east coast | Jun 20, 2018
Jamie Drake on his work with historic homes

What do Jamie Drake and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg have in common? One very special home: The lauded interior designer was responsible for decorating Gracie Mansion, the noted mayoral residence, during the Bloomberg’s first term.

Last week, Drake was feted by the Historic House Trust (HHT), an org that works with the NYC Parks Department to advocate and support spaces like Gracie Mansion, in addition to 22 other publicly owned historical sites. The designer, who has served on HHT’s Directors’ Council for a decade-plus, was honored at last week’s Founders Award Dinner, held at the Loeb Boathouse at Central Park, for his commitment to historic preservation, particularly the restoration and decoration of the Mayor’s Mansion.

Jamie Drake and Penny Drew Baird at last week's celebration
Designers Jamie Drake and Penny Drue Baird at last week’s celebration

He’s in good company. The award, which was created in 2001, counts among its past recipients Benjamin Moore & Co., former NYC Parks Commissioner Henry Stern, the History Channel, Beyer Blinder Belle Architects, and former Mayor Ed Koch. “The qualities the organization looks for in a Founders Award honoree are therefore a passion for the preservation of historic houses, a dedication to promoting history through the built environment, and a devoted interest in sharing the fascinating and significant histories New York City holds,” John Krawchuk, executive director of HHT, tells EAL.

“All of our past honorees have played a significant role in upholding noteworthy historic preservation values that have benefited our houses. These honorees have brought the highest level of commitment to promoting, restoring and the elevating the importance of NYC’s historic house museums. They have been extraordinary champions of preservation, advocacy and artistic craftsmanship of NYC’s most cherished landmarks.”

Drake himself had been enchanted with HHT, telling EAL, “When I was given the commission to oversee the renovation, restoration and redecoration of Gracie Mansion, I did some of my research by visiting other houses of the same period in New York City, such as the Morris-Jumel Mansion and the Bartow-Pell Mansion. Both of those are under the HHT umbrella. ... I was enthralled with the organization’s commitment to preserving the built history of our city.”

Krawchuk says that Drake’s inspiration for the mayoral manse was also impacted by New Yorkers themselves, as a project that had been “completed for the people of New York by former Mayor Bloomberg when he aimed to make the house more open and inclusive, embodying its reputation as the ‘People’s House.’”

Erin Iva, Brad Ford, Eileen McComb and John Krawchuk at the celebration
Erin Iva, Brad Ford, Eileen McComb and John Krawchuk at the celebration

“Drake set the standard for being a bold visionary, expert colorist and period-design-style expert with his important work at Gracie Mansion,” says Krawchuk. “He captured the site’s extraordinary setting and place in history, which he infused with timeless choices and enduring interior treatments, rooted firmly in the modern era.”

This project also displays Drake’s commitment to continuing the art of craftsmanship, seen in his use of conservationists, furnishing experts, the finest manufacturers of interior treatments and artisans from The Alpha Workshops. Drake’s expertise in architecture and interior design, and his valuable contributions as a member of the advisory Directors’ Council of the Historic House Trust of NYC, have resulted in a much brighter future for Gracie Mansion, as well as the 22 other sites in the HHT’s collection.”

Jamie Drake on his work with historic homesFrom Brunschwig et Fils, who created the foyer’s wallcovering, to Scalamandré, whose artisans handmade all the wood mold fringe in their (then) Long Island City factory, it was amazing to showcase the best of the best from local firms, especially on the heels of the 9/11 attacks.” —Jamie Drake on decorating Gracie Mansion

Among what were likely many highlights of working on the Gracie projects, Drake singles out New York’s craftspeople as his personal favorite: “From Brunschwig et Fils, who created the foyer’s wallcovering, to Scalamandré, whose artisans handmade all the wood mold fringe in their (then) Long Island City factory, it was amazing to showcase the best of the best from local firms, especially on the heels of the 9/11 attacks. It was an opportunity for every painter wielding a brush, carpenter with a nail, weaver with a thread to be a part of demonstrating, in a small way, the resilience of New Yorkers. I also got to really know and learn about great American Federal furniture, with, of course, a focus on pieces made by the great New York City makers: [Duncan] Phyfe, [Charles-Honoré] Lannuier, and Deming and Bulkley. The great dealers Hirschl & Adler and Carswell Rush Berlin were generous fonts on tutelage to me.”

Images courtesy of Annie Watt/AnnieWatt.com

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