As one of the distinctive names in the world
of design for four decades, Jamie Drake has built
a reputation—rapidly becoming a legacy—of
creating spaces that are defined by color, glamour,
wit, and comfort. His knowledge of antiques and
how to employ them, married with cutting‑edge
design, is a hallmark of the Drake oeuvre,
illuminated in his book, New American Glamour.
A graduate of New York’s Parsons School of
Design, he is now on the school’s board.
Drake launched his own firm, Drake Design
Associates, in 1978 in Manhattan. In 2015,
the designer merged his firm with that of his
former protege, Caleb Anderson, to form
Drake/Anderson. The firm boasts a client list that
includes, among others, such Hollywood and
Manhattan bold‑faced names as Madonna
and former New York mayor and media baron
Michael Bloomberg. As an example of his
range, Drake completed a major renovation
of Gracie Mansion, the official residence of
the Mayor of the City of New York, and also
designed a medical facility in Florida.
A licensed designer for multiple companies,
including global manufacturers of top‑flight
carpets, furniture, and fabrics, Drake is the recipient
of many honors in the profession, including
a Partnership for the Homeless Director’s Award
for his dedication to philanthropy and hands‑on
work for the less fortunate. A force in the New York
Metro chapter of ASID, he has received the
organization’s Presidential Citation and Platinum
Award and was inducted into the ASID College
of Fellows. Drake currently serves as the Chair of
The Alpha Workshops, where he has been a board
member for many years.
A native of small town New England (specifically,
Woodbridge, Connecticut), Drake has been a
resident of New York City since his college days.
i+D: They say that just by living in New York,
you get smarter every day.
Drake: I don’t know if I’m smarter. But, I definitely
learn something every day. I moved to New York
after graduating from high school to go to Parsons.
New York is the place I wanted to go to, and when
I was accepted at Parsons, I stopped applying to
i+D: What are you reading these days?
Drake: I read The New York Times [and] the
New York Post every day. In print.
i+D: Starting your day going high and low.
Drake: Let’s say I get two different perspectives.
And, I have to admit, because of distractions,
because our lives are delivered to us in our palms,
I often don’t finish the papers on the day they’re
published. But, I save them and do read them.
i+D: How long do you take after you wake up
before looking at that palm-sized tyrant?
Drake: Ninety seconds. I know. We’re tethered to
them, aren’t we?
i+D: Are there still regional styles of
design, for example New England, California,
or the Southwest?
Drake: There are regional sensibilities. But, there’s
nothing truly limited to a place. One is always
affected by the quality of light. Fabric, textiles, and
colors do respond to their region.
i+D: You wouldn’t use pastels in New England?
Drake: Maybe. And, in Miami, I don’t use a lot
i+D: What’s the difference between designing
a medical facility and Gracie Mansion?
Drake: Program comes first and foremost. For
example, understanding how the patients are going
to use it, how to improve on that, how to enrich
the user in both instances. The common threads
are the eye I bring to the projects: a sense of delight
and wonder, balance and scale.
i+D: What was the first thing you designed
Drake: A fort with my best friend, Larry, from
around the corner in Woodbridge. We were seven.
It was a pit in the ground surrounded by boulders
from stonewalls that were in our town. I was in
charge of decorating and raided an abandoned barn
down the other side of a hill through the forest.
The barn had rusted-out washbasins and broken
glass bottles. I called them the “antiques.”
i+D: Who is the client from hell?
Drake: The one who refuses to have faith in you.
Who questions everything, from the size of the
bottom portion of a crown molding that is 14 feet
off the ground, whether it should be three-eighths
of an inch or one-quarter. And, wants to see
mockup after mockup. Who questions every cord
on every throw pillow. You wonder why they hired
a designer and just didn’t do it themselves.
i+D: What’s wrong with design today?
Drake: First response: There’s nothing wrong.
Second response: There are too many people who
are influenced by “influencers” and trends, rather
than finding something within themselves.
i+D: Have you experienced the revolution
in 3D printing?
Drake: Yes. We’ve used it in designing hardware,
faucets, and doorknobs on projects. I marvel at it.
i+D: What’s your sport?
Drake: Tugging on my e-cigarette. Oh, okay.
Working out with a trainer three times a week.
i+D: What elates you?
Drake: Creativity. Seeing something I’ve never
i+D: What frightens you?
Drake: Big waves, fast horses, motorcycles.
And, the political climate of the world.
i+D: Some designers have sent notices to
their customers saying that, with the Trump
administration-imposed tariffs, they won’t be
able to absorb extra costs, and prices will rise.
Have you experienced that?
Drake: We haven’t yet, but I expect we’ll see
cost increases due to tariffs. I have a licensed line
of furniture whose owners are Chinese and
the product is manufactured in Vietnam. It’s sold
globally, with a huge proportion in China, so
I assume that will be affected.
i+D: Not a good scenario.
Drake: We live in global times and we all must
prosper as a globe. The tariffs are a disaster.
i+D: What do you disregard when you look at
Drake: I don’t disregard anything. I look at every
word, every comma, and every single punctuation
mark. The address. Everything.
i+D: What was your first job?
Drake: At Macy’s, when I was 16. I worked in the
housewares department, in sales. But they ended up
letting me do displays. I showed a flair for that.
i+D: Lessons learned?
Drake: Put your heart into it and you’ll do well.
i+D: For years, you ran your firm yourself. Then,
three years ago, you brought in Caleb Anderson
as a partner. Why share a leadership role?
Drake: We were very busy and getting busier and
I wanted to think about how we could continue to
grow, service our existing clients, and maybe do it
in a way that was less stressful on me. To allow me
to work with a sense of [a] more relaxed freedom
and share the pleasures and the talent.
i+D: What personality trait do you want
Drake: My impatience.
i+D: How’s that working out?
Drake: I struggle.
is the editor of the Shelter Island Reporter
and a novelist, nonfiction author, and
journalist. His work has appeared in GQ ,
The Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times.