’t have enough friends to go out every night even if I had the energy.

I have the best close friends and then … you see other people. I don’t tend to plan ahead and I definitely have my favorite watering holes [like] Red Cat. I like to sit in the bar at Red Cat. I usually find it perks me up, even if I’m bone tired after a long day’s work. If I can work in a 30-second shower and I can scrape my face—that brings the blood to the skin. Then I go out and have vodka on the rocks with a twist.

All the designers we interview drink vodka. Do you like any particular type?

Stoli.